If a dog’s life entails boredom and grind, the horse’s life is quite the opposite. Add an equine in the equation, and things turn ultra-luxe. The airline service, the H.E. Sutton Forwarding Company, is one of the most exclusive flights for elite horses in the United States. The company has an impressive roster of moving about 2,300 horses annually on domestic flights. It sets the horse owners back by $4500 per animal, depending on the length of the trip. Race horses often span the globe to attend the world’s most significant events, so ships and rails quickly became a redundant mode of transport.
Everything is adjusted for the equine on H.E. Sutton’s Air Horse One private aircraft, from managing gentle ascents and descents to finding calmer paths when the weather gets too turbulent. As per NY Times, unlike globetrotting humans, trotting horses don’t avail frequent flier miles, but the owner gets volume discounts.
In Louisville airport, Sutton employees help the horses to the aircraft via a secluded space on the tarmac. The handlers directed the horses onto the jet’s ramp. Horses are separated by their own private padded stalls wide enough to be compared to a first-class seat.
The animals’ in-flight services included ample water, hay, and sound sleep, as most horses travel well. The high-horse treatment also included keeping the cabin’s air temperature at a frosty 50 degrees to suit the four-legged mammals.
Once complete, the employees clear the space, and a sanitation process begins before the next neigh (read: flight). Payne, an H.E. Sutton horse handler, once traveled with a single horse on a 727 aircraft. He said, “That was pretty surreal because there were a couple of times where they would charter the whole plane to take him to a race. Here we were with Bill Mott, his trainer; the exercise riders; his assistants; and grooms. We are all on a 727 with one horse, the best horse in the world. Everywhere he went, there was a police escort to meet him planeside and escort his truck directly to the barn.”
About the H.E. Sutton company-
Halford Ewel Sutton founded the company in the early 1960s to transport horses by railcar. Sky-high rail costs and long travel time showed Sutton sky-way was the right way! In 1969, he chartered the company’s first equine flight, “That really changed the racing industry,” said Rob Clark, the company’s then-President in 2007. “You didn’t just have to look at your home track anymore. You could venture all over the country for races, and it really opened up the competition.” It is typical for the crème of the equine crop to travel by air. “Three out of every four horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby traveled by Sutton’s plane, commonly called “Air Horse One,” Payne said.
While it is not uncommon for pet parents to travel in the lap of luxury with their furry friends, the Air Horse One was indeed an exclusive amenity for the finest equestrians and their stallions.