How do horses travel to international competitions?

How do Horses Travel to International Competitions?

Horse Racing, Show Jumping, Three Day Event, Endurance and Halter competitions are just some of the many equestrian disciplines that are truly international.

What many of us may be wondering is how those horses arrived at that specific country safely and comfortably. Yes, they do fly there! The actual process, what's involved, and how that looks may interest some of you. Here's a high-level look at the journey of a horse from one country to the next. 

Ensuring the proper care for these horses from their stable to their plane and ultimately their destination requires an experienced team with the horse's health and safety at the forefront of their mind. Alex Nichols founded the Alex Nichols Agency (ANA) in 1962 and is a leading expert in horse transportation by air. He even developed the shipping container that is now standard for international horse transportation. Alex's son, Bill Nichols, is now at the helm of the business and oversees the operations with a very hands-on approach. Bill developed a love for horses at an early age, giving him the compassion that’s necessary when handling precious cargo such as these genuinely incredible horses. 

You might wonder how often and why horses are even flown in the first place.  Horses are being shipped by air domestically and internationally on a daily basis from most major airports.  Show horses migrate from South Florida in the spring to Europe and the west coast, all by air. Racehorses fly into New York and Los Angeles from England, Ireland, France, and Germany for major race meets in the states.  Racehorses training at Santa Anita Park regularly ship by air into Saratoga Race Course to grab the money and fly home.  Show jumpers arrive by air 2 and 3 times a week into US airports from Amsterdam Frankfort and Liege. Harness racehorses and standardbred breeding stock also cross the Atlantic year-round from training centers and major public horse auctions such as the yearly November showcase in Harrisburg, Pa.    

Like people, your horse can travel in business class or first class. First class provides your horse with its own stall, whereas in business class, your horse will share a stall with another horse. There is even a coach class where up to three horses will share a stall. Check out our separate article on how to prepare your horse for transport by air on our website. Small animals like cats and dogs fly on regular commercial flights (lower deck of a passenger aircraft), however horses fly via an all-cargo aircraft.  Where the main deck is used for horses and cargo.

 Horses undergo several checks once they arrive at their destination, including veterinary examinations, and an ID check of the horse is done by checking microchip numbers on health certificates and passports. Alex Nichols Agency has a policy to pre-clear all horses ahead of the actual shipment. This means all the required documents are sent days in advance so when your horse does fly it is cleared from customs and veterinary inspection without delay.


Transporting your horse can be an extremely stressful and daunting process. However, finding the right company to partner with that has an excellent safety record will allow you and your horse to travel internationally without hassle or stress. Be sure to contact the ANA team for more information on our process and how we can help with your transportation needs.

Looking To Ship Your Horse By Air?

Contact us today for a Quote