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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


The advanced technology, the development of the Internet and cheaper flights have made the world a much smaller place to be in. It is so until one decides to transport the horses overseas. Today, racing has become a truly international sport. With the capability of flying horses overseas, they can be made to compete for different competition prizes. 

There are several different ways of transporting racing horses overseas. The most convenient option being, by air. It is a quick, safe and effective method of transportation for big events and competitions like the Olympics. Keep reading to know about overseas transportation of racing horses in detail. 

Overseas transportation of racing horses

Some animals are present in regular planes. However, that is not the case in the case of racing horses. They travel through special cargo planes. Usually, the racing horses are put in stalls on the ground. These stalls have divisions and can permit up to three horses at once. The dividers are removable to provide more room for the horses to move or breathe in.

The horses are kept in stalls based on the class they are flying. For racing horses that are flying first class, they may get a whole stall to themselves. However, this advantage is reduced by half in the business class. Here, two horses usually have to share a stall. Next comes the coach class where three horses share a single stall. Go through HorseRaceInsider to learn about thoroughbred racing and the horses taking part in it. 

Upon placing the racing horses in stalls, they are lifted onto the airplane. Cargo planes lack any steward or stewardess, which is common in normal flights. Hence, if the owner or the manager/s travels with the horses on the same flight, they need to be prepared. In case they are traveling alongside, they need to make sure the horses are fed and kept hydrated occasionally. 

Steps followed to transport racing horses overseas

  • Preparing for the transportation

A good amount of preparation is essential to ensure the racing horses get the highest standards of care. This is true for all the trips throughout the world. Several factors have to be considered before preparing for overseas transportation. This may include deciding on what training schedules are fit for the racehorses within lengthy flights. Other factors like ensuring the horses are fed and hydrated throughout the flight are included. 

With the pandemic still hitting roads, quarantine regulations of various countries. It must be confirmed all necessary documents and paperwork are in order before traveling. Usually, racing overseas planning takes place months in advance. This may guarantee a smooth running of the overseas competition and keep the horses safe and comfortable throughout.

  • Last thing to pack: tack

Usually, it is the job of the head people traveling to prepare for the overseas trips of the racing horses. They may get all the gears ready a week or two in advance. This is done to prevent the rush hours during the racing and the riding out weeks. Tacks may thus be the last thing to be packed. Usually, tacks are used to secure the safety of the riders during horse racing competitions.

  • Quarantine

In certain countries, traveling people, as well as animals, need to be quarantined amidst the pandemic. One such country is Australia. The transported racing horses have to be quarantined in the UK for two weeks. Later on, they can be transported to Australia. This is because equine influenza is not available in Australia. They are not currently vaccinating against it as it is for any other racing country. 

The racing horses are allowed to gallop within the designated period. The quarantine regulations don’t permit the horses to be anywhere within 100 meters around a horse that isn’t quarantined. For instance, in America, racehorses are kept in isolation for at least 72 hours.

Before the race, certain exercises are supervised by the vet and a staff team. During this duration, blood and nasal swabs are carried out for equine influenza. Besides, the temperature of the horses is checked twice daily. After the expiry of the two weeks, it’s time for the horses to fly if all the tests are clear. 

  • Taking off

Racing horses are flown in aircrafts designed specifically to transport horses. As mentioned earlier, these special flights are simply meant for horse transportation. Hence, these flights lack human attendance. The vets and grooms are left to 

  • Optimum hydration

A vet is usually accompanied by an assistant on air to take care of the horses. When up in the air, it is essential to keep the racehorses hydrated throughout the journey. IV drips may also be given to horses if necessary. Water is given every few hours. Besides, the horses are given electrolytes, filled with essential salts and minerals to keep them energized. 

  • Proper feeding

When inside the aircraft, the racing horses must be fed with care. At times, greedy horses may end up eating too much. This causes the formation of unwanted colic. A recommended solution would be to feed them every four to six hours. 

If required, the horses are fed off the floor of the stall and on the ground. This will encourage the racing horses to bow their heads down when eating. This may help to remove anything that is left in their lungs from the running air conditioner.

  • Landing

Upon landing, the horses may either be headed to quarantine or isolation like in Australia or America. On the other hand, they are directed to reserved stables meant for international runners from different countries. 

After the racing horses have had a good walk, they are put back into their reserved stables. A temperature checkup is done next. If the temperature increases, it may be an indication that the horse may develop travel sickness. 

Hence, their temperature may be taken twice a day at a stretch for two weeks. It is usually witnessed and closely observed every morning by the vet. Besides, the racing horses may suffer from a bad cough, a dirty nose or a dull-looking coat. This can be treated using antibiotics but it may take time for the horses to recover completely. 

  • Exercising after arrival

Once the racing horses arrive at their destination, it is not necessary to over-exert them to exercise right away. What can be done is to lead them out and allow them to pick up grass. This is done for a couple of days and gets acclimatized to the present scenario. 

Now if the horses are supposed to race within two weeks from their landing, it’s time to get them on track. After letting them walk on the compound for a couple of days, they were allowed to hit the track for trotting further. 

Trainers usually aim for horses that are primed and made fit for the race before their arrival. This helps to keep it easy upon arrival and immediately builds the horses for the race. Once the races and competitions end, they will return to their respective homes.

