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Shipping a horse overseas by airplane

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  • Shipping a horse overseas by airplane

    A group of us were riding this morning and the subject of shipping a horse by airplane came up. Do the horses being transported have a catheter w/ port sewn in, in the event that IV meds (tranqs) must be administered ASAP? Does a vet or vet tech travel on board as an employee of the airline? We had all kinds of questions and are just curious as to how it goes for the 8-10 hour flights for horses. Anyone know about this sort of thing???

  • #2
    I want to know if they have seatbelts in case of turbulence!

    I have a friend who regularly ships horses - in all our discussions of it I don't recall her ever mentioning tranqs or catheters. I think as far as the horse knows it's in a very large horse trailer - and I know there are knowledgeable grooms and attendants with them. Given the price of some of the horses they ship, I'd be surprised if there is no one in attendance able to give a shot or administer other emergency medical attention (in case of colic, etc.)


    • #3
      Originally posted by SLW View Post
      A group of us were riding this morning and the subject of shipping a horse by airplane came up. Do the horses being transported have a catheter w/ port sewn in, in the event that IV meds (tranqs) must be administered ASAP? Does a vet or vet tech travel on board as an employee of the airline? We had all kinds of questions and are just curious as to how it goes for the 8-10 hour flights for horses. Anyone know about this sort of thing???
      Catheters are not sewn in, in fact horses tend to be better fliers then humans. As for who is with the horses, depends on the airline. All the horses I have shipped have only had flight grooms on board, which is not a vet or vet tech. Just somebody experienced with horses that can do IV as needed and check on the horses. When flying team horses and racehorses though having a vet on the plane is not unheard of just because you have to be very aware of what those horses are given. Basically for an 8-10 hour flight they just keep the haynet full and give water periodically.


      • #4
        I shipped my horse to the UK from Canada last year.

        Most horses do not have a catheter sewn in. I am aware of one horse that did not fly well that was catheterized to ease IV administration.

        On KLM airlines horses travel with experienced flight grooms. They have sedation close at hand and can administer it if needed. If they meet certain conditions lay people (owners) can fly as "flight grooms". I was able to fly with my horse and was in the airstable with her during landing and takeoff.

        My experience was very positive. There were two horses traveling in an airstable that could have accommodated three so each horse had a little more room - the partitions are movable. The horses were calm throughout the flight, apart from landing and take off, it is a smother ride that in a trailer. Full haynets kept them both well occupied.

        The horses were unbalanced by the forces of take off and landing but handled it very well. In fact our biggest problem on board was that they were a bit reluctant to drink. We offered bottled water as well as apple juice.


        • #5
          I flew with a load once in the 80's and it was a great experience, with everything from Shires that took up 2 stalls each to weanlings loose together in one large pen. The professional grooms did all the loading and securing and our job as auxilliary grooms (ie. free airfare) was to stand at the heads of one row of 3 horses during and briefly after take-off and the same at landing. My understanding was that the pros and the pilot were in charge of emergencies, of which there were none thankfully.

          We supplied our own food, the grooms played a few hands of poker and then laid their sleeping bags between the rows of stalls and slept.

          Our in-flight safety talk pretty much consisted of pointing to oxygen supply in the back and telling us if we heard a loud noise we had about 20 seconds to get back to the oxygen or we were done. I spent a lot of the flight reading or just visiting with the horses. It went very smoothly and was the best flight I think I ever had, barring the time spent loading and unloading.


          • #6
            I read somewhere that Jet Run was a very nervous flier.


            • Original Poster

              Hey, thanks for the flight stories. They are so interesting to read!!!

              How do the horses handle the airport?? We wondered if all the activity from incoming and departing planes caused any problems. Or again, will this will vary by the temperment and travel experience of each horse??


              • #8
                Originally posted by SLW View Post
                Hey, thanks for the flight stories. They are so interesting to read!!!

                How do the horses handle the airport?? We wondered if all the activity from incoming and departing planes caused any problems. Or again, will this will vary by the temperment and travel experience of each horse??
                Depends on the horse really. When my guy flew over from the UK to California he was just 6 years old flying out of Heathrow. Well he happened to have just been off-loaded from the lorry and put on the pallet and they were waiting for the final horse to be dropped off. Just then the freaking Concorde took off on the runway next to him (you know the plane grounded because it was too loud). The guy that dropped him off threw the lorry in park and ran back to him thinking he would freak out, but he could have cared less, and this was not a calm type of horse.

