Shipping a horse via air, domestically

I’m moving cross-country (USA) in a few years. One of my horses is older and a very bad traveller. If I pushed everything to the max, we could get there in four days, but realistically it would probably be more like 6-7. I think every time he gets out of the trailer it’s going to be less likely that he will go in the next time. Obviously with a few years to go, it’s my hope that by working on this issue we can overcome it, but if not I’m wondering about air transport as an option. Seems like everything could get done in one (stressful) day, rather than dragging it out over an unpleasant week.

Most air transport companies seem to be focused on international travel, for obvious reasons. Also it seems like most of them fly fixed routes and then drive the horses the rest of the way. So e.g. if I wanted to ship him from New Orleans to Boston, they would drive him to Houston, fly him to New York, and then drive him to Boston. At least that’s the impression I got.

Has anyone here ever flown their horse domestically? Were you able to specify airports, e.g. New Orleans to Boston rather than Houston to NYC? Do you think for an easily-stressed horse the short duration of the trip would outweigh the terror of being transported this way?

I worked for a girl that shipped her horse to CA via FedEx Air many moons ago.

I was going to ship my horse Los Angeles to DC (I can’t remember which airport… there was one on the East Coast here) for the same reasons as you, and yes, they don’t use every airport, so depending on how close your final destination is, there could still be several hours of trailering. Plus you have to trailer to the airport, anyway, so it’s unavoidable to some extent. But it would almost certainly still be faster than just driving. Re: terror, horses don’t really know they are on a plane. It’s just another funny looking trailer to them. The pilots take off and land extra slow with slow ascent and descents. The horses are incredibly well attended with professionals right there taking care of them. Ultimately I didn’t do it because they needed to fill the plane (since I was only paying for one spot), and it was taking too long and I had to get the horse moved (I.e., if you go this route, get on the wait list at least a few months early, and expect to be flexible with your shipping dates).

That being said, how would he do with a big box stall with a professional trailering company? That’s what I did - she still came out having lost weight (she’s a bad traveler, too), but she was loose in a big stall on an air ride van, so could have been worse, I guess.

Edit: Might be useful to others, but the quote I got for the cheapest spot on the plane (tied in a stall) was $5000 (airport to airport), and to have the horse hauled in a big box stall was $3000 (barn to barn). To me, it would absolutely have been worth $2000 for faster travel. My feeling is every hour that horse is traveling is another hour for injury, illness, etc. But the professional haulers are, well, professional, so stress is probably the most likely problem you’ll encounter.


some years back I flew a mare from Calif to Fla. She was in Santa Barbara area so had to be trailered to LAX. I’m outside Orlando and flight went to Palm Beach so more trailering. But with all that still way shorter and I would say less stress on the horse. Yes they have fixed routes. No way around that. I used Tex Sutton, they fly racehorses all the time w/in USA so that’s the one I would check with.
Its not cheap by any measure, but also its less stress on YOU.

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I would concur with contacting Tex Sutton. They fly racehorses domestically as well as internationally but have fixed routes. Recently it’s been more of a challenge as they lost one of their air carriers.

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I have not, but I saw some ads from Brewster Walker Horse Transport leading up to The Event at Rebecca Farm out in Montana, leaving from Newark.

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Call the bigger players and see how close they can come on route - Tex Sutton, Dutta, and Peden. You can do charters, which open up a few more airports to you, but that’s an expensive proposition for one horse.

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You might also price out a door to door haul with with big names. It’s entirely possible to rent an entire air ride semi and have them take your horse straight through with a team of drivers. It’s a spendy proposition for one horse, but perhaps less than via air.

We went that route when we did the MN to CT move, and it was great. Horses walked off the trailer like they walk out of their stalls every morning. They also brought quite a lot of our farm equipment. It doesn’t have to take 7 days to haul across the country, and you don’t have to unload the horse until you arrive.


A lot can go wrong if the horse panics on an airplane and flying by itself is hard on human bodies, let alone equine bodies. IMHO, I think a professional shipping company with the big air ride vans and the horse in a box stall (so access to hay and water throughout and doesn’t have to be loaded and unloaded) would be a far better option and probably less stressful on the horse. They can drive straight through, so less time spent traveling than you could safely do on your own. I have shipped several horses across the country over the years, some good travelers and some less so (AZ to northern MI, northern MI to WA, Alberta Canada to southern CA, WA to southern CA) and the only one I regretted was the last when I used a smaller shipper who didn’t really have a true box stall and the horse in question was not a great loader. I wouldn’t put my horse through the stress of air travel (plus significant trailer rides at each end) unless there is absolutely no other choice. I should also note that one of my “not so good travelers” was 1000% better when in a loose box stall or travelling backwards compared to a slant, so your horse may be like that too and you may find he is a much better traveler on a professional van than in a “normal” trailer.


This sounds way less stressful( on horse and human) than trying air transport and most likely more cost effective.


Thanks everyone. My concern about shipping him over land is that he’s such a bad loader. He is very claustrophobic and his response to more pressure than he can handle is to rear. I’m concerned that the people handling him on the way might respond to this admittedly unsafe behavior by trying to strong-arm him, which would be very unhelpful. I’m imagining this happening every time he was loaded, and all of that adding up to some possibly extreme behavior by the end of it.