Other available alternatives for transporting racing horses overseas

Some of the horse owners and managers may be afraid of traveling by air due to their carbon footprint. In that case, alternative methods for transporting the racing horses can be by sea, road or rail. The alternatives may be good for the environment. However, the main question is if it’s better for the horses in question.

  • Transportation by sea route

A great way to transport racing horses by sea is through boats. Undoubtedly, it is the best available alternative after aircraft. Unlike the popular notion, horses may suffer from seasickness like any other animal. Common beliefs for such a condition may be due to the motion of the boat. 

Besides, the horses are kept below the deck with the other vehicle. Hence, they may suffer from a lack of vision. The brain may lead the motion to cause sensory confusion, and seasickness may result. It may even become a serious issue for horses since they are incapable of vomiting. Instead of vomiting like other animals, this may lead the racehorses to suffer from colic. 

Apart from the sickness, it takes longer to transport the horses by sea. During the complete journey, the horses are made to remain in their trailers in stationery condition. Based on the weather conditions and ferry company being used, the boarded horses may have to wait a day before the journey begins. This may give a hard time for the horses in the trailers. Head over to Double D Trailer to get a wide range of sale quality trailers to choose from.

  • Transporting by road

Considering the sea route isn’t the choice for the racing horses, let’s get an idea of transportation by land. Suppose, the horses are required to be transported to a different country without being able to bear the expense of the sea route. In that case, the racehorses may be transported by car. However, the journey is a long and daunting one. 

A major hindrance of traveling the road is that the horses won’t be able to sleep along the way. This happens since the trailer keeps changing its speeds and direction. As a result, the racing horses will have to constantly rebalance themselves. 

Lack of sleep may severely affect their health and performance in the latter days. Therefore, if the horses are transported by road, one must make sure to stop occasionally. Allow the horses to stretch their legs and get a little rest and sleep, if necessary. 

  • Traveling by rail route

It may be true that the carbon footprint of traveling by rail is far less compared to by air. This has an advantage for the transported horses: Unlike the transportation by sea or road, the rail route helps the horses to sleep well and not suffer from seasickness. In the case of the rail route, the changes in its direction and speed are more progressive. 

Hence, they won’t require to constantly rebalance themselves when trying to fall asleep. A drawback of the rail route is that the horses are carried all along the predetermined railroad. It may be miles from where the actual destination is to be reached.

Cost of transporting racing horses overseas

The cost of transporting racing horses to different countries via aircraft may approximately cost around 8000 dollars to 30,000 dollars. However, the price may vary depending on several factors. For instance, the traveling class, the departure location or the final destination or what airplane may operate from the closest available airport. 

The cost may be inclusive of the 30-day quarantine report, which is essential if the horses are staying more than two months outside their country. It may even include the 14-day pre-export and post-export reports. Vet preparation, professional grooms in flights, pre-flight boarding and shipping supplies like food, water, bedding and agency fees are some other factors. All the aforementioned factors are responsible for making the cost by air expensive and a tedious process. 

The cost doesn’t however include transportation to the farm before boarding the flight. This will include foreign charges, quarantine and insurance. Besides, most of the companies wouldn’t even transport the horses without mortality and transit insurance.

Do the racing horses suffer from seasickness?

Racing horses are no different from humans. The seas are extremely unpredictable. One would wish the seas to be calm and at the same level every time, but that may not be the case. As mentioned before, racing horses also suffer from seasickness.

In the 1900s, Ernst Shackleton, during his Antarctic exploration, kept a record of horses that suffered from seasickness. It was noted that the horses show signs of confusion, distress or dizziness during unstable weather conditions. 

Cats and dogs may be able to get medicated and treated to deal with seasickness. Sadly, there is no such pharmaceutical option meant for horses to deal with seasickness. A widely used ancient medication is herbal oils. Commonly, lavender oils have been in use for ages to keep the horses from feeling seasick when traveling long routes by sea. 

Lavender oil is presumed to lower the heart rate and keep the horses calm in the long journey. It can either be used in a diffuser or sprayed inside the trailer. People accompanying the horses may even brush some oil on the horse’s halter. 

Do the racing horses become jet-lagged?

People often fly their racing horses for various competitions on a global scale. One may expect the racing horses to be jet-lagged when flying halfway across the world. However, that is commonly not the case for racing horses. They don’t suffer from any such jet lag. 

The main reason behind this exception is the way they sleep during their journey. Unlike humans who sleep for at least one-third of their day, horses sleep for less than 15% of the day. An adult horse doesn’t spend more than ten minutes a day sleeping at any point in time. The absence of jet lag helps the racing horses to travel better by air route in comparison to other routes.

To conclude

Transportation of horses abroad or overseas can be a tedious and expensive task. Hence, it must be carried out in an ordered manner. The major factor is to first decide upon the route in which the racehorses may be transported. Another crucial factor is to keep all the relevant paperwork and documents prepared. A veterinary inspection certificate, a negative Coggins test that indicates the horse is free from equine infectious anemia, and their vaccination report. 

Transport companies for horses usually have accompanying insurance to work with. However, it’s always better to stick to the currently available insurance provider. This may add a transit policy to the cover and tell the details about any geographical limitations on the insurance covered. 

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