Noble Life

How Do Horses Fly?


When you think about transporting your horse to your next horse show, you probably start making a checklist in your head about what to pack in your trailer.  For international equestrian competitors, the checklist is a bit more involved.  When horses travel overseas to compete on the international circuit, they get to fly and it’s really first class.  The flight costs at least $3,000 and $5,000 but these equine get the royal treatment!

Horses fly in a custom freight aircraft that is fitted with safe roomy stalls and a crew that includes grooms, vets, and the flight staff.  Each horse is loaded and unloaded directly from their van or trailer straight.  Their feet never touch the ground from airplane to auto transport!  A custom Boeing 727 aircraft like the one used by the H. E. Tex Sutton Forwarding Company for Air Horse One can fit up to 18 horses in a single flight.  Horses are provided with hay and water along with a few carrots for the long trip.  If a horse starts to show signs of stress or anxiety, they are given a mild sedative to help them remain calm and relaxed.

It’s important that the horses arrive in excellent health.  These athletes usually arrive at least 14 to 21 days ahead of time to clear quarantine and establish their new routine before competing.  It’s not unusual for pilots to adjust their course by 1,000 miles to avoid turbulence with their precious cargo.  However, the flight is a relatively short trip when you consider that some horses make the trek from New York to Florida in a horse trailer.


Horses travel safely and securely on an airplane with a full staff.

Most companies offer full service exportation.  These services include:30 days of quarantine and daily care, testing and preparation of all health certificates and documents, transportation to airport of departure, and USDA charges at departure airport, export handing and air freight costs in the airport of arrival.  There are many companies that offer international Equestrian Travel.  Even FedEx will ship horses but they charge by the pound!

For more information about international equestrian air travel out of the United States, visit the USDA Animal Export Frequently Asked Questions page, as well as the USDA’s Preparation of Animals Traveling Internationally checklist!

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The Author:

Alek Majtenyi’s love of horses began at a very young age with pony rides and reading endless horse stories. She started riding English at age 10 and joined The United States Pony Club at age 18 where she earned her C1 Level Rating. While earning her B.A. in English at the University of California, Davis, Alek worked at the UC Davis Equestrian Center giving beginning riding lessons to horse crazy girls and riding horses. She has worked closely with all ages and levels of riders in the last 10 years as the manager of The Tack Room, a small retail shop in Modesto, CA. She currently lives in Oakdale, CA with her German Shepherd Dog, Kyra, and lovely Thoroughbred mare, Miss Vesta.

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