Importing a horse

It's detrimental to go through a reliable agency when it comes to importing a horse

It’s detrimental to go through a reliable agency when it comes to importing a horse

When it comes to buying a new horse, there are several questions that need to be answered. Is there a specific breed of horse you want? What discipline do you ride in? What level do you want to compete at, if at all? And most importantly, how much do you want to spend? While South Africa has a growing number of quality sport horses and several reputable stud farms, some riders still prefer to look for their next prospect overseas.

This month, we take a look at the process of heading abroad to buy, and the process of bringing a horse back home to South Africa. HQ chats to Jaco Fourie, importing agent and international transit manager. Jaco works for Kuda Transit and has an abundance of knowledge when it comes to breeding and importing.

Why not buy here?

Breeding specialists have praised South Africa’s growing number of quality competition horses. We have several studs that are breeding quality horses from imported semen or stallions and proven broodmares. The results are modern sport horses who are athletic and capable of riding at higher-level competition. However, some riders are still not convinced by our local stock and prefer to shop for their future champion overseas. Europe has a reputation for being the go-to destination for sport horses of the highest standard. Jaco explains shopping abroad can be worth it, because you are buying a horse who is likely bred in the purple and has been offered high-standard schooling. Serious prospects have probably also had exposure to a show circuit that is not offered in South Africa.

Starting out the process

Be aware of your budget. Importing is not a cheap venture!

Be aware of your budget. Importing is not a cheap venture!

The first thing to determine before setting out to buy overseas is your budget. “You have to make 100% sure that you are willing to spend the money on the right horse,” says Jaco. “You can get good value for money with a budget between R300,000 and R1,000,000,” he adds.

Once you’ve settled on a budget, the next step would be to source the horse. Ask your coach if he or she has any experience importing a horse, or has a contact for reputable breeders. The Netherlands is a popular shopping destination for South Africans, with many riders coming home with Dutch Warmbloods of the highest quality. Jaco explains that there are several commercial dealers who speak good English and can often assist you with what you’re looking for. However, they need to be made aware of South African conditions before any further decisions can be made. In South Africa, the climate and geography is completely different to Europe. Our ground is harder, the air can be drier, our horses live out and almost all our shows take place outdoors. These are all factors to consider for the seller. Some horses may not take well to change at all, and in that case you are better off looking for something else.

Choosing a horse

Try horses from a reliable source and make sure to get your coach's input

Try horses from a reliable source and make sure to get your coach’s input

Jaco recommends thinking carefully about where you go to try out horses. If you head over and try more than 20 horses, you will likely feel overwhelmed by the different options. Chat to the sellers beforehand and give them a comprehensive description of what you’re looking for exactly. That will help them with narrowing down the search. “There is a wide variety of horses to look at. Rather go to only a couple of places and then try a horse out twice,” says Jaco. “Also beware of emotional buying,” he adds. It’s easy to stray off your budget or settle for a horse who is three years older than you wanted.
On the other hand, if you’ve found the perfect horse and you are sure he’s the one for you, then the next step will be getting him here! Make sure you have him vetted while he is there.

Heading home

The entire process of getting your horse through quarantine and flying him to South Africa will cost you approximately R130,000, but can be slightly more than that. The Netherlands is the most direct country from which to import.


Jaco explains to HQ that your horse has to do 30 days of quarantine before flying to South Africa. He will then do another 30 days of quarantine in South Africa before he can be transported home to your yard. Quarantine is essentially an isolation facility that runs certain tests on your horse to ensure he complies with what the government will allow. South Africa has two quarantine facilities: one in Kempton Park and another in Cape Town. Neither of the facilities is privately owned and they are for all animals, not only horses. Jaco adds that mares and geldings are tested differently to stallions.
While in quarantine in South Africa, the horses start adjusting to new food, new handling and their new habitat. The facilities employ a feed specialist who takes each individual horse’s needs into account. The horses are hand-walked and allowed turn-out time during the day as well. There is a manager who works at the quarantine facilities and keeps a watchful eye over all the precious cargo. The manager is paid through the clients and importing agents.
Flights are booked far in advance and the horses typically stay in the same groups for quarantine and flight. If there is a problem with one horse in quarantine and the flight needs to be postponed, then all the horses will be delayed coming home to South Africa, seeing as they will also have been exposed.

Kuda Transit

Kuda Transit is a one-stop-shop service for all horse imports and exports. They have an excellent team with years of experience. Kuda Transit is cost effective, and the whole team is there to walk you through the process and advise you where need be. They take care of all the paperwork, logistics, quarantine and transport. Your horse is also insured by Kuda during the import process, but rest assured that your new horse is in the best hands! Visit to read more about what Kuda has to offer.

Text: Charlotte Bastiaanse