When I was first looking into shipping Marley across the country last fall, I did a fair amount of research into different haulers. While I have extensive experience trailering horses more locally, the furthest I’d ever really ventured with a large furry mammal in tow was maybe 8 hours. The world of moving horses extremely long distances was more than a little overwhelming.
If you’re not going to do the job yourself, there are three broad options when you’re looking to ship a horse:
Ex: Brook Ledge, Equine Express, Hubbard
- These guys are, well, professionals; the sheer number of horses they ship is staggering, and the level of confidence and expertise that comes with so many miles is significant
- Huge fleets, equipment generally newer and in good repair
- Trailers for long-haul always air ride-equipped
- Box stalls available and, in some cases, required
- On the expen$ive side
- May feel slightly less personal; once the horse is in transit the updates you receive can be limited and tend to run through “dispatch”
In some ways these shipping companies can be a great middle ground – still big enough to have some infrastructure and big, air-ride trailers but small enough that the experience feels a bit more personal.
- Generally have air-ride equipped trailers
- You get a level of personalized communication that may not be possible with the larger shippers
- Typically a bit most cost-effective than the big commercial shippers; don’t usually upcharge for things like dosing with electrolytes or gastrogard
- On long-haul routes they will often layover more often because they don’t have as many drivers; this is a pro for some and a con for others
- Because the fleet size is smaller, trip availability can be limited – you may have to wait some time before your desired route is available
- Related to the above, trips might be quite long depending on how many horses are on the route. If you’re shipping from California to the East Coast, for example – your horse may go drop off several other horses before arriving at your final destination
- Some smaller haulers are not insured – check this carefully
DIY / Friend of a Friend
There are a lot of wonderful horse people out there with very well-maintained trailers who drive all of the country for a variety of reasons. With the advent of social networking it’s easier than ever to find a ride, often at a significant savings.
- Likely the most personalized and cost-effective option
- Flexible scheduling and excellent communication
- Most amateur haulers do not have air-ride equipped trailers; this makes a really big difference on long-haul trips
- Always check that the shipper is insured
- Processes around contracts and payments may not be well established
I explored basically every option and did an embarrassing amount of research before moving Marley from California to the East Coast. I ultimately decided to go with a big name commercial shipper; I’ll detail my experience with Brook Ledge in a separate post, but it was a very good experience. The deciding factors for me in shipping my horse across the country with a large company were:
- Expertise – I hadn’t done this before, and working with people that move horses all day, every day gave me a level of confidence that was important
- Speed – I went back and forth as to whether it would be more stressful for Marley to ship over a longer period with lots of layovers and rest, or just rip the band-aid and go fast; based on no facts whatsoever I went with the faster option
In the end things worked well with Marley’s cross-country move and while he was definitely dehydrated and dropped a bit of weight, he has bounced back beautifully.