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International Transport Problems

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  • International Transport Problems

    I recently moved from Denmark to USA and brought my 3 year old 170cm danish gelding over with me. I will not mention any company names but I am just looking to find a little information in case there is anyone out there who has experienced something like this.

    My horse went in a trailer from Denmark to Amsterdam, then in a plane from Amsterdam to New York, and then in a trailer from New York to quarantine in (stating the state will give away the name of the quarantine facility) for three days and after was trailered from there to where his new home is.

    Only one problem: My horse arrived home broken. When he arrived, he was put in his box to adjust to his new home with lots of walking in hand and liberty turnout in the indoor for the first four days. He looked fine. On the fourth day, he had monitored paddock turnout and on the fifth day he was settled in enough to have a light ride on.

    He is only 3 and I broke him to ride myself, and had only had about 15 rides on him before we left for the US. He was vetted out by a very well known sports vet from Germany before I brought him home to make sure he was fit enough to make the long travel (which of course, he was).

    Long story short, the first ride on him, he was dead lame. It had not happened at his new home because I am with him every day all day. He never ran like an idiot when he was in individual paddock turnout, was never crazy in the indoor when he was at liberty. We called vets out, had second and third opinions on his xrays from Europe, and so on. The odd thing is that when he was turned out in the indoor, he looked beautiful, but with weight on, he was dead lame.

    We ended up taking him to the clinic for a full body bone scan.
    His injuries are as follows:
    Fractured RF pastern
    Type 1 RF sesmodian tear
    Type 1 RF suspensory tear
    Type 1-2 RH suspensory tear
    Fractured right Tubor coxae (The hip joint that sticks out)
    Bone contusion in both elbows
    Bone contusion in both tivias
    Bone contusion in upper hocks
    Bone contusion in Upper left femur
    Left radial nerve damage

    The vets are astonished. They say that something really horrible had to happen to this horse to have such intense and numerous injuries, such as getting cast in a trailer for many hours or rearing and falling backwards on concrete with momentum. It is a mystery as to why he looked so sound when he was free. He must have a year off of work to recover and shock wave therapy.

    When you travel with your horse overseas, you follow a 'travel at your own risk' policy. You pay around 11,000 dollars for a gelding, more for a mare or stallion. But there comes a point when damage is so extensive that 'travel at your own risk' becomes human error somewhere along the way. I have fifteen thousand dollars worth of damage on my horse. I have called every number and contact I have involving his travel over here. Not to blame anyone, but to get clues as to what may have happened. Everyone is so defensive that they refuse to help in any way, but instead point fingers at the other companies that were involved in his transport and say 'it must have been them because I have been in this business for 20+ years and this has never happened.' I sincerely believe that it did not happen in airplane itself, as we all know, when horses get cast they fight for their lives to get up and in the small cramped conditions of an airplane he would have had many scrapes and cuts trying to get back up.
    So I am thinking that this happened one of the many trailer rides on the journey, and someone is hiding some information.

    What do you guys think? Has anyone ever dealt with importation/export of horses and had something like this happen, or just travel in general? What would you do?

    Please, I am in no means blaming or putting companies at fault, so do not take it like so. I brought a second horse home as well, a mare that had to stay in quarantine longer, so she arrived later, and 100% sound, but of course in need of a chiro haha. Thousands of horses are transported each year that arrive home safely with no problems. I am moreso aggravated by the fact that if this accident had gone noticed, which I believe it has due to extent of the injuries, no one had mentioned anything about it.

    Also, yes, I did have international traveling insurance on him. It ups the coverage of your regular insurance to 99%. Best 50 dollars I ever spent in my life.

  • #2
    Comeback - I don't have any knowledge of similar situations, but OMG, the poor horse! I wonder if something happened at the quarantine facility? What a horrible mess for you to be in; the frustration of not getting any helpful input would make me crazy...
    I can't think of anything you could do unless the insurance company decides to investigate. When legal types get involved, you may be able to get some info, but maybe not then, either...
    Hopefully he will heal well, but sounds like a long road. Good luck
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    • #3
      If you go over to the Little Beginnings Miniature horse forum there are a few European members there that have had some very serious problems with horses in US-side quarantine. (Miniatures typically exported to Europe from the US)

      I have NO idea if it's related or not, but you may see something that makes you want to reach out to those members to compare notes.
      "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


      • #4
        I have traveled with horses several times from AMS to JFK. Many agents use this route, and there are only a few USDA quarantine areas in the US, one being in NY and another being in FL another in CA and I believe one in TX. So you are still keeping the shipper under wraps by letting us know where he quarantined.

        I agree with you that he most likely did not fall in the plane, because in order to cause that much damage he would have been PTS before he dropped the plane out of the sky. Plus, unless he had a full box stall, which is super expensive there is just not enough room for him to do that much damage. I had a horse go down in a 3 stall box and it was not pretty, he was cut up everywhere. Long story short, the co-capt. came down and told us we had to right the horse back up ASAP or he was going to finish the job.

        That being said some shippers have better grooms on board. I am not naming names, but I have shipped with 3 different airlines and 2 different agents each flight was different.

        I also traveled with my horses during ALL stages of travel. Barn to trailer to tarmac to plane then tarmac to quarantine. They are so well watched and there are so many people around all the time some one knows something.

        Then only thing I can think of, is when they take the horses from the elevator/horse travel box to the trailer. When the horses enter the USA they are NOT ALLOWED to touch US soil until they are quarantined. They have ramps with wooden plywood guides that are along the side of the ramps. The horses are lead from the box (out the front) on to a platform then on a ramp into the truck to go to quarantine. Unless he fell off the ramp that may have caused his injuries. But then he would have scraps. He was only in NY for 3 days before you got him, you would have seen skin abrasions.

        When I was at the quarantine in NY, I got to see one barn out of many, and the stalls are regular 12x12 with concrete floors, I do not remember if they have matts. They had shavings in our stalls.

        I am sorry about your horse, its no fun that he is out of work for a year. I hope that I could shed a little light on how they travel.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you guys for your responses. Munchingonhay, the quarantine facility was not in any of the states you listed. Thank you for all the information.


          • #6
            In my experience the highest likelihood of injury during transport occurs after they deplane at JFK and are transported to the quarantine. The roads around NYC are Horrendous, it is difficult for drivers to accelerate and brake slowly, and other drivers are engaged in their ratrace with no consideration for the needs of animal transporters. And often the horses are accustomed to slant-load lorries, not the head-to-head format of most American trucks. If they are not lucky enough to score a box stall in an air ride van, it is a recipe for disaster for an already tired and stressed horse. That being said, it boils down to your driver being skilled, aware and fresh.