The UAE’s leading horse and animal shipping company, Equitrans Logistics is celebrating 20 years in business this month, an impressive milestone in such a specialised industry.
Operating in the glamorous world where global aviation and top-class equine athletes meet, mean no two days are the same for Equitrans managing director and co-founder David Robson and his team.
“We regularly transport horses valued into the millions, and with demands on a par with the world’s biggest rock stars,” says David. “We’ve coordinated unique charter flights to ensure racehorses have the most direct flights, and regularly fly personal veterinarians and staff with the horses to ensure they touch down completely refreshed and performance ready.”
In total, Equitrans has shipped approximately 40,000 animals over the past 20 years, in all configurations from economy to first class, “we’ve even transported some with their own private jet!” Says David.
As well as the tens of thousands of horses, cats and dogs, Equitrans is also the go-to company to ensure exotics and animals for conservation projects travel safely around the globe. Over the years, Equitrans has relocaated; zebra, buffalo, gazelle, pelicans and many more.
Working in the ultra-high-net-worth world of showjumping, polo and horse racing, Equitrans has successfully weathered both the economic down-turn in 2008 and more recently, the COVID pandemic.
“COVID was particularly tough, says David. “Country protocols were constantly changing for both personnel and horses, we continually made contingency plans, while the operations team worked from home and the situation changed often hourly!”
“COVID was certainly one of our toughest times… we saw cargo freight prices increase 100 to 150 percent… while cargo capacity for animals became extremely limited…”
The secret to Equitrans longevity is surely its deep connection to the UAE and specifically its equestrian industry. Having launched in 2002, the company has evolved alongside the nation’s world-class equestrian sector.
Equitrans has been an integral part in the nation’s flat racing, endurance and polo development, moving horses for the Dubai Carnival, the Junior Endurance World Championships, the Gold, Silver and Cartier Polo Cups and many more high profile international equestrian events.
“We have worked with all the major events here, from the Dubai World Cup, to the Endurance Championships, the Jewel Crown, Al Shiraaa showjumping and many more,” says David.
From endurance racing to Arabian show horses, the hundreds of trusty riding school cobs around the nation to top performance horses- Equitrans is consistently the name horse owners trust to transport and relocate their precious and often, priceless animals to and from the GCC region.
The retirement horse industry is a significantly smaller but no less vital transport niche for Equitrans. “Older horses often require special care and really quite specific needs, so for these animals we work closely with the owners and our flight grooms and vets to ensure these needs are met,“ says David.
In total, Equitrans has moved animals to and from just over 50 countries. Interestingly however, the company has also been a pioneer in the import and export of horses from new countries to the Middle East, this includes; China, Serbia, Sri Lanka, and India to the USA.
“In the early days, we moved horses with older freighter/cargo aircraft such as the DC-8, DC-10, Antonov 12 and the Illuysin 76. These older aircraft saw the horses walked into the aircraft up a ramp, with a stall system then built around them,” he says.
“We had different challenges in those days… The aircraft were older, meaning we had more to organise and many more delays. The last fifteen to twenty years have seen airlines invest in 747 and 777 aircraft with purpose built horse stalls that allow safer animal movements and more direct routes.”
And, its not just the UAE, Equitrans is also the GCC region’s prefered equine shipper with regular large movements to and from, Bahrain, Saudi and Oman. “One of our highlights is transporting the Royal Cavalry of Oman’s Mounted Musical Regiment from Muscat to Windsor for the Royal Windsor Horse Show,” says David.
“Over the years we’ve transported over 200 horses for the Royal Windsor Horse show, with an additional 300 tons of equipment each time.”
“The Equitrans story and indeed its success would not be possible without the vision of our leaders and the UAE’s continued development of, and investment in, the equestrian industry, both at home and abroad,” says David. We feel deeply privileged to have been part of this nation’s incredible equestrian story and are we’re excited to see what the next 20 years’ will bring!”
And, there’s more to come. With the region’s passion for endurance racing, flat racing and showjumping showing no signs of slowing, the Equitrans team plans further expansion and evolution for the years ahead.
“The future looks to be very interesting,” says David. “Airlines have clearly seen the importance of cargo and post-COVID carriers are increasing their capacity, adding more airplanes for cargo… this should ultimately result in the easing of airfreight rates and create more capacity to grow the equine and animal relocation business worldwide. “