Thoroughbred horse racing is a highly mobile industry with all the players, equine and human, constantly shifting from race meet to race meet, from track to track, from farm to track and back again, from one state to another, and, with increasing frequency, from one country to another. As with all travel, certain risks are inherent, not to mention expenses.
Shipping horses from one track to another track, shipping horses from a farm to a track (cost depends on mileage charge which is fixed by the Interstate Commerce Commission’s “Household Carrier’s Guide”), and shipping new purchases from a sale to a farm or a track.
Most transport companies are within $10-$15 of each other, with some kind of price break offered depending on the number of horses being shipped. In California another cost break to the owner results from the racing association’s “shuttling” policy. If a horse is stabled at a track that is currently “dormant” but ships to another that is conducting live racing, the association that is “up and running” will pay the shipping costs both ways as long as 1) the horse actually runs in a race and 2) the horse returns to the track it was stabled at within a week.
Every time a horse is shipped to race, it must be accompanied by its Jockey Club Registration certificate, its racing silks and a hand-signed, written, original binder proving that the trainer’s Worker’s Compensation Insurance is current. When shipping a horse to race in another state, its owner/trainer will be required to take out a license in that state before the horse is allowed to start. The state you are shipping to race in must also receive a detailed health certificate for the horse, including a negative “Coggins” test for Equine Infectious Anemia. It is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary documents go with the horse. Your trainer should assist you in getting the documents necessary for your out-of-state license in advance of the race. When your trainer or his/her representative signs the bill of lading that is required before a van driver can load your horse onto a van, you automatically accept the transport company’s liability limit of a mere $2,000 per horse. To acquire more coverage, you usually would have your horse covered under a regular mortality policy.
There are two options here–via a charter airline which specializes in large animal business or via commercial airlines, using “air cargo” rates and terms.
Charter airlines lease planes on an as needed basis and specially outfit them to carry as many horses as possible. They usually operate after a large sale or at times of the year when a group of horses all going to the same destination can be assembled. They charge an owner a flat rate per horse and are usually direct flights. (This per horse rate can be dropped substantially if the company is trying to “fill” a given flight.) The average “single stall” rate for air-shipping a horse from Los Angeles to Lexington is $3,800-$4,500 one way, which generally includes one groom for every three horses but does not include ground transport to and from the airports.
Because charter flights are limited and more and more horses are shipping to specific races, domestic cargo shipping is used. Commercial airlines such as FedEX and Emery contract with shipping agents that provide special containers (Airstables) that hold three horses and lock onto a standard shipping pallet. The horses are offloaded from a regular van at a quiet place at the airport into the Airstable which is then moved by truck to the plane and moved into place in the cargo hold by cargo elevator. The price depends on whether or not the pallet is full and what your final destination may be. Commercial flights often are routed through a hub city so the travel time may increase substantially.
The rate to ship a horse out of the country varies substantially depending on the distance, entails a great deal of detailed paperwork, possibly a period of quarantine, and usually is packaged with the ground transportation. Insurance for air transport outside of Continental North America is extra.