When Horses Fly: Transporting Racehorses by Air (Part I)


Thousands of sport horses travel all over the globe every year to get to destination competitions on the global show jumping circuit. How do they get there? They fly. The only way this occurs is with the well-run business of equine air transportation, using dedicated crews who manage each phase of the horses’ wellbeing.

No, the horses don’t actually have wings. However, they can fly in airplanes with special accommodations.

When Horses Fly

The journey begins like any other. The horses are put onto trailers and transport from farms to one of the major airports with specialized facilities for horse transportation. One of the most traveled routes is between Amsterdam in The Netherlands and Miami, Florida. Another major hub is The Ark at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. 

The million-dollar facility has a 24-hour reception center, 48 states of the art stalls, and a specialized quarantine facility for export/import horses. The aim of all sport horse transport is to have the horse’s transported as smoothly as possible so that once they are off the plane, they can perform at their peak potential at the competition.

Upon arrival at the airport, the horses are put into specialized containers for the flight. Owners can choose coach, business or first class for the four-legged cargo. The little horses can fly three to a container and the bigger show jumpers will fly “business” with some extra legroom.  It is very comfortable for little horses to ship three to a container with the bigger horses fitting great in a two stall. 

When the horses are secure in the containers, the boxes are put into the cargo bay of the plane. The Boeing 747 is a well-known model in equine air travel since the upper deck is crafted for human passengers (grooms, vets, farm managers), while the lower deck fits cargo and horses efficiently. In terms of cost, owners can anticipate paying in the four figures per stall for transatlantic flights.