One of the most interesting aspects of Equestrian International Sport is horse travel, namely flying horses. To most of us, this seems like a very unusual way to travel horses, but to our top riders, flying horses is often a very normal part of their year.
So how do they do it?
Depending on the country, horses will have to undergo a quarantine period in an approved facility. Horses flying out of Australia to Europe, for example, undergo a 1 month quarantine. During this time, there are strict regulations as to their movements on the property, and the staff who can manage them. Their health is closely monitored, recorded and submitted. Just like humans, they are also often required to get up-to-date vaccinations.
After a quarantine period, the horses are loaded onto a lorry and travelled on a pre-planned route to an airport with facilities for live stock transportation. At the airport, they are loaded onto a specialised container, which is quite similar to a straight load float in terms of their standing arrangements. There are a few different options for horses in these containers; the smaller ones can travel 3 horses to a container, while the larger horses may need more room and can travel 2 to a container. Call it 'coach' vs 'business' class if you like!
Once loaded onto the container, the horses are lifted into the cargo section of the plane. They tend to fly on a Boeing 747, and each horse would have a dedicated flying groom who are well versed in veterinary care should anything go astray during the flight. The horses are consistently monitored during their time in the air, and have access to hay and water. Carrots are often also fed on flight to get the horses chewing, and even out their ear pressure!
For the longer flights, it is common that the horses will need to do a plane change over, much like we do on 'human' flights. During this time, the horses stay in their box, and are unloaded into a temperature regulated area whilst they wait to be loaded for their next flight.
International horses often find flying a relatively seamless practice, simply another part of their routine. They are total athletes accustomed to a 'nomad' lifestyle and don't often suffer from jet lag, however there are FEI regulated time periods that horses are given to recover post flight before beginning to compete.
Would you fly with your horse in the cargo plane if you could, or meet them there?