Given how much international appeal horse riding has these days, it makes perfect sense that horses need to be flown to various locations around the world, in order to compete, but how exactly does the process work? Naturally, your horse won’t have a seat in first class, but you can ensure premium treatment and care for your four-legged companion, whilst flying.
It’s all about prep
There’s a lot that goes into transporting a horse overseas and you need to be sure that you are on top of it all, unless you want unexpected delays or embarrassing refusals. Quarantine regulations, veterinary paperwork, nutrition and hydration will all need to be carefully understood, organised and scheduled, so expect to spend a few months planning a flight.
The tack can wait
Packing your tack is the final task to manage, as food, water, your horse and any necessary bags will be your main concern. Plus, other horses in the stable might need riding out prior to a flight and you can’t do that without your saddle!
There was a time when the word quarantine heralded mandatory month-long stays for any animal flying into a new country but things have progressed significantly since then. That’s not to say that you won’t have to commit to placing your horse in quarantine prior to a flight or on arrival in a foreign country, however. You will need to be equipped with any and all relevant information that affects you and must abide by strict quarantine rules. Don’t go assuming that every country is the same, as some will surprise you, such as Australia, which requires a two-week quarantine period before a flight. You will also be expected to agree to numerous tests, to ensure good health.
Don’t fret about take off
Transporting horses has become a far more common occurrence in recent years, which has led to more specialist planes being developed for the purpose. Pilots will not allow you to stand with your horse when take off is in progress, but don’t worry. Given that most horses are used to boxes, they rarely react negatively. Plus, if you panic, they might sense your unease and react accordingly, so leave them to it.
Make hydration a priority
It’s vital that you keep your horse well hydrated on a flight and you can even ask your vet to administer a drip prior to flying. Offer drinks regularly, at least every two hours and if you notice a reluctance to accept water, pop a little electrolyte paste into their mouth, as the inherent saltiness will encourage drinking.
Little and not too often is the key on a flight. Feed from the floor, so as to gently encourage your horse to keep their head down and relax.
What happens after landing?
Depending on the country you are landing in, your horse will either be immediately whisked to quarantine or taken to stables for international runners. Either way, you will need to closely monitor your horse for signs of travel sickness, which will require antibiotics and significant rest time.
Getting in the saddle after a flight
Post-flight exercise will be a priority for your horse, but you need to take things steady. Let them acclimatise to their new surroundings first and give them a couple of days to just relax and get used to where they are. After that, you can look to return them to their prime pre-riding condition, as they will have most likely suffered a little weight loss as a result of the flight. This normally only takes a few days to rectify, so don’t panic.
When it’s time to come back home
When you’re ready to embark on the journey back home it’s simply a case of all the same again, but you should make sure that upon arrival back at their home stables, your horse gets a little treat or extra fuss, so they know that flying isn’t all that bad. Expect them to commit to a good sleep too.