Horses on a plane !

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Stanstead

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.

Photo cour­tesy

Ar­min Ruf, seen here with some fine spec­i­mens, knows a valu­able horse when he sees one.

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