                On the other hand I was dropping the same horse off with his buddy at LAX as they were retiring to Hawaii with some friends and I was the ride to the airport. If you know that airport it is busy! Well had to have the horses there by 11pm for a 1am flight. Horses stayed with me in my trailer at the end of the runway the entire time. My horse couldn't have cared less about the jets taking off and landing, but his friend was non too pleased. Buddy horse also didn't want to walk into the warehouse to load onto the pallet without my guy, and that was the type of horse you would think wouldn't care.


                • #9
                  A few years ago I flew my 3 horses from LA to NY.

                  It was the easiest part of a cross country move!
                  I used a national service, the horses flew on a DHL courier plane.

                  The only bad part was they loaded my oldest guy first. I had repeated several times to load him last. I had even written it in marker on his neck! "Load Me Last". He was a pretty old horse and would follow his buddies anywhere, but was wary of new people handling him.
                  He got panicky standing in the pallet alone, while they got the second horse. He reared up and cracked the board above him with his head. They tranq'ed him, loaded the others and the rest of the flight was uneventful.

                  A groom did travel with the horses.
                  I followed their flight in another plane and was waiting at the cargo terminal when their plane landed.
                  Turned out the horse's pallet was the last one loaded so they were immediately behind the cockpit. The pilots had the door open and could see the horses during the flight. They commented as they passed me waiting, that they couldn't believe the one horse was 30 years old.

                  Yeah, 30 and with one hell of a headache!
                  You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts!


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks again. Horses never cease to amaze me at how adaptable they can be to our requests.


                    • #11
                      I shipped my horse by plane when I moved a few years ago. There was a handler with him at all times - they gave him a mild sedative (oral paste) before take off. I was at the airport to watch him land. It was crazy seeing him come out of the airplane (with bags of fed ex mail!). I wish I'd had a video camera. He was totally unfazed by the whole thing. He had the pallet to himself (it usually takes 3). He was onto the trailer within 20 minutes of landing after a quick check over by the local vet. The handler came over to speak to me and told me he'd been great the whole way. It was definitely an experience but all went smoothly, and it sure beat 3 days on a boat in a standing stall, which was my other alternative.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by islndgirl
                        it sure beat 3 days on a boat in a standing stall, which was my other alternative.
                        Waw, they still do this? I'd worry about the horse colicking from getting motion/sea sick.


                        • #13
                          Very cool reading about people's experiences! Out of curiosity, approximately how much does it cost to fly a horse? Obviously it depends on how far etc, but I have no idea even a ballpark range... what about, say, Toronto, Ontario to London, England?


                          • #14
                            Lieslot -
                            Yup! they definitely do! The horses are only fed hay and water. I had to do it with a horse before when there was no option to fly them to where I am (15ish yrs ago). It definitely takes its toll on them and they lose a lot of weight and get off the boat with sea legs. I was lucky enough to be able to pay a very experienced and trusted groom to go with mine to keep an eye on him, otherwise they are just at the mercy of the ship's crew who are not exactly horse people. All that being said though, I have never known a horse to not recover from the boat ride. Just wouldn't be my first choice now that they can fly!

                            Tuesday's Child - I would guess from Toronto to England you would be in the range of 5-10k, probably closer to the higher end. But haven't shipped that route before so couldn't say for sure!


                            • #15
                              When I flew mine it was approx $3500/horse, about double the ground rate for coast to coast.

                              There's an ad in Chronicle for Alex Nichols Agency - "Special Spring/Summer Rate $5400 from Europe through quarantine in NY."
                              You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts!


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by SLW View Post
                                A group of us were riding this morning and the subject of shipping a horse by airplane came up. Do the horses being transported have a catheter w/ port sewn in, in the event that IV meds (tranqs) must be administered ASAP? Does a vet or vet tech travel on board as an employee of the airline? We had all kinds of questions and are just curious as to how it goes for the 8-10 hour flights for horses. Anyone know about this sort of thing???
                                Checklist for Shipping Your Horse Overseas, by Apollo Equine Transport

                                At first glance, shipping your horse internationally may seem like a huge task. There’s so much to coordinate, and what about the health requirements that your horse needs to meet? Working with a top-quality horse shipping company can help to make the entire process easier, and the following ultimate checklist spells out just what you need to do before flying your horse overseas.

                                FIND A HORSE SHIPPING COMPANY YOU TRUST

                                Your first, and possibly most important, item to take care of is to find a horse shipping company that you trust. Choosing the right shipping company can help to put your mind at ease during the relatively stressful time when your horse is traveling. Additionally, working with a top-rate horse transport company can help to improve your horse’s safety during the trip.

