TAC Cover Story

Transporting Elite Horses with Trans Air Cargo

When transporting animals by air, there are many steps that must be taken to ensure quality care for the animal’s health and well-being. While the reason for transporting animals can vary, each and every type and breed of animal bears different measures and limitations that must be adhered to. For a safe and secure move, the transporter must not only strictly follow all regulations, they must also have a thorough understanding of the animal’s behavior.

For typical small animals, such as dogs or cats, sending them by air can be relatively simple and only requires a health certificate to verify that they are healthy and ready to go onboard an airplane. To the contrary, a much larger and high value animal, such as horses, requires intensive care. The transporter and all parties involved with the process must be more or less be a ‘horse whisperer;’ taking care to prep them for boarding, transport and unloading them from the plane safely without any injuries.

For a deeper look, we spoke with Mr. Suwicha Boontem, Airport Operation Manager, Air Cargo at Trans Air Cargo (TAC), about his experiences in transporting horses and his vision on providing efficient and safe animal transportation that’s trusted by customers globally.

Preparing to Fly 

Trans Air Cargo is experienced in transporting all different kinds of animals, ranging from typical pets, to wild animals and animals used for sport and education purposes. Overall, TAC says that the most important strategy that has enabled them to sustain the trust of global shippers for almost 40 years comes from strictly follow IATA’s Live Animals Regulations (LAR). This also includes learning about transporting regulations for each type of animal as well as import-export rules for each country to prevent any mistakes from occurring.

For equine, they are typically transported for sport, and sometimes transported for military purposes, tourism and for breeding. In general, the procedures for transportation of horses are similar regardless of their purpose. However, for horses participating in racing, they need extra special intensive care for their well-being during transportation.

“All sport horses are of high value and need intensive care to ensure their well-being. We must complete health inspections for them to be ready both for transport and for the race afterward. All processes are processed under the World Organization for Animal Health or Office International des Epizooties (OIE). The organization plays a major role in caring for all kinds of animal’s health globally.”  Mr. Boontem said.

According to Bureau of Disease Control and Veterinary Services, before transporting horses they must be quarantined and have their health inspected to help prevent spreading disease. Mr. Boontem explained, “each time a horse is imported or exported, they will be quarantined per the regulation of the Bureau of Disease Control and Veterinary Services. Horses being exported will be quarantined for 30 days, during which time their health will be inspected. Importing horses are also quarantined for 30 days to monitor their symptoms and general health.”

During the 30-day quarantine period, TAC cooperates with exporters to bring in officials from quarantine centers and in-house veterinarians for health inspections, to collect blood samples for disease inspection. The process takes about 15 days, after which TAC presents the results to the quarantine center who then issues certifications to receive their official authorization for the export request. TAC takes care of this whole process from the very beginning, starting from scheduling the trip, health inspections and all points in between to help ensure compliance with all regulations.

Understanding Animal Nature 

Beyond regulations for animal transportation, another important factor transport providers must be concerned with is to carefully study the animal’s behavior. “Before shipping a horse, we need to learn about their natural behavior in detail, for example, feeding and excretion. Also, horse urine is highly acidic and leakage can damage the transporting freighter. We have to prepare absorbing materials to absorb large amount of urine and prevent the liquid from leaking off the aircraft stall or air stable.” Mr. Boontem explained. “From our experience, some horse can have problems adapting to the new time zone at the destinations and causes them to have poor appetite. To avoid this, we always prepare food doing their regular feeding times to make them feel more secure and able to feed as normal.”

Horses are naturally large animals with active behaviors. Shipping horses via airfreight can only be done on board a freighter using air stables. The stable must have adequate space, but not too large, to limit the movement of the horse which could endanger the transport. Normally, an air stable can accommodate three horses, although care must be taken in stable slot management. Transport providers should know about horse behavior to prevent problems. For example, never put stallions in all three slots. There must be a mix of mares and geldings to prevent stallions from fighting with each other, which may cause injury to the horses and to the freighter as well.

More importantly, grooms (the people who look after the horse on board the plane) must accommodate every shipment. Their major role is to check on the horses at least every 2 hours, keep the stable clean and ensure that there will be sufficient water and feed the entire trip. “Not only that the grooms must have experience, knowledge and skills in horse care. The person must also have veterinary knowledge, so in case of any emergency they can handle the situation accordingly,” Mr. Boontem said.

Mr. Suwicha Boontem, Airport Operation Manager

Special Care 

Even if an operator is following all regulations to the tee, without knowledge and understanding in animal transportation mistakes can easily happen that could endanger the life of the animal. According to Mr. Boontem, mistakes in animal transportation are mostly commonly human errors that are caused by lack of experience and understanding. For TAC, although they have years of experience and more than enough adequate skills, they impress on their staff to operate with care every time. “The secret behind our success is our team who love and genuinely care about the animals we transport. We always impress on our staff to operate with love and care, because we are aware of the invaluable sentimental value to the owners. That is why we cannot accept anything but zero mistakes.”

It’s clear that not only does TAC follow international regulations and standards strictly, but they also pay extra close attention on taking care of the animals as if they are important passengers for TAC’s transportation, and is one of their secrets behind their outstanding services in this sector.