A new £250,000 EU equine border inspection post opens at Manston Airport in Kent this April.
It will boost the number of UK airports licensed for horse importation to four.
Manston Airport currently runs regional flights, international cargo and the occasional horse flight. It will now move horses worldwide.
“We expect regular business from charter brokers and equine transport specialists and have offered the airport’s services to the London Olympic committee,” said Manston’s Allan McQuarrie.
“We’re ideally located for the equestrian events in Greenwich and we’ll aim to have horses through the airport within two hours.”
Manston’s owner, Infratil, also owns Prestwick in south Ayrshire, which has an equine licence. The other two airports are Stansted and Heathrow.
Stansted is by far the busiest, currently importing around 950 horses each year. It aims to have horses through the airport in just over an hour.
But Mr McQuarrie says Manston’s small size makes it more horse-friendly.
“Besides the lack of local traffic congestion, our main advantage is that the border post is very close to where aircraft land — about 300m,” said Mr McQuarrie.
“The facility is sheltered from aircraft noise by big buildings. Horses are stressed enough after the flight.”
Henry Bullen, of Peden Bloodstock International, which transported the 450-plus European horses to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last autumn, said: “Manston is a quiet airport which makes loading and offloading less stressful. Obtaining landing slots will be straightforward.”
And BBA Shipping’s flying groom David Walker agreed.
“Quiet, with no congestion, is ideal,” said Mr Walker, who looked after racehorse Snow Fairy en route to her Grade One wins in Japan and Hong Kong last year.
“Horses get mixed up with all the other freight and it can get stressful for them.
“We’ve used Manston to export horses before and it was very good. The only question is if they can get enough charter flights to make it worthwhile.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (10 February, 2011)