9 Things That Are Unique About Transporting Horses On An Airplane

Horses by air may have been pie in the sky or like “when pigs fly” 50 years ago, but now flying horses is big business.  I wouldn’t look for Expedia to list a horse in a dropdown list, that said don’t give Amazon any ideas.

They don't get to book online and show up at the airport with a ticket for a regular airplane. Instead, they ride on purpose-built aircrafts, with specific arrangements just for equine jetsetters.

What are some of the unique features of equine air travel?

1. PRE-CHEK Horses embarking on any kind lengthy travel should be checked by a veterinarian and observed of any signs of sickness or fatigue. The added stress of travel can turn a small problem into pneumonia or other serious complications. 

2. First-class travel. Just like on human flights, there are "economy," "business," and "first-class" air accommodations for horses, though the differences are more elaborate. In addition to more legroom, each upgrade includes fewer horses in the same "container." In other words, just like first class for people, horses in first-class enjoy their privacy.

3. In-flight snacks. All horses who travel by air are kept occupied with a full hay net, though they may choose not to nibble. They're also offered plenty of fresh water and often electrolytes as well to make sure they keep drinking. The digestive tract of a horse is a one-way system, so horses do not get airsick; lucky them! 

4. Medic on board. While human flights have first aid kits handy, equine air travel is conducted with flying grooms, who have extensive experience with hands-on veterinary care that might be needed during a flight, such as sedation for nervous flyers.

5. A different kind of layover. Nearly every equine flight is a direct one, but depending on where the horse is traveling, domestically or internationally, or for what purpose, quarantine may be required once they arrive. This quarantine can range from a day or two to weeks. Furthermore, various equine welfare recommendations include mandatory rest periods after lengthy travels to maintain the horse's well-being.

6. Flying for sport. At the highest levels of every equine sport, from racing to show jumping, dressage to carriage driving, competitions are scheduled across the country and the globe. In order to reach a level like the Olympics, a horse and rider may need to have competed in a number of previous, slightly lower level, international competitions. While it might be possible to travel long distances in the US or Europe in a trailer, an air flight provides a faster, safer, and less stressful experience for the horse. 

7. Flying for pleasure. Though many of the horses who travel the skies are athletes, doing so because they've been bought and are changing addresses or traveling to competitions, still others travel for different reasons. One such reason might be that some breeds of horses require "live cover" instead of AI, and so studs and sometimes mares travel for their breeding dates. 

8. Dressing for the trip. Humans who are on long flights usually choose comfortable, loose clothing and maybe a hoodie to keep warm. Horses in general are cold weather animals so cabin temperatures are monitored closely, and the captain is given specific temperature settings by us. Leg protection is a matter of choice, we like to use the Velcro type that provide protection without bandages that can get loose or tangled during a flight.

9. Experience matters. Because of the complexity of equine air travel, from scheduling to veterinary preparation, loading and unloading, and in-flight specialization, choosing the right equine shipper can make the difference between a smoothly-choreographed maneuver and a chaotic, stressful, disjointed process. Alex Nichols Agency has been transporting horses by air since 1962. We developed the now-standard equine shipping container used by all major airlines. Let us use our sixty years in the industry to make your horse's flight easy and seamless.

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