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Importing a Horse

How complicated is it?

So, you took the big step. You bought a horse, but the horse is not from the United States. He needs to be imported from overseas. So how do you get him here? Importing horses from other countries is becoming more popular, so the overall process is becoming somewhat routine. Be sure to enlist the help of an experienced agent who knows the rules and regulations for exporting a horse from the country of purchase.

The first obstacle is arranging for transportation. There are a few airlines that specialize in shipping livestock, and your agent will use the airline they are most familiar with. Generally horses are shipped in groups, so a delay may occur while the airline attempts to fill a specific number of reservations before confirming your shipping date. Your horse will need an import health examination certificate and a negative Equine Infectious Anemia (Coggins) test.

Once the flight arrives at the U.S. port of entry in New York City, Los Angeles or Miami, the horses are the first to be unloaded from the aircraft. They are then shipped directly to a nearby USDA quarantine facility where they are detained while tests for dourine (a parasitic disease usually transmitted during reproduction), glanders (a highly contagious bacterial disease), equine piroplasmosis (a tick-borne protozoal disease, and EIA (a potentially fatal viral infection) are conducted. Most horses are quaran-tined for two to three days, but the quarantine may be extended for as many as 30 days, depending on the country of origin.

Mares and stallions over 732 days old that are shipped from countries where contagious equine metritis (CEM) is present must also undergo a second quarantine. When released from USDA quarantine, the mare or stallion is then sent to another facility to begin prescribed CEM treatment and testing. Mares generally complete the testing in about 14 days, while stallions are often quarantined for 30 days or longer.

In addition to the required bacterial culturing protocol, the stallion must breed two mares by live cover. These two mares must then successfully complete testing to confirm that they are not infected with this highly contagious venereal disease. There are several CEM quarantine facilities on the East Coast, but Cornell University has the only approved facility in New York state.

USDA quarantine charges are $270 per day for days one through three, and $195 per day for the remainder of quarantine. There is a three-day minimum charge of $810, and prices are subject to change without prior notice. CEM quarantine can run from $1,300 to $2,000 for a mare, and $4,000 to $5,000 for a stallion.

Quarantine requirements may change to reflect global disease outbreaks, so check the USDA website,, for updates. Importing horses presents certain logistical challenges and is not inexpensive, but with persistence and experienced assistance, you can bring that dream horse home from almost anywhere.