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The Steps of Importing a Horse from Europe

by Anja Huehmer
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Importing sporthorses from Europe into the US has become more and more popular over the last few years. Trainers buy their young horses for cheaper overseas, put some experience and showmiles on them and then sell them on the US market. Additionally, many clients searching for their next equine partner also look into importing more often. But what happens behind the scenes when you import a horse? Here is an inside look into the process from start to finish. 

Finding the Right Horse

Of course it is great if you have the opportunity to personally go to Europe, try, and pick your own horse with some professional help like from your trainer. However, since Europe is not exactly our next door neighbor, not everyone has the chance to do this. In this case, it is best to work together with a trainer and / or an agent who will help you select the right horse for you.

Pre-purchase exam

As with every horse purchase, a pre-purchase exam is needed and certain bloodwork is required for the horse to be allowed to enter the United States. Additionally, you should be sure that the horse has a passport and all other documents that are needed for the purchase and import, as well as insurance.

European Ground Transport

Next, your horse will have to be transported from their home stables to the airport. Horses travel in cargo planes. Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt are the major international airports who provide transcontinental flights for horses. Often, they will be stabled in a horse hotel near the airport for a few days where another vet will check them until their flight is ready.

Transcontinental Flight

The three airports accepting equine cargo in the US are Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. On the cargo plane, horses travel on pallets. A pallet basically looks like a cargo container. 2-3 horses travel in each of these pallets. The inside looks similar to a trailer. The horses stand next to each other and have padded planks that seperate them. A vet and grooms will be on board to check on the horses and provide medical care if necessary.

Arrival in the US

Once the horses have arrived in the United States, they are put into quarantine. Depending on whether you bought a mare, gelding, or stallion, the quaratine time varies from 1 to 33 days. Here, it is made sure that the horse does not carry any diseases.

US Ground Transport

Now that your horse has been through quarantine he is ready to come home. A shipping service is needed to transport your horse from its place of quarantine to your barn. After a few more hours on the trailer, he will finally be home!

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