My two-horse trailer is set up so that all of the dividers can be taken out and it be made into one big stall, 6 feet by 10-12 feet (front of the trailer is slanted). He’s only 14hh so he would be able to turn around in there, I’d think. My 14’3 hh mare can do it. I had thought about trailering him this way, but while I like the idea of trailering loose I can’t help but think what would happen if there were an accident – at least if he were in a “stall” he would be somewhat protected.

I will contact those carriers and see what they say. I really appreciate everyone’s comments.

Once we get to the new place, I hope to never put him on a trailer again.

The guys who drive for coast to coast haulers are probably the very best people out there at loading tricky horses. If you decided to send him over the road, he could ship in a box stall on an air ride rig. It’s much more comfortable for them than any personal trailer. He’d be loaded at your barn, and stay on the trailer until unloaded at your new barn, or unloaded at a layover facility (the big haulers have barns generally in the middle of the country for staging of horses on routes), rested, then loaded again to go to your new barn.

If he went by air, he’d be loaded at your barn, unloaded at the airport, loaded into a pallet & lifted into the plane, unloaded at the airport, loaded on to the trailer that would take him (hopefully) to your new barn.

If I were concerned about a difficult loader, I’d far rather ship him in an air ride, where he loads/unloads as little as possible, and in an environment that’s as low stress as possible.


I didn’t realize that those guys that ship in trucks don’t unload. Isn’t that stressful for the horses? If I took him in my trailer I could do the same – it has many windows including a big one on the side that he can stick his head out. I know the ride isn’t as good as one of the big trucks, but it’s a pretty nice trailer.

This is good, though, definitely food for thought.

You’ll have to repeat this if I start my thread “How did you move your farm hundreds of miles away?”

Since my 16.1 long bodied horse can turn in my 6’4" Shadow, my money is on yes.


No. They’re just standing around in a stall, hanging out & eating hay. They just chill. They use a pair of drivers, there’s no overnight stop to sleep.

An air ride is much easier on them than hauling in a regular trailer. Much! I wouldn’t even consider a cross country move in anything but an air ride in a box stall.


This is not always true. They sometimes meet up with another van and move horses around. You would have to contact the shipping company to get details for any given delivery.

Also, the description above is not always the way it works shipping horses by air. Tex Sutton, in particular, you drive onto the tarmac, walk the horses up the ramp onto the plane and they build the stalls around the horses.

ETA: I’ve never known a horse who was particularly adverse to flying. Someone from the company flies with the horses and has access to them the whole time. Also, depending on where you are shipping to/from, companies like Brook Ledge are very experienced in shipping rank TBs for sales and races. Either way you ship him, it may be worth it to give him a small amount of tranq to load him. Not enough to knock him out, but enough to help him not stress himself.

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The transit time calculations for air or ground will depend on your proximity to certain airports and/or typical shipping routes/hubs. So yes, you may have a 6 hour drive to a plane if that’s the closest airport to you that flies horses. Either way, your horse will be loaded/unloaded MULTIPLE times during the process.

The fastest possible coast to coast (PA to San Diego) ground route I’ve found in recent years was Brook Ledge. They shipped from PA to their hub in Lexington KY for an overnight, but then drove straight through (48ish hours) from KY to CA. The entire trip was 3 days total.

Your two main options for domestic air transport are Sutton and FedEx. You can book Sutton directly, but FedEx uses brokers (like Brewster Walker mentioned above) for arrangements. Sutton loads directly from the trailer to the plane, but FedEx loads into a crate first, which is then loaded onto a plane. It’s not unheard of for either to have a layover airport depending on where you’re going, but horses are generally left on the plane during the stop.

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they post their routes schedule on line

their 727 is the only airplane in the US that is used only to transport horses


The last over land shipper I used doesn’t unload unless they have a long layover at their own farm. The trailer has AC and there is a security system plus someone watching the cameras whenever the drivers have to stop to rest. Which even with a pair does happen on a cross country trip due to regulations and the tracking devices that monitor hours.

I’ve used several different shippers and I considered this last over land shipper to be basically like Air Force one for horses given all the extras and tech they had, the owner/operator’s military background, and how nice the rig was. My horse isn’t a great loader especially on the big rigs and he walked right on in and stood quietly (usually he paws and walks circles in a box) while the humans chatted.

There is a lot of loading and unloading for air travel.

Do you have multiple horses making this move? Hard to tell from your post. If so, it would probably be the best to charter a more custom over land route if your points are at all off the beaten path. That would get them there faster which is still stressful and however many hours it will take, but you won’t have multiple unloading layovers to stress this one horse.

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So much this! There is a world of difference between any consumer trailer and a professional air ride van both in the ride & environment the horse gets (much smoother, more stable, and quieter), and the driver experience (a loose horse in a consumer trailer is way more likely to feel unstable). This is why they don’t need to unload and the horse can be comfortable throughout the trip - just like it would be in a box stall in a barn. If you want to minimize the number of loads and equine stress, pay a quality commercial shipper with an air ride van.

ETA: I know when you fly with other animals such as cats and dogs, it is strongly recommended against tranquilizing or sedating because the effects can be variable when combined with the stress of air travel, so I would definitely have a serious discussion with your vet before even contemplating that idea.

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