Darren Plumb situated in the UK's Oxfordshire county is a well-traveled and experienced groom, meanwhile having done this job for ten years. He himself owns five Arab race horses and operates three trucks, transporting mares, stallions or foals to events within the UK. When it comes to horse-friendly or unfriendly airports, of which he has seen many, expert Darren does not mince his words.
Asked about his favorite airport providing state-of-the-art facilities and first-class handling of horses, his answer comes like a shot: “Clearly Liege, followed closely by Frankfurt,” Darren
Here are the reasons for his personal pick:
Since the “Horse Inn” became operational at Liege exactly two years ago the Walloon Airport has, from a groom’s perspective, become the most practical place to work and stay at. There are ample resting areas for relaxation, showers, free WiFi access, nearby restaurants, and a hotel including other amenities that are just around the corner, he lists the advantages.
However, of more importance is the fact that horses are offered a superb ambient. The facility is equipped with 55 stalls, vets are available 24/7, there is a healthcare area where checks can be made and the loading or unloading of the animals including their going into the facility or onto the trucks has become a very easy exercise. “The entire operation is highly professional, animal-friendly, and customer-focused. Thanks to the ‘Horse Inn’ and its dedicated staff Liege has become a hotspot for the handling and shipping of horses,” Darren applauds.
FRA ranks second on his list
Handling conditions in Frankfurt are quite similar, he adds, which also applies to the facilities, although the airport offers less stables compared to Liege. The procedures are managed in a very professional and efficient manner, making Frankfurt “a good airport to work at,” he stresses.
This accounts for most of the big airports in the U.S. as well, where adequate horse treatment and dedicated services are offered by the ground handling staff around the clock.
The two sides of AMS
Turning to Amsterdam, the groom’s personal experience is ambivalent. “The processes are quite okay, but trail Liege clearly,” he states. “When shipping horses from Amsterdam, we first have to bring them to yards that are about 20 minutes driving time off the airport’s boundaries.” This additional and time-consuming interface complicates transports.
What he describes is one option; the other is using local service provider ECS Livestock B.V. as handling agent. “They are just brilliant,” confirms Mr Plumb. ECS has access to 24 stables at Schiphol with direct ramp access. Their staff cares about warehousing, loading, unloading and airside procedures at all times. “It’s a pleasure cooperating with them,” he states.
LHR gets a bad mark
London Heathrow gets by far the worst testimony issued by him. “In comparison to Frankfurt or Liege, Heathrow is a nightmare when it comes to handling and shipping of horses,” he states. “You have to do things often twice and it takes a lot of time to accomplish the loading or unloading procedures, which stresses the animals.” He complains about the rather small number of stables provided by LHR, which causes jams and prevents the processing of larger numbers of horses.
Darren’s personal conclusion: “I am no longer available as groom if a horse is shipped from Heathrow, in contrast to assignments starting or ending in Liege, Frankfurt or Amsterdam.”