The Road to Arizona – Route 3

Desert-Landscape-W_HorsesIf you’ve been keeping up with our Road to Arizona routes, you’ll know we covered routes from British Columbia and Alberta to the winter horse utopia of Arizona. Offered here is a scenario from Saskatchewan through to the Cave Creek area, a route My Stable Life blogger and WHR Managing Editor, Jenn Webster and her husband, trainer, Clay, have travelled a few times in the past years.

Jenn reminds us that while the interstate through New Mexico offers the best highway route, there are currently equine disease testing implications and quarantines currently in place, be sure to educate yourself on those.


Regina, SK to Phoenix, AZ, with two overnight stops; the first in Billings, MT and the second in Albuquerque, NM.

Border Crossing: North Portal, SK/Portal, ND

Total time: 27.75 hours (Day One: 7.5 hours to Billings. Day Two: 13.75 hours to Albuquerque. Day Three: 6.5 hours to Phoenix)

Distance: 3,040 kilometers

Road Conditions: Interstate all the way. Note that where the I25 crosses the Palmer Divide between Denver and Colorado Springs, blizzards and high winds are notorious for causing traffic problems during the winter months. Also, this trip requires a stop in New Mexico – which will necessitate Vesicular Stomatitis and Equine Piroplasmosis testing of your horse(s) prior to re-entry into Canada.

Jenn’s Trip Tips

  • The route through New Mexico truly consists of the best highway options. However, if you want to avoid the state completely (hence, the equine disease testing implications), be forewarned! The alternate route through Grand Junction, CO, and south along US-191 will see your rig negotiating rugged mountainous ranges and grades up to 10% in some areas. While the scenery is absolutely stunning along this course, the bill for the repair of your axels and brakes may not make it worthwhile.



Places to Stay: Find the Box T Ranch on Facebook or (406) 252-4388. They offer stalls or outdoor pens with cover (all with automatic waterers), an outdoor riding arena, round pens, hot walker and hookups. Close to hotels and major freeway access but if you’re piloting a larger rig, call ahead for directions to avoid a sharp turn into the driveway.

Food & Drink: The typical American eateries – Fudruckers, Applebee’s, Domino’s Pizza, abound but if you’re willing to venture out a little farther, check out Uberbrew – a contemporary microbrewery with cool sandwich choices from bison burgers, to Schnitzel sandwiches to black sesame yellow fin tuna with Firebird slaw and wasabi aioli in a gigantic bun. Wash it all down with one of their many creative craft beers. Start the following morning of your journey with a Honey Bun from Rock Creek Coffee  – a fresh brewed espresso with honey, cinnamon, frothy milk and pumpkin whipped cream topping.

To Do: Plan your trip to coincide with one of the fantastic horse auctions at Billings Livestock Commission. With catalog sales offered once a month of all types of horses, the auction pens at BLS are guaranteed to fix your horse sale sweet tooth.



Places to Stay: The Broken M Ranch offers overnight stabling, indoors or out. Even the Budweiser Clydesdales have been known to overnight here! RV hook-ups available or stay in their fully furnished guest house.

Food & Drink: Blake’s Lotaburger is within walking distance of the Broken M, but if a Green Chili Cheeseburger won’t cut it, try Jennifer James 101 ( This place puts a farmer’s name on the salad’s arugula, serves foie gras off-menu to anyone who asks, converts beet haters with a divine pureed soup, and closes meals with cardamom ice-cream. For breakfast in the morning, the Broken M offers a plethora of food stocked up in the guest house – make your favorite omelet before you go!

To Do: Visit Albuquerque’s Old Town. Ten blocks of historic adobe buildings, many of which have been converted into art galleries, shops and restaurants. This historical zone of Albuquerque was founded in 1706 and looks today, much like it did when it was built centuries ago.





Road to Arizona – Route 2

route2backdoortrailerIn the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine, as part of our Snowbirds Guide to Riding in Arizona, we featured three routes to Arizona based on the conversations we had with readers who have actually driven them.

Just after Christmas, with two horses (and a dog) in tow, Dean and I and Wee, started out on Route #2 ourselves – from Calgary to Phoenix (Cave Creek, more correctly).

For me, the challenge of meeting a 4:00 a.m. departure deadline is firstly, responding to the iPhone alarm that rouses me from sleep, and secondly, actually, and finally leaving the house. I’m always sure I’ve left something undone, behind or unmanaged. Once we’ve finally loaded the horses and are on the road, I can relax.

We left the log house just after 4:00 a.m. with the idea of hitting the U.S. Customs crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana, just in time to meet the federal vet at 8:00 a.m. This year, it all went to plan, and we were well into Montana by 9:00 a.m. This route is interstate all the way, but the mountain passes through Montana can be snowy and slippery, and even territory down through Utah can be set in winter conditions. We were fortunate to have favourable road conditions bringing us safely to Ogden, Utah, just after 6:00 p.m. that evening.

