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Horse Transport: the human side of globetrotting Thoroughbreds

Melbourne Cup contender Side Glance with his groom Leanne MastertonHorseracing is now a truly international sport with horses flying all over the world to compete on different continents for big prizes. So how do you look after a primed equine athlete on a plane, and how do the horses take travelling? With British trained horses well represented at the upcoming Melbourne Cup meeting in Australia and Breeders’ Cup in California, Travelling Head Girl to trainer Andrew Balding and Godolphin Stud and Stable Employee of the Year, Leanne Masterton tells The Horse Comes First what it is like to travel overseas with a horse. Together with seven year old gelding, Side Glance, the pair are true jet-setters, travelling around the world to compete in destinations as varied as Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and America.

Preparing to travel abroad

A great deal of preparation goes into ensuring that racehorses receive the highest standard of care throughout their trips abroad. There are a wide range of factors to take into account, including how training schedules fit in with lengthy flights, ensuring racehorses are fed and watered during the journey, dealing with quarantine regulations in different countries, and ensuring that all the necessary paper work is in order ahead of travelling. Racing overseas is planed months in advance to ensure that everything runs smoothly and the horse’s journey is as comfortable as possible.

As Travelling Head Girl, it is Leanne’s job to prepare for a trip abroad: “I will usually get all the gear ready the week before we fly, as between going racing and riding out it's nearly always a manic week.  Tack is the last thing I pack because if it's a late afternoon or evening flight I will have to ride out first. However, the horse that is flying will get the morning off.  Once the hampers are packed and ready, it's just water containers to be filled, haynets to be stuffed and enough feed readied for the journey.”

Australia is the only country that Leanne has travelled to where horses have to spend two weeks in quarantine in the UK before they leave. This is because, with no Equine Influenza in Australia, they do not currently vaccinate against it as they do in every other racing country.  Racehorse quarantine in the UK is done at Side Hill Stud in Newmarket. 

“We shower in every time we enter quarantine, horses are allowed to use designated gallops only between 4pm and 5pm as quarantine regulations do not permit them to be within 100 meters of a horse that is not in quarantine.  Every piece of exercise is supervised by a vet and a team of staff who also keep dog walkers away. During this period blood and nasal swab tests are done for Equine Influenza, among other equine diseases.  Horses’ temperatures are also taken twice daily. After two weeks, providing all the tests are clear, it's time to fly.”

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