Check with your veterinarian and officials in the state where you're headed to verify the paperwork you need for travel.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

When I came to California (the "Grand Poobah of Documentation") with my two Quarter Horses, I had never taken a long distance trip with stock. Aside from the basics, I didn’t really know what to expect.

Every time you cross a border, you will be expected to produce paperwork for your stock. The type of paperwork varies from state to state. Some states don’t have check points at the border (California has checkpoints.), but if you are pulled over the officer will likely ask you for your horses travel papers. It is a hefty fine and sometimes a misdemeanor if they are missing. Here are a few tips from the school of hard knocks, so you don’t have to attend (check the requirements for all states you are traveling through):

1. The health certificate or vet inspection: Obtainable through your vet, this little piece of paper identifies your horse and verifies its health is needed to cross most state lines.

2. The negative Coggins test: Plan to have this done about month before you are planning on leaving, because it has to be sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed. The Coggins test identifies horses with equine infectious anemia. Only 1/5th of 1% of horses test positive. However, it is a retrovirus and incurable. It is spread through biting insects. 

3. Brand inspection (even if your horse doesn't have a brand!): Check to see if the states you are traveling through require it . A brand inspection is a certification that you own your horse. Basically it’s like registering your car. The owner of the horse presents proof of ownership, and the brand inspector issues the owner a brand inspection, which is basically the official proof of ownership. In the event that it does have a brand, the brand inspector will be able to track all sales of that horse to the current owner. If your horse is registered, the brand inspector will check your ID against the papers, or transfer papers and bill of sale and verify that you are in fact the owner. Brand inspections are most commonly done when a horse changes hands. For instance, when I lived in Oregon, every horse that went through the auction had to have a brand inspection. For travel you can call your local brand inspector. Brand inspection states are sometimes very strict, requiring a brand inspection not just to take the horse out of state or into the state, but in-between counties of the state. Other lesser known health requirements might be required, so always check every state you plan on passing through.

These are just the basic three that are the most commonly required.

Want to know what happened to me at the border? Well, when I presented my horses' papers to the inspector, completely expecting to have to pull them out of the trailer, they looked at the papers and sent me on my way. But at least I was prepared!

Oh, and P.S., always check to see if outside hay is allowed into a state. Because any type of alfalfa hay was under quarantine at the time, I had to buy hay in northern California for a whooping $25 a bale. Yes, I expected it to be laced with gold!

Have you ever had your horse's paperwork inspected as you crossed state lines for a ride?