As it can take a full hour to drive from the north to the south end of the city, our intent had been to avoid the next mornings rush hour traffic by pushing through Salt Lake City and overnighting the horses just south of the city at the South Jordan Fairgrounds (see Salt Lake County Fair on Facebook), which we understood offers $15/night stalls as well as plug-ins for your living quarters trailer right by the barn. However, in the hours as we approached SLC, we were unable to reach anyone at the fairgrounds and so opted instead for the Golden Spike ArenaWe called ahead and a fellow met us promptly, and assigned two comfy and bedded stalls for our horses. (if you do plan on overnighting your horses here, keep in mind they lock the gates for the night at midnight and reopen at 5:00 a.m.)

Another suggested overnight with horses is just prior to Ogden at the Tremonton Fairgrounds  (manager: (435) 257-5366) for a quick overnighter. Clearly signed as you are about to enter Tremonton, and only about a mile off the freeway, pay $10/night for a bedded, clean, safe stall which they will muck out for you in the morning.

By the way, for hardcore haulers who can go the distance, I mention a few other stops, an hour or more south of Salt Lake City, as well as a few worthwhile side trips and great places to eat and western shop in the Ogden and SLC area in our Road to Arizona feature in the magazine.

By 6:00 a.m. the following morning, we were loading our rested horses, and the second leg of the 2,588 kilometre trip through the south end of Utah and into Arizona flew by. A favoured activity became monitoring the rise of the outside temperature throughout the day. As expected, by 6:00 p.m. we were unloading horses in the warmth of an early evening at our winter home near Cave Creek, Arizona.

At the end of it all, we agreed it feels a bit as though we’re not as up to the long hauls as we used to be, and perhaps next year, we’d opt for a two-overnight on the way, hauling hard for 12-13 hours the first day to Ogden, then an easy 6-1/2 hours over to Las Vegas the second day, leaving a short 5 hour jaunt from Vegas to Cave Creek for the final day.

Route2mapAfter all, it’s about the journey, right?

It felt great to have our horses back in our little corner of the desert for the winter. Riding here is truly a seriously effective anecdote to the cold north temperatures, and we were in need of a good dose of it. We gave the horses a restful day off and then headed out to the desert. I think they loved it as much as we did.




route2truckplateIf I’ve peaked your curiosity about more routes to Arizona, and wintering with horses in this riding utopia, remember the Jan/Feb issue of Western Horse Review is on newsstands now.

Transporting Mares & Foals

Published in the April 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.


Photo by Jenn Webster

Due to the advent of shipped semen, it is not as necessary to transport mares along with their foals to stallions for breeding, as it once was. Instead of mares enduring shipping for miles, we can simply pick up the phone and have a stallion meet breeding requirements right in the backyard. Still, there are instances where it might be necessary for a mare and foal to hit the road for long hauls. Re-breds for example, often require that the mare come straight to the stallion farm to eliminate any further complications of getting her into foal for the following year. Or arriving at a new home following sale at an auction.

Hauling is stressful for adult horses, so it only makes sense that it would take a toll on foals as well. With a young horse’s immature immune system and inexperience of being confined for transportation, hauling can subject them to shipping fever, colic, dehydration, fatigue. The stress factors horses must endure during transport include noise, trailer motion, changes in air temperature, changes in eating and drinking patterns and fatigue from constantly having to balance themselves. As such there are several things you can do to help eliminate the risks.

1. Always transport a mare together with her foal, in a box stall compartment, so the duo can move freely.

2. Give the mare hay to eat. The box stall will allow her to put her head down, giving her more opportunity to expel foreign particles that may enter her nasal cavity. Horses get tired from having their heads tied high for too long. As such, lowering their heads offers the chance to balance themselves and rest up from fatigue.

3. A box stall on the road might also mean you can hang a water bucket in for the mare. But use caution! While the opportunity for free choice water is ideal for a lactating mare, it is possible for the foal to bump into the bucket or for the mare to get her mane or tail stuck in the handle clasp or hanging device. Ensure you have foal-proofed and duct-taped any place where they might get caught.

4. If you cannot give the horses free choice hay and water, stop frequently (every four hours) to feed and water them. This also allows you to look in often and see if a mishap has occurred, monitor water consumption, or discover if one horse seems to be poor-doing.

5. Monitor body temperature often. A highly recommended practice for long trips. Slight changes in temperatures can alert you of a potential illness.

6. Be sure to halter break the youngster before he/she is loaded into a trailer. The mare and foal should also be taught to load and unload, to help eliminate stress. In the event you have to unload enroute, you will be prepared without the risk factor of a free-roaming foal.

7. Ensure the trailer has good ventilation and fresh bedding.

8. Monitor attitude, appetite and the development of a cough following arrival at your destination. Recovery time from travel depends on the animal and ailments such as shipping fever and pneumonia, might not cause classical symptoms for two to three days afterwards. While other clinical signs (depression, lack of appetite, coughing or nasal discharge) may be more readily apparent.

