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Shopping Overseas: What It’s Like to Import a Horse

Shopping Overseas: What It’s Like to Import a Horse

If you have even a medium-sized budget for your next horse purchase, importing may be part of the conversation. Even with the added transportation and travel costs, you can get more bang for your U.S. buck when you start shopping outside the border. But as with anything that potentially offers a high reward, there is risk involved.

The best way to mitigate that risk is to choose the right network of contacts to help you shop. Ideally, your U.S.-based contact, probably your trainer, has extensive experience with imports, along with a trustworthy network of horse folks overseas. Without those two pieces in place, the risk of the transaction may outweigh any potential reward.

Shopping in Person

One of the first questions you’ll need to answer is how you’re going to shop. You can pack up and jet off to Europe for a few days to meet and ride your prospects. What better way to spend a long weekend, right?

The benefits are obvious: you get a firsthand sense of the horse’s feel and personality. The drawback, of course, is that your travel expenses reduce your horse-buying budget. And there is the possibility that it will take more than one trip to find your perfect match. Even if you do choose a horse, the transaction could fall apart after you’ve headed home ó the horse might have an unknown issue that shows up in the PPE, for example.

Shopping by Video

Video shopping, on the other hand, seems fairly terrifying if youíre risk-averse. You get to see the horse in action, but even a beautiful round could require a very skilled rider. Plus, the video isnít likely to reveal any bad ground manners or other quirky, negative habits.

This is where your trusted network comes into play. Your contacts, both domestic and abroad, need to know your exact requirements, and you must know that theyíll serve your best interest. If you havenít already, start writing down what you want in a very detailed way ó even if some of your demands seem silly. For example, if you canít stand a dapplegray, put ďno graysĒ on the list. Think through every way you can describe a horse, from age to height to experience, and jot down your needs.

Katie Horstmann at Mechlin Farm Hunter Jumper Facility

The goal of this exercise is not to send your broker on an impossible journey ó itís to make sure you donít forget to communicate something thatís important to you. Then, itís time to trust that your broker and trainer will either find the right horse, or tell you that your wish list is unreasonable.

Thatís when things get interesting. Hopefully your phone starts blowing up with videos of your prospects. And the more videos you watch, the better youíll get at having an opinion about each one. You might even go to YouTube and watch videos of random sale horses, just to help clarify what you like and donít like to see.

Budgeting: The Extra Costs of Importing

You likely have a top-end budget in mind, which needs to cover the price of the horse, plus commission, transport and, maybe, quarantine care.

Commission may be added on to the price tag, or it may be included in the price. Ask your trainer for the scoop here. And while youíre at it, request that horses be presented with U.S. dollar pricing so you donít have to worry about the exchange rate.

Transportation may cost $9,000 or more, depending on where the horse is and where it needs to go. A flight from Amsterdam to JFK runs about $7,500, for example. To that, youíll add any transport costs to get the horse to Amsterdam, and from JFK to your barn.

Quarantine costs come into play for mares and stallions only, which are required to stay in quarantine for 14 days or more. An approved quarantine facility cares for your horse during this time, and may even offer training rides. Your trainer likely has a preferred facility and understands the costs involved. As a guideline, plan on $4,000-7,000.

Lastly, importing increases your insurance costs slightly. Youíll want to add extra coverage so your investment is protected overseas and in transit. This shouldnít be more than a few hundred dollars.

Timing: Waiting for Your Horse to Come Home

Once youíve picked out your dream horse, then the waiting begins. Your horse needs to have bloodwork done before being cleared for international travel. Then transport and quarantine and more transport follows. All of that leaves you waiting around for three to six weeks until your new horsey arrives home. But when that wait is over, then the real fun begins.

Mechlin Farm has years of experience importing young, talented horses from Europe. If you have more questions, reach out to us and ask!

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