Shipping horses from Ireland to the USA just got easier

Photo via Turkish Airlines on Facebook.

The past few years saw a great reduction in the options for shipping horses from Europe to the United States until eventually the only option was to fly them out of Belgium. This lead to horses being imported from other European countries having their previously day-long ordeals of the flights shift to a three-plus day trip; a day or more to ship to Belgium, usually 24 hours of rest time at a facility in Belgium, then another day of flying. That all changed yesterday however when it was announced that, in partnership with the Turkish Cargo division of Turkish Airlines, Shannon Airport in Ireland would once again be flying horses directly out of Ireland to the United States.

Shannon Airport had previously been the main shipping location for horses out of Ireland or the UK, but that was phased out several years ago and only chartered flights continued shipping horses. With an eye towards restoring this service the airport administration began trying to organize restoring the cargo hub in Shannon in 2009, but that eventually fell through as well. Now with the economy on the rise the airport is re-dedicating themselves to this goal with the help of Turkish Airlines.

Shannon Group Strategy Director and International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) Managing Director Patrick Edmond said, “The equine sector is huge business for Ireland. It not alone brings in some of the world’s top horses but also some of the world’s top business people. Shannon’s catchment includes a number of the world’s leading studs and our staff has a proud history of handling these precious thoroughbreds,” when asked about the plan to restore regular equine flights from the airport.  The first flight of horses, six thoroughbred mares, arrived last month with all horses in excellent health and Turkish Cargo will now run regular flights from Istanbul to Shannon, and then on to New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. The airport will also continue accepting chartered cargo flights for horses as well.

This new direct flight from Ireland will hopefully make shipping horses to and from Europe a much easier and faster process. Horses coming from northern Europe will now no longer have to ship all the way to Belgium prior to flying which will greatly reduce the stress the trip has on the horses and hopefully also help to make the shipping more economical. Flying a horse is still expensive obviously, but cutting the ordeal down from three days to one or so and removing the fuel costs and man hours needed for the drive will hopefully offer a decent price drop for the entire trip. This will also likely benefit overseas competitors flying into the UK or Ireland for events like Badminton and Burghley since the van ride from Shannon to the UK is much shorter than from Belgium.

So, if you were dismissing looking for a horse in Ireland or England because the transport costs were too high, maybe keep an eye on the pricing estimates in the coming months. It’s possible we may start seeing prices going down now that the transport companies no longer have to worry about getting horses to Belgium before shipping. And regardless of pricing, it’s good news for the horses to no longer have the long van ride to the mainland before shipping.

Scroll for more top stories on Eventing Connect