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What You Need To Know When Importing A Horse

What You Need To Know When Importing A Horse

Natasha Williams, Horseflight Accounts Manager, explains the start-to-finish process of shipping your horse internationally, from starting with a Horseflight Quote to having your shiny new pony delivered to your barn!

It’s that moment of triumph. For months now, you and your trainer have been on the hunt for that beautiful European Warmblood, tirelessly dissecting video after video in search of the perfect horse to help pursue your equestrian hopes and dreams. But wait. He’s in Holland. You’re in New Jersey. Now comes the realization that before you lies the daunting task of flying your newly acquired life-changing horse across the Atlantic. This is where Horseflight steps in to ease the process, with its long-standing track record of safety and reliability in equine transport, freeing you of worry and allowing you to continue unbridled daydreaming about your first ride in the USA.

When shipping your horse internationally, it is important to find a shipping agency that you trust. Horseflight's clients put their full confidence in our company to get their horse to its appointed destination, which goes far beyond loading it on a plane and hoping for the best. I am going to walk you through the exact processHorseflight follows during an import. For this example, I will use our most common flight route, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

  • After calling or e-mailing Horseflight, you will receive a general quote which will include:

√ Pre-export blood screening

√ CEM swabs (mare or stallions only)

√ Trucking from stable to AMS

√ Health papers

√Airfreight for 1/3 stall (each box is able to transport 3 horses)

√ JFK receiving charges

         - 3-day USDA quarantine (required for all horses)

         - Walk through The Ark (animal reception center at JFK)

         - Trucking to New York Animal Import Center (NYAIC)

         - USDA airport fees

         - Customs brokering

         - Blood work

√ US Customs processing fees

√ Import permit (if mare or stallion)

√ CEM quarantine (additional 14 days for mares or 31 days for stallions)

√ Trucking from NYAIC to final destination

Quote will not include insurance, unforeseen costs, or equipment

  • Once an agreement is made on the quote, we work with one of our European partner agencies to find a flight that fits into the timeframe that you designate. We have weekly flights into JFK, so it is generally easy to have the horse travel on your schedule.

  • Horseflight works directly with vets in the EU to perform bloodwork and provide health papers prior to shipment. There is no pre-export quarantine required for horses leaving Europe, however, bloodwork typically takes 3-4 days to complete and 7-10 days for CEM swabs. Once the tests are completed and a signed health certificate is made available, your horse is ready to fly.

Upon your horse’s arrival at the airport, a professional groom will accompany him every step of the way, ready to handle any situation which may arise. When your horse, along with the other horses being shipped, are ready to board the plane, they are loaded into individual boxes which hold up to three horses in straight stalls. We usually have at least two horses on each box, as they feel more comforted when they have a companion. These boxes are then transported to the plane by truck and put onto a lift which raises them level with the plane. They are then slid inside of the plane and secured to the floor, ready for the flight. The groom travels with your horse from the holding area of the airport to the plane and continues to accompany him for the remainder of flight, utilizing jump seats that are near the boxes.


Typically horses handle flying very well, as air transport has historically proven to be less stressful for them than trucking when a longer trip is required. They receive first class service with hay and water readily available for them at all times during travel.

Upon landing at JFK, the horses are unloaded in reverse order of the loading process. The boxes are slid out of the plane and lowered onto trucks which take them from the plane to the ARK, all within the confines of the airport. All horses must be unloaded at the Ark, have their blood drawn, and be inspected by the USDA vet before making their way to the ground transportation, which will take them to NYAIC for their three days of mandatory quarantine.


During this transition at the ARK, a dedicated Horseflight agent will inspect each horse that has flown in with its agency and verify identity by microchip scanning. (Note: All horses traveling internationally are now required to have a recorded microchip number.) Once identity has been confirmed, you can expect to receive a picture of your new partner.

A qualified handler will take your horse directly from the box to one of the trailers waiting to take the horses to the quarantine facility, where each horse gets some rest and TLC. The ground transportation companies we use are all highly experienced equine haulers and experienced horsemen. To keep things very clear and organized for all parties involved, Horseflight identifies each horse with one of our signature green halter tags emblazoned with its individual name. Additionally, all equipment sent with each horse is packed into one or more of our signature green Horseflight bags, which are again clearly labeled with the horse’s name, ensuring that all horses and equipment are easily identified, and everything stays together.

After the three days of quarantine, during which the USDA vets monitor your horses’ health and behavior, test results will be back and if all goes according to plan, your gelding will be ready to be released and head home! As previously stated, mares and stallions must complete a more extensive quarantine period. Horseflight again hires the best ground shippers to pick your horse up from NYAIC and deliver your horse and all equipment directly to your farm.


The daydreams of your first ride can now become a reality, as Horseflight helps you to successfully ship your dream horse across the Atlantic.

Horseflight offers scheduled flights to major ports in USA, Europe, and the Middle East.

All domestic flights are built around your schedule- Horseflight’s extensive network can arrange all ground transport in conjunction with your flight... Door to door has never been easier!

Horseflight does not know the word no – custom routing / last minute trips, no problem.

Get your Horseflight International Horse Shipping on Equivont!