Have you ever wondered what it takes to import a horse into Australia? I first looked into it last year when I was wondering whether or not to bring my five year old gelding Thoroughbred John (yes I know, the horses I own have the most average names) back from Canada.

What I learnt was that it is very very difficult to find out what is involved. I couldn’t look online and get a good understanding of the process, not from Australian Customs or Australian Quarantine Inspection Services (AQIS).

So I contacted a Horse Transport Service in Australia. Well that wasn’t very helpful either.  I just wanted a ball park figure, and a time frame. Two important questions that everyone wants answered, how much is it going to cost me and how long is it going to take?

I was pretty keen on understanding the process too, but that wasn’t going to happen. They were only interested in talking to me if I wanted to book right now!

My experience with importing the Friesians has been an interesting one, and since I had so much trouble finding out about importing horses to Australia the first time I went looking, I thought it might be prudent to offer a quick overview for those of you who might be interested in the process. This post deals with my personal experience importing horses from the Netherlands via Germany to Australia. I am uncertain if it is the same process for the importation of horses from the Americas or other places in the world.

There are always two transporting parties. The sending team and the receiving team. And both sides are dealing with your most precious cargo for an extended period of time BECAUSE we have very strict quarantine regulations in Australia.  You cannot expect to get a postcard or hear from your horse whilst they are in quarantine. Whilst one side might be better than the other, overall, they clearly have better things to do than keep you informed of how your horse is doing or what they are eating.

As painful as it is to seemingly drag out the process of getting your horses back safe into your care, the quarantine process exists for a very very good reason. In Australia we have all seen the effects that imported living objects have had on our country (Prickly Pear, Lantana, Cane Beetle, Cane Toad…. do I need to go on?) It is important that the horses are isolated and any signs of sickness or disease are picked up by the Quarantine agents and dealt with. The last thing we as horse owners want is an outbreak of some foreign equine virus that could have been prevented.

Many countries have quarantine before the horses leave the country also.

In our case, the Netherlands to Australia via Germany, there is a four week quarantine in Germany, and then another three weeks minimum quarantine here in Australia (this can be closer to four weeks or more if something goes wrong).

In our case our two transport partners are, Horse Transporters Guido Klatte International Horse Transport in Germany, and Crispin Bennett International Horse Transport in Sydney Australia.

I met with Bernd from Guido Klatte when I was in the Netherlands recently. Rob from Friesenstal Reuselink took me to see their amazing facilities and their fantastic transport trucks.

Guido Klatte is a private facility in Germany where our horses will spend four weeks in quarantine before making the trip to Australia by air.

I was struck at how incredibly clean their facilities are and what lovely accommodations they offer. It was very Ritz Carlton (or what I imagine the Ritz Carlton might look like from a horses perspective) They have great big stalls, with ample fresh bedding, an exercise walker, and a lovely fresh green paddock where the horses can run freely during the day. It was a great experience to walk around their facilities, meet the staff and see first hand how well cared for and happy the horses in quarantine were.

Once they clear quarantine in Germany, the horses are transported to the airport where they board a cargo plane for their long flight to Australia. In our case they are flying Singapore Airlines (I’ve already checked their frequent flyer status is irrelevant on a cargo plane) and they will fly from Berlin to Dubai and then onto Sydney via Singapore.

Sydney is the only port in Australia that accepts horses via air, and Quarantine only opens up once every 5 weeks, and there is an open window of 4-5 days where horses from all over the world can enter the country and then subsequently quarantine. Quarantine is then 21 days from the day the last horse arrives for all horses in quarantine, whether they were first in or not.

The new arrivals come into Quarantine, they spend their 21 days there, are transported out, and then the quarantine facilities are washed down/cleaned out and made ready for the next lot of horses arriving in a week.

Here is where Crispin Bennett picks up the reins from Guido Klatte.  Sadly we have no idea of what the quarantine facilities in Australia are like.  We weren’t privy to any of that information

They arrange all of the customs clearances and quarantine for you and manage the process. They can also arrange transport from Sydney to your location with their preferred transporter for an additional cost.  This is their preferred method and they make that clear.

The price, which of course is what everyone really wants to know, from Europe to Australia has just increased to €17.000.

“Ouch!” I hear you say. Yes that is what I said too!

The good news is (if you can get over that price) that everything transport related is included in that price. 28 days quarantine in Germany, the flight to Sydney, and the 21 days clearance in Australia.

