Horse Shipping – Taking Your Horse on a Plane

by Sarah Macey

Whether you and your horse are seasoned travellers or going long distance for the first time, you are bound to have questions. There was a time where I myself didn’t even consider the fact that horses have to travel to events, it simply never crossed my mind.

I know that may sound ridiculous but can you honestly picture a horse booking onto British Airways or an Emirates flight? Of course I don’t mean literally, hooves on a keyboard – despite the hilarious premise – really is quite ridiculous.

The point is that this is actually a genuine concept, horses do fly.

Horse & Hound introduce us to the details revolving around horse transportation, namedropping international shipping agent Peden Bloodstock and branding them the ‘equivalent of sipping champagne on a private jet.’ It appears horses follow a similar travel process to humans, theirs might even appear more glamorous.
But why is this? Is it really necessary? We’ll be looking at the benefits and the reasons behind why horses require such exuberant forms of travel, and what the benefits of such transportation services are.

Flying a Horse!

As you can imagine, catering for these wonderful four-legged passengers requires confidence, care and responsibility for both short and long haul flights.

Much like other forms of travel, the world of horse transportation includes similar processes. Peden Bloodstock is a popular choice for equestrian travel, the company transports around 2,500 horses every year and can have a Thoroughbred racing in Paris within an hour of leaving the UK. It’s facts like this that genuinely force me to question my life choices, considering it takes me an hour to get home from work whilst a horse sits on a private jet to the Olympics, eating caviar and sipping champagne whilst watching Sea Biscuit.

All horses are treated equally as well. It costs the same amount to fly a pony as a competition horse. Obviously the concept of horse travel raises a few eyebrows, so I have compiled a few questions that you may find useful:

How Does a Horse Travel in a Plane?

In style.

You will find that horses travel in triple jet stalls in a single standing stall, meaning your horse will have two others for company. You can also opt for a double stall space, and some airlines even allow your horse full use of the full triple stall.

Can I accompany my horse on the flight?

As much as you adore your four-legged friend, unfortunately, this is not possible, though all horses will be accompanied by a fully trained flight groom who has been trained to care for your horse’s safety on-board.

What Gear Should My Horse Travel In?

An Armani suit and a nice hat.

Sadly, no. Your horse will be travelling in a basic head collar and depending on the season, a lightweight blanket for warmth may be required.
Shoes on or off?

Us humans are advised to wear shoes in most public vicinities, however you will find that at the very least, the back shoes of your horse are to be removed for the journey. This is primarily for the safety of the horse, though you may find that some airlines demand all shoes to be removed. Again, this is aimed at ensuring your horse travels comfortably.

Training a Horse to Board a Plane

Training a horse to become accustomed to this process takes time and preparation. Horses, like most animals aren’t massive fans of being forced up a ramp to be placed in a small space. Take it one step at a time and remain calm. Animals have an incredible intuition to sense when someone is stressed or uncomfortable and horses are no different. It is essential that horse owners are fully prepared for any eventuality when loading. The main point of importance being that your horse is happy to be loaded and you feel confident and comfortable with the process.

Using bribes such as food may appear an obvious choice, though it is strongly advised you do not rely on this method. This is not guaranteed to work and when it’s really important, it might not work. I can recall one particular experience where I was in a rush to a meeting and my incredibly stubborn dog refused to come downstairs. Obviously I tried to bribe him as this worked more often than not, but Edgar, being the cunning hound that he is, knew exactly what I was doing. He much preferred to remain atop my staircase, sneering down at my incredibly distressed state.

Luckily my boss at the time had a six-month old Boxer and completely understood. On another day however I may not have been so lucky. If your horse has a known travelling problem or you’ve struggled to load before, don’t be afraid to seek the advice and guidance of someone more experienced. It’s far safer to rely on someone with experience as opposed to risking the health and safety of both you and your four-legged companion. Don’t make the same mistake I did. I’m still repaying the damage to the curtains.

In-flight Care For Your Horse

Once your horse in on-board, you can rest assured their safety is in good hands. You will find that all staff that operate on equestrian airlines are all National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) qualified. This means they have proved their ability to demonstrate a high level of veterinary competence, and are familiar with different types of aircraft and safety equipment.

Their food and water is brought at intervals; this is purely due to the fact that unseen turbulence may cause spillage, or the buckets may possibly get in the way of your horse. Aside from the occasional personality clash, (which us humans also have to endure from time to time) most horses travel stress-free despite the noise from the aircraft. The most critical time for your horse is take-off and landing. You will find that most pilots are aware of the nature of horses and will alter their usual take-off and landing procedures to minimise heavy breaking and excessive g-force.
It appears that the in-flight care of equestrian travel rivals, if not betters the process that we ourselves undertake. You can rest assured that your four-legged friend will travel safe on these airlines, and you’ll probably find there are fewer delays.

I might register myself as a horse just to take advantage of these benefits.

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