Horses on a plane !
WhenStanstead’s Armin Ruf was given his first horse when a young boy living in Europe, he probably never imagined that, one day, he would be flying on a plane with nine of those beautiful beasts, heading to Europe from Canada.
“ I’ve taken sheep from Calgary to Toronto; they were headed for Dublin, Ireland, on a plane, but I didn’t go with them. It was my first time taking animals on a plane,” said Mr. Ruf about his adventure, last month, of bringing nine registered horses, by plane, to Europe.
A trader in quality horses, Mr. Ruf went to Ontario to pick up his carefully chosen cargo, a mix of registered ‘Paints” and registered ‘Quarter’ horses. “They had to be in quarantine for three weeks and checked twice by a vet, with blood samples taken, before going to Europe,” Armin explained. He then brought the horses to the Toronto airport to fly to Amsterdam.
At the airport, the horses were put in special crates that resemble stalls, three horses to a crate. The crates were then lifted into a jumbo 747: a passenger plane that was equipped in the back for cargo. “We flew KLM Airlines because they specialize in the transport of animals,” he commented. Apparently, large domestic animals are jetsetting just as much as the rest of us! And the ticket price isn’t cheap: Mr. Ruf paid between three and four thousand dollars per horse to fly them over to Europe, the high ticket price reflecting the amount of room they take up on the plane.
The airline has strict rules when it comes to flying horses: one groom for every three horses, along with one official, supplied by the airline. As one of the grooms, Mr. Ruf was able to keep a watchful eye on his charges, all first-time flyers. “We were with them when the plane took off. They were a little agitated and we stayed with them for about forty-five minutes, then went to sit with the passengers. They calmed down for the rest of the flight, we fed and watered them once and the official checked them every two hours. It was a seven hour flight!”
“When we arrived in Amsterdam, a port of entry for animals coming into Europe, a federal veterinarian checked the papers and the health certificates. Then he released them and we loaded them into the trailer,” said Mr. Ruf. Their journey wasn’t over yet! “We trucked them through the Netherlands, Belgium, France and through Paris down to Nantes, near the ocean; a two and a half hour trip.” The horses were going to a horse dealer to be sold to people who take part in Western-style competitions. “Right now there’s a high demand for Paints and Quarter horses in Europe. All of those horses were hand-picked for their special look,” commented Armin whose favourite horse is actually the Haflinger, a breed that he has been raising on his farm for about ten years. “Haflingers were bred for war in the Alps,” he commented.
Asked if he would ever repeat the experience of transporting horses on a plane, Mr. Ruf answered: “Yes – I really enjoyed it. It was just great to be with the horses when the plane took off instead of sitting in a seat!”
Besides buying and selling quality horses, Mr. Ruf operates a beef farm and an animal trailer and weigh scale sales company. He is the vice-president of the Magog sector of the UPA, the vice-president of the Estrie sector of the Beef Federation, and a recently appointed board member of the Quebec Farmer’s Association.
Armin Ruf, seen here with some fine specimens, knows a valuable horse when he sees one.