• Flying with horses

    Do you wonder how it's done?

    Have you thought about how horses fly?

    Horses cannot travel in the usual planes that you and I would travel in – they have to travel in cargo planes, and not all cargo planes can carry horses – so moving from A to B is not as simple as it is for humans.


    Each country has a specific set of rules for importing and exporting horses, and not all countries accept horses from other countries, so sometimes movement might be via another country, where rules have to be complied with before horses can move on to the next country.


    Sometimes it is just too difficult or too expensive to get a horse into a certain country, due to the requirements or the lack of country-to-country protocol.


    Countries on what needs to be complied with before shipping set the protocol – each country would have its own import protocol. So to send a horse to country A might have a very different procedure than sending it to Country B. Some can be very time consuming and frustrating, while others are simpler.


    Paperwork aside, the shipping can be frustrating, as cargo flights don’t always operate to the same timeframe as passenger flights, they can be delayed, diverted, cancelled and even moved forward to an earlier time. They also don’t run as often as you might think – sometimes once a fortnight or even only once a month.



    The type of containers that horses travel in varies according to the type of airplane – here we will show you some photos of different shipments that we have completed.



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    The container


    The containers that the horses travel in are generally called ‘pallets’ each pallet can carry a maximum of 3 horses – some pallets have movable partitions and can travel 2 horses, or even 1 horse in bigger spaces (think economy ticket, business and first class) – the pricing obviously works in the same manner – as the space on the plane is filled by the pallet regardless of whether there is one horse or 3 horses in it – only the weight of the pallet changes.

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    Different types of HMD

    The container that the horses travel in

    Small airplane – so these horses travel in an open pallet, as there is no room in the plane for the pallet to have a cover on it.

    The pallet is constructed on the pivot (pivot is the term used for the base plate, that is moved from the ground to the plane, the pallet itself in this case has no base, so it is strapped to the pivot to be more secure).

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    How do they get up there?

    The loading process

    The horses are loaded on to the pallet by way of a ramp, if they are loaded on the ground they are then moved by fork lift onto the trolley which takes them to the plane. Loading them in situ reduces the risk, although it is not without risk whichever method is used.

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    Once on board

    Hanging around

    Once the horses are loaded we make sure they have enough hay and are settled before moving off. If it is a long flight we need ensure there is enough hay and water for the duration and to allow enough extra in case of delays.

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    Moving off

    Getting weighed

    Once they are secured in the pallet they are then moved to the plane, via a weighbridge. Weighing the horses is important as the weights of the pallets is used to ensure that the plane has the weight evenly distributed throughout – all cargo is on pivots and every pivot is weighed to allow for the calculations to be made.

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    Preparing to board

    Going to the lift

    The loading is done via a scissor lift (high loader), they move the pallet on to the lift and then raise the lift and slide the pallet into the plane. Everything here has rollers so they are fairly easy to move.

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    Entering the plane

    Doorway size

    In this situation the door to the plane is fairly small, you can see how tight it is when the horses are pushed into the plane

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    Into position

    Weight distribution is essential

    Once in the plane they push the pallet into position, either forwards or backwards depending on where in the plane the pallet is positioned for weight distribution. Obviously the pallets are loaded on to the plane in the correct order as they cannot move them once they are aboard.

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    Neck Straps

    Keeping the horse low

    In this situation, you can see the ropes around the horses necks – these ropes are to stop the horse rearing up and putting its head through the roof of the plane – or of course injuring themselves on the roof.

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    Biting Boards


    The boards between the horses are to stop them biting or annoying each other, they are not always necessary, it depends on the horses themselves. This picture shows 2 colts and a filly travelling in the same pallet, so in this case, they were required.

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    Travelling Groom

    The key person

    Once in the plane the horses travel with grooms, usually experienced people who have travelled with horses before and who know how to react if a situation arises. As no one knows how the horses will react it is fairly import to lower the risk for everyone concerned so we take relevant actions in advance to prepare for this.

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    This can take a while

    Unloading at the other end is the same procedure – unload pallet, take to unloading area, offload horses, put in truck and send to wherever they may be going.

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    Both ends of the journey have paperwork

    The paperwork should all be completed beforehand, vet checks, import / export permits and customs clearing. Grooms have to be cleared by the airlines to fly, this can take a week. There is usually a vet check on arrival, so a lot of time is spent at the airport just waiting and waiting, at both ends of the journey. Being a travelling groom is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds, it’s all about patience and hanging around airports. The flight part is often the shortest time of all!

    Frequently asked Questions


    Are the horses sedated?


    Not usually, as they usually don’t need it, they are generally used to travelling and it is just like going in a lorry from their point of view.


    Do they go in the pallet easily?


    It is like travelling them in a lorry, most walk in happily but the occasional one doesn’t want to go in. We try to read the horses behavior and work according to the character of the horse, if it seems anxious then we put another braver one in first, the anxious one will usually go in easily once another one is in.


    Do you feed them in flight?


    Their diet for the journey is just hay and water, they get offered water throughout the trip by the traveling groom, the water intake is monitored, as some horses will not drink during the journey and then the information is passed over on landing so that the intake can be monitored on arrival, if a horse gets too dehydrated then it has no desire to drink, so this little snippet of information is critical to the well-being of the horse on landing.