                                Beginning Your Search for a Horse Shipping Company

                                When you begin your search for a shipping company, make a list of the services that the company needs to be able to provide. For instance, will you be looking for a company that can transport your horse to the airport? Would you like a company to take care of your horse’s paperwork and health certificate requirements? What about taking care of arranging your horse’s quarantine?

                                Once you know what you will need from the shipping company, start determining which horse shippers could be appropriate for your horse. You will want to find a company which is well-established and professionally run. It’s also important to make sure that the company provides excellent service.

                                While it might be tempting to gather quotes from different companies to use as a factor in choosing the right shipper, try to avoid this approach. Shipping a horse internationally is an expensive undertaking, but it’s also a complex and sensitive procedure. This isn’t an area where you want to cut corners, and if a shipping company offers you the same services for significantly less than what other companies quote, then you should use caution – there is likely a hidden explanation for this cost difference.

                                Deciding on the Right Horse Shipping Company

                                When you’ve identified a few horse shipping companies which are your top possibilities, it’s time to talk with them in a bit more depth. Now is the time to ask questions about who will be handling your horse during transport and what this person’s experience is. If you have any special circumstances, such as a specific pickup time or a horse whose behavior can be a challenge, ask about what the company can do to accommodate these circumstances. Check your desired shipping dates with the transport company to see if the shipper is available to ship your horse. Then, ask for references.

                                Once you have reference information for a shipping company, call up the references and ask them about their experience. Asking questions about punctuality, communication, and the condition of the horse when he arrived at his destination can reveal a lot about a shipping company.

                                Beyond the references that the company provides you with, you should do your own research to learn about the shipper’s reputation. Ask other horse owners about their experiences with shipping companies and find out which companies they would and would not recommend. The internet is another phenomenal source of information on shipping companies. Try searching Google for reviews using the shipping company’s name and the term “reviews.” Don’t forget popular horse message boards. While every company will probably receive a negative review at some point, the bulk of reviews should be positive. If a company has multiple negative reviews, then you may want to rethink considering that company.

                                When you do decide on the horse shipping company that’s right for you, have them draw up a contract which specifies the exact dates of your horse’s transport, once you’ve decided on those dates. Sign the contract to lock in the company’s service during those dates.

                                MAKE SURE YOUR HORSE’S INSURANCE IS UP TO DATE

                                Before you ship your horse, it’s a good idea to check on the insurance policy that you currently carry on him. Make sure that the policy is still current, and assess whether you feel the coverage it offers is sufficient. It may be a good idea to look into whether the policy has any clauses about internationally transporting your horse.

                                If you find that your current policy isn’t right or doesn’t provide enough coverage, then shop for a policy that fulfills your needs. It’s always advisable to have good insurance coverage on any horse that you will be transporting.


                                Once you’ve found the equine transport company that’s right for you and your horse, find out about the company’s rules and expectations. Does the company require an initial deposit? What is their payment schedule, and what is the total cost of your horse’s trip?

                                Be sure to also ask any questions that you might have, whether it’s arranging your horse’s transport after he’s in the new country or asking about how your horse will be handled during quarantine. Make a list of any additional questions that you might have and talk to the transport company about them. Read any paperwork thoroughly.


                                Before you schedule your horse’s shipping, research his destination country’s policies. Each country has a specific set of requirements that imported horses must meet. For instance, here are the requirements for permanently exporting a horse to Europe. A horse must:

                                Be isolated for a minimum of 30 days under the supervision of the USDA in the state of isolation.

                                Be vaccinated against Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis within 6 months or at least 30 days prior to export.

                                Have a negative Coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia within 30 days of export.

                                Have a negative Vesicular Stomatitis test within 21 days of export, with the result at a dilution of 1 in 12.

                                Must be registered and have either an FEI passport, breed registry papers, or Jockey Club registration papers. These documents must be presented with the export health paper. Horses must travel with passports or registration papers.

                                In the case of an uncastrated male, a blood (or virus isolation test on a semen sample) test for Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) needs to be taken with a negative result within 21 days of transport.

                                In the case of an uncastrated male that has been vaccinated for EVA, USDA requires proof of a negative blood test and letter from the veterinarian stating the date when the horse was vaccinated.

                                When it comes to required documents for your horse, you don’t want to be caught at the last minute without the necessary paperwork. Learn the requirements ahead of time and start working on gathering the necessary paperwork right away.


                                If your horse will be traveling internationally, then he will need a health certificate and bloodwork so that he can enter a new country. The exact requirements depend on the country that your horse is traveling to, but generally you will need international health papers for your horse which are endorsed by the USDA.

