How to ship a horse overseas

It takes a lot of planning to send a horse overseas.

It takes a lot of planning to send a horse overseas.

It takes a lot of planning to send a horse overseas.

When watching an international equestrian event, have you ever wondered how the horses got there? Flying as a human is complicated enough, but what about 1,000+ pound animal?

Thankfully, international sports are growing popular enough that flying horses is quite common. Each country has its own regulations regarding health, quarantine and necessary documents, but there are some general guidelines that apply regardless of your origin country. Read on for tips for flying a horse overseas:

Check health requirements well beforehand

Each country has its own equine vaccination and health regulations, and these rules change depending on the duration of the stay. If a horse is being imported into a country rather than traveling for a competition, it will have to go through a lengthy quarantine process and need to pass more health tests than a temporary visitor. For example, according to TheHorse.com, intact equines competing in the U.S. do not need to be tested for contagious equine metritis, whereas those moving to the country or that have undergone castration or had an ovariectomy do.

Also, consider the quarantine period before leaving. In many countries, visiting horses must be temporarily quarantined and test negative for specific diseases before being released. In the U.S., those diseases are:

  • Dourine.
  • Glanders.
  • Equine infectious anemia.
  • Babesia caballi and Theileria equi – causitive agents of piroplasmosis.

If a horse tests positive, it and the animals shipped alongside it are held in the quarantine facility until the equine tests negative. If that never happens, the entire group is shipped back home.

Australia is the only country where entering horses are quarantined before departure rather than upon arrival, according to Horse and Hound. This is because their horses generally aren’t exposed to the equine influenza virus, so they aren’t vaccinated against it.

A checklist.Make sure you have the necessary medical information months before you’re scheduled to leave.

Hire a horse broker

Speaking to TheHorse.com, Allen Page, a veterinary medical officer for the USDA’s National Import Export Service, said the best way to approach international travel is to hire a broker. That way, an expert handles the shipping logistics like arranging flights, ground transportation and necessary pretesting.

“While it’s possible, in theory, not to use a broker, it’s extremely difficult,” he explained.

Prepare your animal for travel

When in flight, make sure you keep your horse hydrated. Give it water every few hours, and provide electrolytes like Finish Line’s Electrocharge if the animal isn’t drinking. Be careful with feeding, as the food, stress and altitude can cause colic. Speaking to Horse and Hound, horse trainer Leanne Masterton recommended a four-to-six hour food schedule.

Horses are generally fine once they’re in the air, but takeoff and landing can stress them out. If this happens, give your animal Quia-Cal to support healthy nerves. If you’re not traveling with your horse, don’t worry. The animals are usually accompanied by a veterinarian and a groomer.

Upon arrival, give your horse time to rest before resuming your training. It’ll need at least 24 hours, but 36 or more is ideal.

Your first experience shipping a horse overseas will be nerve-racking, but the two of you will grow to be experienced fliers in no time.