If, like most of us, you are tired of breaking the ice on your horses' water buckets, or slogging through mountains of mud just to bring him in, you may be considering heading South for the season. If you were lucky enough to get your entries in on time, heading South could mean participating in the largest shows on West Coast, and heading to HITS in Thermal, CA for 8 weeks of CA sun - but horse show traveling isn't the same as packing up your own suitcase - make sure you know what needs to be done before you hit the road.
- Transportation: Your horse won't fit in the car, so how is he supposed to join you in CA? If you are going with a barn, most of the time they will organize transportation -whether it is in the farm trailer or with a hauling company. Be prepared - hauling costs to CA can range any where from $400 to $800 - one way. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind the fuel cost, over night cost for your horse and the number of hours on the road your shipper is driving, not too mention wear and tear on the vehicles. Know what to expect, and feel free to shop around, but do be warned, some companies are better than others - if you aren't hauling with your trainer or a friend, see if you can get a reference to the company you choose to use, and confirm that someone will be there to meet your horse. If your trainer has made arrangements for other horses and your horse is coming in separately, don't expect them to wait for your horse to arrive - or make sure you compensate them for their time if they do.
- Papers: Your horse needs paperwork - and not just a driver's license will do. You must make sure that he is up to date on certain shots and blood work before crossing state lines - and don't think you can wiggle through check points either - even if you manage to get across state lines without them, HITS has instituted new policies in regards to what shots your horse must have in order to be on the grounds this year. These shots may not be what is normally required at your barn, so make sure you talk to your vet about getting all the necessary shots and paper work. Your horse will also need to have paperwork filled out about his temperature before heading into the show grounds. Although these precautions add more time (and expense) they are there to protect your horse from disease - and having 1000's of horses all in the same place is a great way to spread viruses - having all of those horses up to date and healthy upon entering the show grounds is the best way to keep them healthy.
- Feed: You will want to ship some hay with your horse, but if you are staying at the show for any length of time, plan on buying hay locally. Because CA hay is different than WA hay, try to make sure that you mix some of your hay in as you transfer from one hay to the other. Hay can be purchased at the show or off the grounds at local feed stores. If your trainer is handling feed purchases, ask them how you are expected to pay. Grain is easier to transport than hay and should keep for the entire trip - however, if you run out, most grains are available in the area or at the show grounds.
- Farrier: Make sure you get your horse's feet done as close to leaving time as possible. There are shoers on the grounds, but it will cost you a lot more to get a set of shoes on there than at home. If you are gone for the entire 8 weeks, you may not have another alternative, but if you have contacts in the area, someone may be able to refer you to their farrier. Make sure, if you aren't using the show farrier, that you know the shoer you do use - a big shoeing change mid-show could create issues for you and your horse.
- Tack/Blankets: Pack your tack - schooling and showing - as you would for any show - check with your trainer or hauler as to what they will take with them and what you are responsible for bringing. A lot of things don't ship well on airplanes, so be prepared to pay an extra fee if you are expecting someone to haul more equipment than normal. For blankets, while the highs here are mid-30's, the highs there are mid 70's - your horse will need clothes for the trip, as well as days and nights in the dessert. It gets warm during the day and chilly at night - be prepared with different layers - and consider body clipping your horse just prior to leaving - nothing is worse than having to work out in a fuzzy jacket in a hot room - imagine how your horse will feel in his winter coat in that summer heat (not too mention how much better he will look!).
- Miscellaneous Items: There is always SOMETHING. Salt licks, shampoos, hoof picks - whatever it is, it is easy to forget. Make a list and check it twice. Confirm with your trainer what you need to bring and what they'll be bringing for the horses. With all the weight needing to be carried around, no one wants to bring duplicates, so it is good to know who is responsible for what - never assume someone will have something - always double check before your horse gets on the trailer.
Of course, the most important item is you and your horse. Make sure you are ready to go - if you haven't already, get started on getting in shape for the season. It can be hard to motivate to ride during the chill, but you don't want to waste your time at the show trying to play catch up with those horses who are ready to be there. Make sure you are riding and working out so you'll be as healthy as your horse when you arrive in CA - and, most importantly, bring your sun screen and have fun in the sun!
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