    We don’t offer hard feed as hay is sufficient and gives them something to munch on throughout the journey, we also don’t want to increase the likelihood of colic.


    What about delays?


    If the horses have a transit, or a delay, we generally leave them on board the pallet, they are fairly safe in there, so leaving them inside reduces any risk of injury from loading and unloading, some airports have no safe unloading facilities, and in cases like that it is not an option to unload them.


    Are travelling boots and bandages required?


    We don’t like to travel the horses with anything on – boots may slip and become uncomfortable, they cannot be removed mid flight, as access to the legs is impossible. Tail bandages can be too tight or too loose, may slip and again access is not possible, so we avoid them too. As the temperature is controlled they do not need rugs, these can be taken for arrival, along with boots for the lorry part of the trip, but we avoid it for in flight. There is a slight risk of injury loading and unloading but the risk of boots and bandages causing harm in flight could be greater.


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  • Nella's Story

    Nella had a long a journey - it took a while, but let us tell you about it so far;

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    Nella lived in Indonesia

    But her owner wanted her to move

    She never thought this was going to be possible, as it is so difficult to move horses out of Indonesia. It was discovered that sometimes the impossible becomes possible.

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    Nella needed to move to Singapore

    Horses from Indonesia cannot move directly to Singapore

    There are rules and regulations on importing animals, so Nella has to complete a residency in another Country, one that does allow horses in from Indonesia.

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    Striking lucky

    Moving horses is often difficult and not many move out of Indonesia

    It just so happens that two horses from Jakarta were moving to Malaysia to complete a residency before moving on, Nella could join them! The container can take 3 at a time, this meant it was going to be possible to get her nearer to home.

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    The starting point

    Heading to Jakarta

    On the first leg of her epic journey, Nella had to get to Jakarta. She travelled for 2 days on a long and hot journey in a van across Java.

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    The Truck

    It's a long way to travel

    All that way in a small truck with limited ventilation, designed for fruits and goods, not horses. However Nella travelled well.

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    Meeting her travelling companions

    Nella arrived in Jakarta, a few scrapes and bumps later, but in one piece and stayed in the same stable yard as her travel companions until flight time. Even though she had a space allocated on the plane, travel it doesn't always go smoothly and flights get delayed, so it was any time within a one month period that she might fly out. She had to just wait it out, but at least she was near enough to the airport now.

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    Jakarta Airport

    A red eye flight

    They had to load in the middle of the night, so they are all 'comfortably seated' and ready to board the plane on time. Nella wasn't too sure about this means of transport, it was all very new!

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    The flight

    After a couple of delays the airport beckoned

    They were set to leave one day but a slight hiccup in the plan was discovered, so the flight had to be delayed for another week. The following week the horses eventually got on a plane to Kuala Lumpur. After a long delay the flight eventually took off, complete with its 3 horse passengers. 

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    Landing in Kuala Lumpur

    Safe arrival

    After numerous delays departing, the flight landed early, and the horses were taken off the plane quickly. we wanted to get them to quarantine where they could stretch their legs after being stood in the box for so long. (Nella is hiding on the left)

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    Kuala Lumpur Quarantine Station

    30 days in quarantine is a must for any horses from Indonesia

    So, from landing on a hot Saturday morning, Nella travels again, this time in Lans' truck, from KLIA cargo to the quarantine station with her travel companions. It is a short journey of around 15 - 20 minutes.

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    Her first Malaysian road trip

    Thanks for driving us safely to quarantine

    This is the lorry Nella was in, from Cargo to quarantine.

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    Long boring days

    Nella gets to spend time in the large grass paddock. She’s only ever been in a much smaller dirt paddock. 3 meals a day, twice a day in the paddock and hay all the time – an easy life for a horse!

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    Johor Bahru

    Nella moves on without her travel companions

    Nella is now in Riders Lodge, Johor. Her travel companions have moved up to The Meadows in Cameron Highlands. All 3 of these horses must complete a 90 day residency, her 2 companions are heading to Switzerland, while Nella is now so much closer to Singapore - her final destination.

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    Nellas' new best friend

    It's easy to make new friends

    Nella has found a boyfriend already, it didn't take her long, but then she is very easygoing and likes to make friends, it is nice for her to meet new horses after only seeing the same 2 friends for the last month.

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    Riders Lodge

    A lovely centre where you can go holiday, rider horses, play golf or just relax.

    Alana can go and see Nella every weekend. It is so easy to get there. Nella can start to do some work, and the grass at Riders Lodge is just so much better than the grass in the quarantine station in KLIA.

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    Moving on

    Nella ready to load

    She is now into the final stages, Nella is all ready to move into Singapore quarantine. She will spend another 2 weeks in isolation so she can then move to her new home. We are now in mid May, 3.5 months after her arrival in Malaysia.

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    Loaded and ready to go

    Nella had to load in the dark

    As the trucks go over the border in the coolest part of the day it means the horses get loaded at night - in the dark! 

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    Singapore at last! 

    She has arrived in Singapore quarantine

    Two weeks here and then on to her final home. 

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    Nella pictured here with her owner Alana