Bringing Roger Home

We’ve been searching for a new horse for Wee for about a year, and down south this winter, we were presented with two prospects. After an agonizing decision process, (for I rather fell in love with both of them), we decided on a 7-year-old Quarter Horse sorrel gelding with the unlikely handle of Who Ripped It.

In the cutting world, horses lose their value as they age, with the six-year-old year a critical point, being it’s the last year their riders can compete with them in the aged events. This leads to a population of great competitive horses (particularly geldings) priced well; a beneficial trickle-down effect for those on the look-out for a good competitive weekend horse, or in my case, youth horse.

Who Ripped It, or “Roger” has significant lifetime earnings, a good record of soundness and importantly, he seems to possess a kind heart and laid-back attitude. The kind of horse who will “pack” little Wee, hopefully through many years of cutting.

Roger was living at Mike Wood Performance Horses, and Wee got to try him out there a few times before we decided he was the right fit.

The process was welcoming and supportive. We were encouraged to come and ride him as much as we liked and we did so, as we worked through the idea of buying him in our minds, and hearts.

Mike Wood is a professional cutting horse rider, trainer and coach with over $650,000 in National Cutting Horse Association earnings. With many non-pros, amateurs and youth boarding and lessoning at MWPH, it’s a bustling training facility.

Yet, with all of the activity, Mike always carved out the time to see Wee. That is just the kind of guy he is. He rode with her each time she tried Roger out, observing her and helping this beginner cutter find her comfort zone on the back of a high-powered horse. There was some flipping and flopping, but it didn’t take long to see that this youth/horse combination had some promise.

See what I mean about packing her? This might have been the moment that signalled the nudge that produced the decisive, “yep, he’s the one.”

We went through this tryout phase in February, completed the pre-purchase and buy process from back in Alberta, and so when we returned for Easter break in Arizona, Roger was ready for Wee to lesson on and show!

And, so she did.

We had such a great time showing with the MWPH crew at the Arizona Cutting Horse Association April show in Queen Creek, Arizona. The show was fantastically run, and we really appreciated the welcoming support from everyone at the show. (more on that later!)

But, this post is really about what I learned about importing a horse to Canada. While it’s far from comprehensive, you might find any of these points useful.

1) Your horse will need Export health papers, and a Coggins certificate. Both are completed by a veterinarian prior to export. The former is good for 30 days. As for the Coggins, the horse must have tested negative for EIA (Coggins or ELISA test) within the last six months. Allow at least a week for this paperwork to be completed.

2) Hauling commercially, expect to pay anywhere from $900 to $1,200 to bring a horse across the border from points south. Roger already had a ride back with our other two horses, but we did check out a few prices with reputable haulers.

3) If possible, steer clear of New Mexico and Texas. Go as far as to keep your gas receipts so you can, if necessary, prove your travel path didn’t lead through those states. This is due to the prevalence of contagious equine metritis (CEM) there. According to what I read on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website, if the horse you are buying or bringing up originates from New Mexico or Texas, you will need an Import Permit. Remember this may take a bit of time to obtain.

In case you want the links for Import Permits, they can be found here:
And, info about the permits can be found at this link:
(*Interestingly enough, CEM is a sexually transmitted disease. Even though Roger is a gelding, if he had been in New Mexico or Texas, I would still would be required to have an import permit.)
Also, the issue of Piroplasmosis is a big concern for horses that have been in Texas. There are special considerations for bringing a horse back to Canada that has previously been in the state. Blood must be taken and papers must be drawn up and approved – and there are strict time regulations for how long those papers are valid afterwards.  Meeting those requirements and crossing the border within the allowed time frame requires careful planning.

4) Make sure you have an original Bill of Sale with the driver.

5) If you aren’t accompanying the driver, be sure to have a Power or Attorney form signed and with the driver. This letter simply states that you know the horse is travelling with said driver and you’ve entrusted this person to bring the horse across the border for you.

6) Be sure the Bill of Sale papers and the health documents are all in the same name. We initially considered putting the health papers in Dean’s name since he was the driver, and the health papers for the other two horses were already in his name. The federal vet at the CFIA strongly advised against this and recommended we put Roger’s in mine, mirroring the Bill of Sale.

7) Consider brokering the horse across. Customs officials seem less concerned about a horse which arrives this way. This does add cost to the process. I might not have done this if I were transporting Roger back myself, but because someone else is, I decided to broker him. I used a company accustomed to brokering horses, and with an office at the Coutts, Alberta crossing (where Roger will be passing through). The cost was $236.25, plus they collected the GST due on the horse. (yes, you will have to pay GST when buying a horse in the U.S.A. and importing him).

8) Check the federal vet hours at your border crossing, to be sure the office will be open when you arrive. Better yet, call them and make an appointment. Otherwise, you may have to sit and wait until he has time to bring you in.

As I pen this Roger is about an hour from the border. I hope I’ve crossed all my t’s and dotted the i’s, but I won’t post this until after he crosses, just in case there are further “lessons” to be gleaned (and shared!).

Fingers crossed. . .