Coggins Tests — The Healthy Hauling Series Part 3

Coggins Tests — The Healthy Hauling Series Part 3


Welcome to the third blog in the Trails West Trailers Healthy Hauling Series. To date, we’ve covered the dangers of dehydration for horses at competition and the fearsome infection known in the barn as Strangles. Today, we’ll be taking another look at your horse’s health as it relates to horse trailers, with a discussion of Coggins tests. We’ll talk about what a Coggins is, what it detects, why they’re so important, and how often you need them.

Coggins Explained

Coggins isn’t an illness. It’s a blood test developed by Dr. Leroy Coggins, a veterinarian who focused on virology. Your vet will pull a vial of blood from your horse’s neck and then send it off for testing at a lab.

The blood test finds Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) in horses.

  • EIA is a highly contagious disease, also known as Swamp Fever. 
  • The virus is a relative of HIV (AIDS) in humans.
  • EIA affects your horse’s immune response – forever.
  • There is no cure for Swamp Fever.
  • If it isn’t directly fatal, EIA can have chronic (long term) effects, like muscle wasting.
  • Some horses are symptomless carriers of EIA. In other words, you’d never suspect they are sick.
  • Because it’s so dangerous, a single case of Swamp Fever in the barn or pasture can lead to an entire herd quarantined and then euthanized.
  • It’s spread mostly via horse-to-horse transmission and biting flies.

As its name suggests, Swamp Fever tends to be more common in humid, buggy, swampy states. But the nature of interstate competition (or even recreational trail riding) can bring your horse in contact with infected horses, infected water buckets, or infectious flies.

You’ll Always Need a Coggins to Cross State Lines, Sometimes to Leave Your Property

In the dry Southwestern states like New Mexico and Arizona, there isn’t much focus on Coggins aside from at the rodeo grounds. But some states, like New York, require any horse/mule/donkey/pony to have a valid Coggins in the rig any time it leaves your property — for any reason! Even if you’re hauling an emergency colic case to a horse hospital, you must have your Coggins paperwork in the truck.

  • Make several copies of your valid Coggins certificates.
  • Keep an envelope of them in all your rigs.
  • Coggins tests are valid for one year.

Horse Shopping and Coggins

With all the focus on papers and pedigrees, vet checks, negotiations, and a bill of sale, it wouldn’t be the first time someone giddily loaded up a new horse without asking for a Coggins. But what a disaster it would be to head home with a “Swamper!” So be sure to get a recent Coggins before you load your new best friend.

Make sure the paperwork matches the horse you’re hauling!

If you’re selling a horse, ask your vet to pull a Coggins. It would be a real bummer to miss a sale at the last moment because you didn’t have valid results handy. Some potential buyers will leave your ranch with an empty horse trailer rather than risk their stock’s lives at home. Could you blame them?

The Other Value of a Coggins

Coggins test results are very detailed. Each one has a thorough diagram to be completed by the vet describing your horse in detail. This allows law enforcement to quickly identify each horse in a trailer packed full of livestock. It will describe the horse coat in great detail, down to single hairs, brands, tattoos, scars, even cowlicks, and whorls on a mostly solid-colored horse.

  • Years ago, vets had to complete these diagrams by hand.
  • Today, many vets will use a cell phone photo of your horse’s near and far sides, face, and legs.

This thorough documentation has a secondary value: it can be your proof of ownership of a specific horse.

The internet is ablaze with stories of stolen horses. For grade horses, in particular, a Coggins test could be used in police reports and in court to help prove that this horse is your horse.

At Trails West Trailers, we understand that horse sports are more than a hobby. They’re a lifestyle! So we offer the highest quality horse trailerslivestock trailers, and living quarters horse trailers for competitive equestrians. Contact us to learn more about any of our new horse trailers today!