                                When you ship your horse with Apollo Equine Transport, we can work with your vet to coordinate the blood testing and the issuance of a health certificate, taking this extra paperwork off of your plate and leaving you to focus on packing and planning the other aspects of your trip.

                                If you opt to take care of your horse’s medical paperwork on your own, then make sure that you make copies of every piece of paperwork that you receive. Keep the originals together in a waterproof document envelope and bring them with you or send them on with the shipper when your horse’s transport begins.

                                AVOID LAST-MINUTE VACCINATIONS

                                Vaccinating your horse at the last minute won’t cut it when you’re shipping your horse internationally. If you’re transporting your horse to Europe, he needs to have been vaccinated against Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis at least thirty days before he is to be shipped. It’s a good idea to schedule your horse’s vaccinations well ahead of this deadline – that way if your horse runs a fever or the vaccinations need to be rescheduled, you’re not in a tight spot.

                                ARRANGE FOR QUARANTINE

                                When you ship your horse internationally, a quarantine period will be required. The length of this quarantine period can vary depending on the country that your horse is entering. It’s important to find out about the required quarantine ahead of time, since this will also affect how you schedule the rest of your horse’s trip.

                                Once you know about the quarantine period required, schedule the appropriate quarantine at available quarantine facilities. Make sure that you call well in advance to ensure that there is a spot available for your horse.

                                Horses imported from other countries may require a 7-day quarantine upon arrival to the United States.


                                Shipping a horse internationally can be complicated, because your horse will take multiple modes of transportation during the trip. In addition to arranging a flight for your horse, you will also need to arrange his transport to the airport. Apollo Equine Transport can take care of these arrangements for you, ensuring that your horse’s trip is well planned out.


                                If your horse will be re-entering the USA within a year, then you will want to apply for either an ATA Carnet or a re-entry permit before your horse ships out of the country. Just which document is right for you depends on exactly when your horse will be returning to the country.

                                A re-entry permit allows your horse to re-enter the country under CEM exemption, but he needs to return to the country within 60 days of his export.

                                If your horse will be out of the country for more than 60 days, but will be returning within a year of his departure, then an ATA Carnet is the right choice for you. The ATA Carnet is an international customs and temporary export-import document which allows you to clear customs in 85 countries without paying duties and import taxes. The import carnet allows you to pass into carnet countries without paying duties or taxes for up to one year.

                                DECIDE HOW YOU WILL SHIP YOUR EQUIPMENT

                                Most horse transportation companies allow small items, like your horse’s halter and shipping boots, to come on the flight with him free of charge. Larger items, like saddles, tack, and blankets, need to be shipped as cargo. If you’re working with a shipping company which can arrange for cargo transport, like Apollo Equine Transport does, then the problem is taken care of. Otherwise, you will need to make arrangements to transport the rest of your horse’s equipment and gear.

                                PREPARE YOUR HORSE FOR SHIPPING

                                Depending on how well your horse ships, you may want to give him a gastric buffer to help guard against ulcers. It is best to give your horse electrolytes before a flight – this helps to keep him drinking during the flight, avoiding dehydration and possible colic. You can send along your own hay for your horse to eat during the flight.

                                Avoid strenuous workouts for a day or two before your horse ships, since this can leave your horse with sore muscles. It’s also time to gather the materials that your horse will be shipping with, such as his shipping halter or shipping boots. Your horse can wear these while on the horse trailer, but most equine transport companies replace them with their own equipment for the actual flight.

                                ACCOUNT FOR RECOVERY TIME

                                Shipping, especially international air flight, is a strenuous activity for any horse. When you ship your horse to another country, he’ll have to deal with jet lag on top of his fatigue from the flight itself. If you’re transporting your horse ahead of a big competition, then make sure to ship him in as early as possible. The more time that your horse has to get accommodated to his new surroundings and schedule, the better he will be able to perform.

                                Shipping your horse internationally is a complicated process with lots of interdependent pieces. Partnering with a well reputed horse shipping company can help to take some of the logistic coordination off of your plate, leaving you to focus on getting your horse ready for his international flight.


                                • #17
                                  When I shipped mine from Ireland he came naked - no boots, no blanket. He went from the west coast of Ireland to Dublin by lorry, then flight from Dublin to Holland, then to NY. He had a halter w/ his name and I think a number, and a sticker w/ his name & number on his rump. My friend/seller told me that the horses he ships to the UK via ferry is harder on the horses than flying. my understanding is they don't tranq the horses unless they start a ruckus... I believe back in the 70s Neil Shapiro's horse Sloopy wasn't a good flier so he had to go by boat/ship. Ugh