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By Daniel H. Grove, DVM

Moving to a new barn is not only stressful to your horse, but also for you. Bonds will be broken and new bonds made. Feed may change. Water may be different. Different diseases may be present. All of these things should be on your mind, and I will try to give you some pointers to help minimize the stress!

Moving to a new herd
Horses are herd animals. They are encoded to pack together for their own safety. They tend to make bonds with the horses around them and consider them part of the group, even if they are not all in a pasture together. When you disturb this bond, some horses get very upset. If you are moving and you have multiple horses, this may not be as big of an issue since they may be happy with just one or two others. If not, expect a few days of excessive vocalization and worry. You can discuss with your veterinarian the use of a product called Zylkene® that is made from colostrum. It is natural and makes the horse feel at home.

Changes in feed
Your new barn likely will get its hay from somewhere else or maybe does not even feed the same type as you were feeding. Any disturbance in what you are feeding can predispose your horse to colic. Try to make the feed change slow and over a few weeks. Either get some hay from the new barn to start adding to the diet or take some from the old barn. An additional thing to consider is probiotics. These beneficial microorganisms help to mitigate the effects of new feeds in the diet that can cause colic.

Changes in water
When you move, the water likely comes from a different source. I know when I traveled as a kid before bottled water was so popular, you had to drink water from the tap! I remember water having different tastes in different places. The horses pick up on this too. A horse might not want to drink the new water due to the mineral content of it. A little trick some people do is to add Gatorade® powder to the water a few weeks prior to the move. I like to do this with a secondary water source, just in case they do not like it at first, so they do not stop drinking. Then when you move, continue to add the Gatorade® powder to the new water. It helps to mask the flavor of the new water and they tend to continue to drink. Over a few days or so, you can slowly add less powder until your horse is fine with the new water.

When you house animals together, the rate of incidence of disease increases. This is a big problem in boarding facilities with diseases such as equine herpes, influenza, and strangles. With horses going in and out frequently and going to shows, the risk of exposure is increased also. What can you do? GET YOUR HORSES VACCINATED. Please, follow the recommendations of the AAEP and your veterinarian to vaccinate for the common diseases in your area. An additional thing to consider with your boarding facility is to determine whether or not incoming animals are quarantined. If practiced properly, this process can prevent the spread of disease from animals arriving.

Moving your horse is a task, but taking some measures of prevention can ease the stress of that task. Get together with your veterinarian and set a plan to keep things as simple as possible.


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