October 9, 2019

On the Road Again: Transporting Horses

Written by Garret Weigel | Supply Chain

Each year the Kentucky Derby features a field of horses that compete with all eyes on them from viewers located all over the world. But how do all those horses get there?

 

Transporting horses is a viable transportation niche that only a few companies enter into. Indeed, this cargo is fragile and requires well-planned operations to transport them safely. In an article in Forbes, they described the complex operation of transporting horses by illustrating how the animals are loaded onto trailers and travel from farm or stable to a nearby airport that has special facilities for livestock transportation.

 

horses traveling by air

Horses traveling via DHL. Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/arianarockefeller/2018/12/20/when-horses-fly-the-business-of-equine-air-travel/#405624163197

 

Fragile Transportation

One of the most traveled for horses includes routes between Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Miami, Florida here in the states. Another major hub is the arc at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It's a $65 million facility with 48 state-of-the-art stalls. Horses may arrive there anytime 24-7, and the facility is designed to be a quarantine so that horses may be imported and exported to other nations.

 

When horses arrive at the airport, they're loaded into specialized containers that are designed precisely for the flight. The owners have options as to how they can fly in the same aircraft. The containers can house up to three horses each for smaller horses, and larger ones can fly in different accommodations with more room.

 

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After all, these are not commodities, they’re living being. They are horses, after all. As such, they needed to be treated with special care. Such care is a specialization that most carriers don’t enter into. More specialized firms handle this as they need to not only know something about horses, but need to accommodate those who travel with them as well as the care that horses in transit required.

 

Equine Focus

Air-transported horses include show horses and other traded and sold horses that need to travel from one location to another where ground transportation is not sensible. In an article in The New York Times, they described one operator who focused on equine transportation specifically and transports about 6,000 horses a year across the globe. This company contracts with commercial airliners and can move horses to and from major events and competitions in Europe as well as throughout the United States.

 

transporting horses

Transporting horses by air.

 

According to the article, for horses that are going to a competition, there's significant focus with a parallel concern for human beings: jet lag. The horses are treated in a way that minimizes the effects of jet lag and hence the subsequent performance. The horses are fed in route, and the lighting within the area is adjusted so that their circadian rhythms are constant and monitored. In addition, environmental conditions during transport such as temperature are also controlled to provide them with a fresh and upbeat environment, all with an intent to keep them well and ready for their performance once they reach their destination.

 

Valuable Cargo

The article also discussed the cost of this kind of transportation for horses. The author cited one example where a horse transported from Amsterdam to New York cost thousands of dollars, which includes quarantine once it's in the United States. What’s more, the horses have accompanying paperwork to be completed along with the transit. This includes an equine passport that records all their vaccinations that qualifies them to fly. In addition, the horses must be microchipped.

 

"Shipping can cost thousands of dollars, and horses competing internationally may fly about a dozen times a year. From Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to New York City’s Kennedy International Airport for example, the fee is about $7,500 per horse..."
These Horses Are Frequent Fliers, Just Keep the Hay Coming
Sarah Nir (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/sports/horse-travel-frequent-fliers.html)

 

The specialized horse transportation demonstrates the amazing ability of modern-day supply chains to move nearly anything. Horses are very high value, particularly race horses, and they need very specific care and consideration. Carriers work together to get these prized beasts from one place in the world to another. The transport of equines only demonstrates well that supply chain operations are becoming much more sophisticated and are performing some remarkable feats to change our world for the better.

 

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