There are some additional fees you will need to pay:

  1. GST! GST is paid on both the horse AND the transport cost. So if you have just paid €20.000 for your prized stallion plus the €17.000 for transport you are up for GST of €3.700. I have left the currency as Euro for two reasons. This is the currency that you will most likely pay for your horse in, and this is the currency that you pay for your transport in. Obviously the exchange rate changes over time. You will need to convert this to Australian dollars use http://www.xe.com to do so – but this is only a guide. Your bank will charge you more or less so heck it out with them.
  2. Extra-ordinary veterinary fees in the event that you horse is injured or becomes sick whilst in the care of the transporters. Our grooms saw horses injured whilst they were being loaded onto the truck in Sydney, so as we all know with horses anything is possible.
  3. Any costs incurred due to additional testing or extended quarantine period ordered by the AQIS
  4. Any delay in shipment due to outbreak of disease or testing problems or other circumstances beyond the control of the transporters.
  5. Any farrier costs, if required whilst under our care.
  6. Transfer of registration to the Stud Book/Society in Australia that your horse belongs to.
  7. Vaccinations that may be required prior to commencing PEQ in Germany.
  8. Government fees leaving the origin country

Once the horses are in Quarantine In Sydney, Crispin Bennett use their own grooms to look after the horses. They have accomodation on site. They actually live reasonably to the quarantine station and go home from time to time but one or other is on site every night. All feed and bedding is provided. You are provided a phone that you can call and speak to them to check on how the horses are, which seemed to ring out any time we called, so presumably they are busy caring for our horses, but the important thing to note is that you CAN NOT visit the horses in quarantine.

There are no exercise facilities at the Sydney quarantine. In Germany they have a walking machine and each horse gets an hour or two on it every day. In Sydney there are day yards where the horses are turned out so they can move around and excercise themselves as much as they can in a small yard.  Sounds a lot more like a Best Western to me after what I saw in Germany.

You need to expect that your horse will very likely drop a bit of weight on the journey due to stress. (Don’t we all wish that could happen to us when we travel?)  I am not exactly sure why this is supposed to happen or what stresses they are going to be putting our horses under?

Of course if you are purchasing one of our fabulous imports we will arrange everything for you, all you need to do is give us your address*. For those of you interested in the detail or purchasing your horse from elsewhere, the transport process from Germany to Australia is outlined below:

1) Vet Check complete with xrays- get this done by an independent vet. You want an all clear! The last thing you want to be doing is spending a small fortune to import a horse that isn’t completely healthy, particularly if their health problems could result in a longer than required stay at Quarantine in Australia as this is not free, and not the best for you or your horse.

2) Chose your transporter. They should do all of the organising for you. Let them, they do this ALL THE TIME and are experts. You will not save money by trying to do any of it yourself, and will potentially make costly mistakes, there are a few and I’m sure some are much better than others.

3) Insure your horse – We have had a great experience with AON Insurance who recommend an annual insurance policy that includes transport between your port of origin and your destination in Australia.

4) Passports – The horse’s passports must travel with the horses to Australia and if you are lucky your transporter will get them on to you after the horses are released from the Sydney quarantine.

5) Transport from the stables. You horse(s) will be collected by one of the very ultra luxurious trucks from Guido Klatte and delivered safely to the Quarantine Stables in Germany.

6) Quarantine in Germany – Your horse(s) will undergo 4 weeks quarantine in Germany before being transported to the airport. Exactly which airport can vary. In our case it is Berlin.

6) The horses travel either two horses (business class) to a cabin or three horses (economy) to a cabin.

I was very surprised to learn that they travel nude. I had expected them to be fully rugged with travel boots etc, but the reason is very obvious once explained. During the flight at times (like take off and landing or turbulence) there is very limited access to the horses. If they were to get a leg caught in their rug or some other part of their clothing was to come loose they could panic and do quite a lot of damage to themselves, other horses and the container that they are in. So the nudity is a safety issue.

Our babies are currently in quarantine in Germany. Part two of the import blog will be released in a month once we know the rest of the story! <editors update> or not as we really weren’t particularly happy and have sought a different Australian company for our second transports.

One thought on “Import(ant) Learning Curve

  1. That was most informative. Sure did beat trying to wade thru Govt Depts. & info re ball park figures from freighters as you stated !

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