Horses2Fly: ‘If everyone would realize how easily the export is going’

Alex and Pascale Nijboer from Horses2Fly. Foto www.dinetteneuteboom.com
Alex and Pascale Nijboer from Horses2Fly. Foto www.dinetteneuteboom.com

You scroll through the colllection of an online auction and choose a foal or a sport horse. The purchase is simple enough, but then what? How do you get your new acquisition home? Horses2Fly from Alex Nijboer and Pascale Drijfhout is one of the Dutch transport companies that makes sure that horses are delivered all over the world. How does this work and what is expected from the client? A few questions for Alex Nijboer.


1. What distinguishes Horses2Fly?

“Intensive personal contact with the client, the 70 quarantine stables at home under supervision of my wife and specialised horse vet Pascale and a lot of attention for animal welfare in all aspects. Horses2Fly has been going for 6 years already. We arrange for quarantine, transport, documents and flights. It is a one-stop-shop. People want it the easy way, just like ordering from Zalando or eBay. You pay and receive the product at your home.”


2. What did the Covid-19 crisis mean for the company, with cancelled flights and the horse trade almost coming to a standstill? 

“At first I did not think things would go that far, but then suddenly Covid was there. NVWA (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) soon decided not to issue any export certificates anymore and that meant that we were dead in the water with a staff of 10 and all our monthly costs. I love to lobby in politics. That resulted in NVWA giving the green light again, provided the export certificates met certain guidelines. Chantal Gelissen in the south of the Netherlands and we in the north were the first to be up and running again. Flying was still not possible, but there were several horses to be transported within Europe for which we were allowed to handle the certificates. Eventually everything opened up again and I have to say: we have never been busier since Covid. Many, many horses to be transported.”


3. Because of the Covid-19 crisis the number of online auctions has exploded. Does that affect Horse2Fly? 

 “We gained by it. At first, we were approached by auction organizations. ‘When you sponsor us, your brand awareness will grow.’ We did so a couple of times, but we have since turned the tables around. The auctions may offer our services so that their clients can see how easy it is to import horses. Auction organizer Marthijs Brouwer was the first to realize that it was a win-win situation, the KWPN followed. People are now better prepared for the costs that arise after buying a horse at an auction.”


4. Does the current staff shortage at airports and the increased price of oil have an influence on the transport of horses?

“Absolutely. Prices have gone up by 30 to 40%. But that is the same everywhere around, isn’t it? Look at the price of horse feed, diesel, daily shopping. In spite of that many more horses are transported by air. We can still offer our services world-wide.”


5. What can a client expect from you. And what do you expect from the client?

“We arrange the entire export from A to Z. What do we expect from our clients? That they provide us with the necessary data and (Alex smiles) pay the bill. That is how simple it is. I have a client in the USA who buys horses in the Netherlands and lets us handle the transport. When I asked him to advertise that fact, he replied: “No, I had rather not. Once people realize that it is so easy to import a horse, I lose part of my business!”


6. What questions do clients always ask? 

“We now have more private people as clients and then you get more questions. How is my horse doing? When will he or she fly? What vaccinations are needed? And, of course, how much does it cost. But also special questions, such as from a client from Pakistan: ‘Can you send some grass seed along with the horse?’ So I asked him why. ‘Well, what do you think a horse eats’, he answered and then asked me how fast grass grows. This is just a funny anecdote, of course, but these things do happen. Eventually he decided not to buy the horse and thanked me for giving him good information.”


7. Do you have any advice for breeders of auction foals that have to move abroad? 

“Make sure that the foal is weaned well in advance and that it has a good condition and is familiar with hard feed. We have had breeders coming here with the dam and foal, put the foal in a stable and then return home with the dam. The weaning process is hard on a foal, it loses resistance, then it also has to get used to a new environment and will soon have to travel for a long time. If you want them to arrive at the client in good health, make sure they are weaned and fit to travel.” 


Author: Wendy Scholten

Translation: Marike Coverdale