If You Plan to Migrate:
F or those who move horses to Florida for winter training and competition, fall is the time to prepare for a big temporary move. Lisa Gruen has migrated from Maryland to Wellington many times, both shipping horses herself and working with commercial shippers. Here, Gruen shares key elements of the planning timeline that help ensure she and her horses arrive in Florida by the first of January:
SEPTEMBER: Secure Florida accommodations for horse and rider OCTOBER: Allow horses brief downtime after regional competitions, then resume conditioning for winter season
NOVEMBER: Consult with farrier and adjust shoeing schedule as needed. Gruen explains: “Ideally, we try to plan it so they get their feet done in late December, about a week before they go. This way, they have a fresh shoeing for travel and are ready to hit the ground running when they arrive.” Likewise, consider when and how the horse is clipped. According to Gruen: “I typically clip horses around Thanksgiving, knowing I will likely need to clip again in Florida. I want them to already be clipped well before they go. I don’t want to do it too close to shipping, as that would another element of adjustment for the horse, which can affect his immune system and how well he copes generally.” Finally, reserve a commercial shipper for desired dates. If shipping yourself, now is a good time to get truck and trailer maintained for the trip and also book accommodations at a halfway point where you and your horse can overnight comfortably to break up the drive.
DECEMBER: Consider the horse’s supplements. Gruen explains travel and intense training are inherently stressful for horses and supporting digestive health is a top priority: “I always start the horse on ulcer preventives at least four or five days before the trip, with a full dose, and I plan to continue it in Florida while he’s acclimating or for the whole time he is down there, depending on the horse.” Gruen also adds immune-system supplements (different options are administered in the feed or as an injection by the veterinarian) to help prevent respiratory illness that can occur as a result of long travel. Because many horses will not drink sufficient amounts of water during shipping, Gruen plans to “pre-hydrate” the horse by adding electrolytes to his water and “soupy,” watery beet pulp to feed, beginning a week ahead of the trip. Upon arrival, closely monitoring the horse’s behavior and vital signs for several days is crucial. Of course, in the last week or so before departure, there is always the challenge of packing equipment, apparel and necessities for a three-month journey for horse and human.