Tex Sutton Equine Air Transportation isn’t your typical horse transportation company; it’s the only horse transportation company based in the U.S. that uses a dedicated aircraft to carry horses.
It’s known as the Air Horse One.
According to Tex Sutton’s sales manager, Greg Otteson, the company flies in about 2,500 horses per year, spread over some 1,000 hours in the air.
Since 1969, Tex Sutton has provided first-class equine transportation and was the first company to provide horse charters.
Tex Sutton President Rob Clark said one of the places the Air Horse One usually flies is to the Ocala International Airport, and the Gainesville Regional Airport is not one of the airports normally on the schedule for the Air Horse One. However, earlier this month, Air Horse One made a last-minute flight to Gainesville, a result of the Ocala airport plan falling through on April 6.
According to Clark, Tex Sutton transports horses by air within the continental United States and occasional flights into Canada. The company has also traveled to Mexico for the Pan American games.
“Not only do we provide commercial flights in and out of our region, but we also facilitate a wide variety of other aviation services,” said Gainesville Regional Airport spokesperson Erin Porter. “These services include charter flights, such as Air Horse One, that ensure precious cargo can safely and efficiently travel to and from North Central Florida.”
Tex Sutton works hard to maintain a good relationship with staff at all of its destinations, and the Gainesville Regional Airport is no exception.
“Tex Sutton prides itself in providing first class service to our clients’ horses,” Clark said. “We utilize walk-on ramps to load and unload our horses and are able to provide our service based on demand rather than based on an airline’s set schedule.”
Tex Sutton representatives say they value the importance of protecting their horses while taking on a flight. According to Clark, Tex Sutton’s in-flight grooms are experienced, top-notch horsemen.
“Their care for the horses is one of the main reasons our clients trust us to get their horses to their destination safely and comfortably,” Clark said.
Although Gainesville isn’t a frequent stop for the Air Horse One, the arrival of the horse-based transportation at Gainesville Regional Airport is always welcomed, according to Debbie Fredrick, chief operating officer of the University Air Center.
Clark said if horses can travel well by trailer or truck, then they travel well on airplanes, too.
“The fact that they are flying rather than traveling by land really doesn’t matter to them,” Clark said. “In fact, it is less stressful on them since the plane is kept nice and cool and the time spent traveling is much shorter than a road trip.”
Also, the horses are provided with hay to munch on and water to drink for longer flights. Making the horses feel as comfortable as possible during flights is a top priority.
Gainesville may not be the usual destination for the Air Horse One, but when in need, the Gainesville Regional Airport is prepared for this dedicated aircraft.