Some of the top athletes in the world jet to big events across North America on one particular airline. But these aren’t football players headed to the Super Bowl, or big-name golfers eyeing a green jacket at the Masters. They’re the thoroughbreds making a mad dash for the finish line in prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby. These valuable horses are almost always booked on “Air Horse One,” a specially outfitted Boeing 727 that can carry up to 21 racehorses, show jumpers, or dressage horses. The flights are much easier on the horses than long road trips in a van, and they typically arrive a few days before a race, ready to run.
Racing to catch a flight:
- The plane is operated by Sutton Forwarding Co., which has been transporting horses for nearly 50 years. A ticket costs between $3,150 and $5,000 USD, depending on how many four-legged passengers are onboard.
- Horses are loaded through a cargo door in front of the wing, and the equine passengers stand three abreast in padded stalls. Hay and water are available, and grooms are onboard to keep the horses calm.
- If a horse needs to fly internationally, they are shipped through FedEx, which also transports large animals and marine life for zoos and marine parks. Some wealthy horse owners have their own planes.