FAQ: Everything you need to know about Professional Flying Grooms

FAQ: Everything you need to know about Professional Flying Grooms

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To many, the thought of flying their beloved horse hundreds of miles across the oceans fills them with dread. It can be hard to image how a horse travels in an aircraft if you’ve never seen it before and it’s only natural to worry about how they will fare and who will look after them when you’re not there.

So often we are asked by caring owners whether they can travel with their horse on the plane to make sure he’ll be ok. The be honest answer is unfortunately no. As you can no doubt imagine, it is a very different experience loading horses at the airport and knowing how an animal might cope and react with the strange sights, smells and sounds and of course how to handle all situations on board the aircraft. This is where the professional flying grooms comes into their own.

Professional Flying Grooms

The professional flying groom takes over from the horse’s regular groom to travel with the horse. They must be approved by the ATA (Animal Transport Association) to attend to animals. They are caring and experienced in handling nervous or distressed equine travellers. Flying grooms have veterinary training to deal with situations and emergencies specific to air travel with horses – anything from minor abrasions to colic and stress or fever.

Their calm, knowledgeable, handling of even the most nervous flyers helps the horse to have a journey which is both comfortable and stress-free. In addition to this they must carry out their job on the high security side of the airport where the general public are not permitted so they must have background security checks and clearance to be allowed ‘airside’.

Reassuring prescence

Although the majority of top sports horses are seasoned travellers, there is always a first time! The strange noises, smells and sensations of being at an airport could be frightening for any animal, which is why it’s so important to have professional grooms who are used to dealing with the unusual surroundings and know how best to handle the situation.

So often in normal everyday trailer or lorry loading situations, we see horses that are nervous or unsure because they pick up on their owners/handlers vibes. When a horse is in the hands of someone who does their job under such circumstances day in, day out, they are reassured and tend to be ore relaxed once they realise that it’s ‘no big deal’!

The flying groom will lead the horse, either into a special jet stall that is then moved by machine onto the aeroplane, or, up a long ramp direct to pre-secured stalls on board the aircraft. The flying groom stays with the horses throughout and sits close by for the entire flight to keep the horse calm and monitor its condition.

Making the trip comfortable

The grooms perform ‘cabin crew’ duties of serving drinks and food during flights, as well as social interaction to prevent boredom and alleviate stress. Horses are usually fed hay while travelling, not hard feed, to keep the gut moving and avoid the risk of colic. They are regularly given water. Animals, like people, are prone to dehydration when flying because, although the cabin temperature is kept constant, it is air-conditioned.

Horses may travel in single stalls (club class!) doubles, trebles or more (economy) depending on their size, value and temperament. Pre-flight checks are made by aircrew and the equine team.

Jet stalls come in many shapes and designs and vary between aircraft and manufacturer. It is essential that all the horse stalls are securely in place and the animals are settled. On some horse charter flights there may be as many as 60 horses travelling. In these cases, or when an owner wishes it, an equine veterinary surgeon will travel with the flying grooms.

Animal Transport Association Animal Attendant

To become an ATA Animal Attendant there are a number of requirements that the individual must obtain in order to be deemed competent to accompany a shipment of animals. Amongst other criteria they should possess a working knowledge of the IATA live Animals Regulations and container requirements; Have knowledge of the animal health and welfare regulations and document requirements applicable to the countries concerned; A knowledge of how to handle and care for animals during loading, on the flight, and unloading as well as during take-off and landing. A current and working knowledge of aircraft operations and procedures is also necessary.

Experience of handling horses is of course absolutely vital and as well as a minimum of 3 years working with horses, anybody wanting to become a Professional groom must submit two letters of recommendation from companies that are well known or experience in the international transport industry. Prior to being approved, applicants must complete a minimum of 10 flights in a 3 year period from different locations and with different types of jet stall so that they gain valuable experience from the varying circumstances on each flight.

Professional grooms must of course be able to recognise an animal which is ill or unfit for transport and be confident at picking up on signs of stress and their causes and as such, know how to deal with these. It is therefore imperative they are experienced in dealing with the treatment of injuries, and know when and how to administer veterinary drugs (when are where permitted). To this end they must undergo instruction by a licensed vet who will complete a Certificate of Veterinary Instruction which is submitted to the ATA upon application.

So as you can see, if you are choosing the right company to arrange your equine flights for you, your horse will be in safe hands.

The team at LOC International Horse Transport firmly believe that the comfort, welfare and safety of your horse is paramount. To this end we only work with agents of the same mind-set, and have a team of experienced horsemen and women to ensure a safe & stress free journey from start to finish.

Finding out more:

For pricing on details on flying your horse to an International destination, contact LOC International Horse Transport on info@locltd.com.

For more details on flying grooms visit: www.animaltransportationassociation.org.

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