When Horses Fly: The Business Of Equine Air Travel

Thousands of sport horses will travel all over the world every year to get to the destination of global show jumping competitions, and this only happens through the well-run business of equine air transportation, with dedicated teams managing every aspect of the horses’ wellbeing. How do they manage to get there?

At the destination competition, the horses can showcase their full potential once they disembark from the aircraft, so the objective of all equestrian transportation is to ensure a smooth travel experience. The dedicated quarantine facility for importing and exporting horses operates around the clock and boasts 48 cutting-edge stalls at The Ark, located at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, which serves as another prominent transportation hub. One of the most frequently used routes is between Amsterdam in The Netherlands and Miami, Florida. Livestock transportation facilities are equipped with specialized features to facilitate the loading of horses onto trailers, enabling them to embark on their journey from farms to one of the major airports, just like any other mode of transportation.

Upon arrival, the horses are loaded into specialized containers for the flight. Owners can choose to opt for first class, business class, or coach for their precious four-legged cargo. Larger show jumpers will fly in a container that can fit three horses, while smaller horses can comfortably fly in a container that fits two stalls. Flying frequently with the horses are Kent Elizabeth Mary, the director and manager of the business, and Laura Kraut, the director of Kent Ms. LLC. The 747 Boeing airplane is a popular model for equine air travel, as the upper deck is well-designed for human passengers, while the lower deck efficiently fits the horses. Once the horses are secured in the containers, the boxes are lifted into the cargo bay of the airplane.

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In addition to the two attendants who flew with the horses noted by Nairne Kevin, founder of Kelcie’s Treats, on a recent MartinAir cargo flight from Miami to Amsterdam, two other attendants were also on board. It is likely that airlines spend 50% more flying time with these animals than passengers flying all over the world.

Despite what some might think, most competition horses are very good flyers, and even nap on the flight. However, it is important for horses to remain alert and balanced on all fours during the flight, as they are not sedated. Just like a precious package, horses have leg wraps with padding to offer compression and protection, as well as fluffy lined halters to stay comfortable. Carrots are the snack of choice for in-flight chewing, which also helps equalize the pressure in their ears.

The FEI (International Federation of Equestrian Sport) Code of Conduct for equine welfare necessitates appropriate intervals of rest between travel and competition, depending on the duration of the trip. Horses typically do not experience jet lag, but they are closely observed during the flight to guarantee their well-being, tranquility, and access to ample hay and water, similar to their human counterparts. These horses are familiar with a nomadic lifestyle as athletes on the go.

The next round’s arrival and training competition commences, and the horses will be transported to their destination barns in a trailer. After being released, the animals must undergo a 48-hour USDA quarantine period to ensure that no unexpected illnesses were acquired during the journey. Upon reaching Miami, for instance, the shipping agent Lazcar will be present to welcome the plane, oversee the unloading of the horses, and arrange their transportation to the USDA quarantine facility. Due to the large number of passengers involved (with sport horses averaging a weight of 1,100 pounds) and the quarantine regulations, the logistics of horse travel are undeniably more complex compared to those of humans. This demanding process requires meticulous planning and teamwork in order to guarantee the safe arrival and optimal condition of these valuable athletes, despite the seemingly glamorous nature of their jet-setting lifestyle.

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