Military Week: in the life of the Jumping Percheron

My dear readers, guys and gals, cowboys, and dressage queens- I am so excited about today's post!
We are so fortunate to have a personal look into the life of an Air Force JAG paralegal and her amazing jumping Percheron mare, Klein.

Without further ado, please warmly welcome Stacey from The Jumping Percheron.





The Equine Owner and Active Duty Military Service
by Stacey Chastain


In eight days I will hit my six year anniversary with the United States Air Force.  I've been all over the world and have been assigned to three different bases in those six years, and my horse has been there for the entire adventure.  It is very possible to be an active competitor or a rider that just enjoys trail rides with friends.  The key to success with horse ownership while on active duty is planning.  In the military you will repeatedly hear "HAVE A PLAN."  It is applied to everything from going out drinking with your friends on the weekends to babysitters.  Everyone knows your life can unexpectedly do a 180 at anytime while you are in the military.  You are told that upfront from day zero.  If you stay one step ahead at all times you will be just fine! 

Here are some of the questions I am asked on a regular basis:

Does the Air Force pay to ship your horse??


No, the Air Force, or any other military branch for that matter will NOT pay any part of the cost to ship your horse when you PCS (Permanent Change of Station, aka move to a new base).  The shipping is a tax write off, but that is unfortunately it.  So far I have paid over $11,000 to ship my mare around in the past 6 years.

What if you go overseas?

My horse has already been to Hawaii and back with me.  A friend of mine shipped hers back with her from Italy.  Another boarder I knew in Hawaii flew her horse in with her from England.

How do they travel overseas?

First, for the military Hawaii is considered an overseas location.

If you are going to Hawaii there is a company, Sheila Head Hawaiian Transport, that has a container that goes on a Matson Navigation freighter.  The freighter picks up at the Port of Honolulu and drops off at the Port of Oakland, and vice versa of course.  The freighters are the 800ft massive ships that travel around the world.  As with any professional transportation, prices are subject to change with fuel costs.  I usually pay atleast one and a half times the normal amount because my mare is so big.  The container has box stalls and an attendant rides on the freighter with the horses to feed, clean, and overall monitor all of the horses.  My mare traveled both to and from Hawaii with Sheila Head and she arrived both times in great condition and the attendants have always been very nice and very accommodating.  They will give electrolytes, medication, etc... if you wish.  The trip usually takes 3-4 days depending on weather and seas.  You can find pictures and information on Sheila Head's website:  http://www.hawaiian-transport.com/index.php

There is also a cargo 747 owned by Pacific Airlift that travels to and from Los Angeles International and Honolulu International.  Again, prices may vary.  Eastbound and westbound prices are different, prices are also dependent on how much room your horse needs, i.e. if the horse has plenty of room in a regular size stall or if the horse is larger and requires a stall and a half or more.  More information can be found at:  http://www.pacificairlift.com/

Would you prefer one method over the other?

No.  My mare came to Hawaii on the ship and did really well.  The staff was great and the trip went smoothly.  I had no reason not to send her back to the mainland on the ship.  I have had a couple friends that flew their horses with Pacific Airlift and had smooth trips as well.  It can also depend on your schedule.  I had originally planned to fly my mare back to the mainland because the flight was going to leave sooner than the next ship.  However, that changed at the last minute and I found out the ship would have the container on it sooner than the flight.  I didn't want to wait. 

What if you are going somewhere else overseas, to another country?

There are a few options for international flights.  I don't think there is a company that puts horses on a ship to go anywhere besides Hawaii.  Flying will be your only option.  In that case FedEx will fly horses as well as HFR:  http://www.flyhfr.com/  There are also:  Horseflight:  http://www.horseflight.com/index.php?article_id=2&clang=0  The Equine Logistics Company:  http://www.equine-logistics-company.com/equine-logistics-about-us.html and, Peden Bloodstock International Horse Shipping Agents:  http://www.peden-bloodstock.de/info_faq_uk.php

What about if you travel stateside?

The list is basically endless if you are staying in the continental U.S. and would rather have your horse hauled professionally.  I have shipped with Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation and they were awesome!  I would recommend them to anyone!  They picked my mare up in CA when she got off the ship and hauled her the rest of the way to our final destination, Holloman AFB in New Mexico.  I just PCS'd yet again this week.  So, I am using a professional hauler again.  This time I am using Brook Ledge after they offered to upgrade my mare to a box stall at no extra charge.  She was picked up this morning in New Mexico and will arrive here in Georgia by Thursday.  Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation can be found here:  http://www.bobhubbardhorsetrans.com/  Brook Ledge can be found here:  http://brookledge.com/

What happens when you deploy?

Yet another huge reason to always have a plan!  In the military, people with children are required to have a "Dependent Care Plan."  It is a mapped out plan of who will take care of your children when you deploy, regardless if you are married or single.  Everyone with children will have to have one.  Even though it is not a requirement to have that plan with your animals, it's a very smart move to make one of your own.  I always have a very trusted friend to "ponysit" for me.  I also always just let my mare go on vacation while I am gone because she is in regular work and deserves a nice break.  I have friends that have sent their horses to a trainer to keep them in training while they are away.  Just make SURE you KNOW the place well!  Know the people!  Don't just randomly Google a farm and decide from pictures on the internet or a one time tour around a farm that it's the place to stash your horse while you are gone for 6 months.

I always know exactly where my mare will go no matter if I have to go for training somewhere for just a week or if it's a full 6 month deployment.

One last thing I'd like to add to this point is to keep your horse in mind when your legally prepare for a deployment.  Meaning preparing your will and any power of attorneys you may need for vet care or similiar needs.  You can absolutely include your horse in your will as far as who he or she may go to in case anything happens to you.  There is also the option of making an amount from your SGLI (military life insureance) payable to the responsible individual or create a trust fund for the horse.  If anything were to ever happen to me I do not want my friends and family scratching their heads over who would take my mare or how they would pay for it.  That can all be outlined in your will. 

Are there barns on every base?

No.  Some bases have barns, but most do not.  Barns can mostly be found at Air Force and Army bases.  Be advised that pretty much every single DoD barn is SELF CARE!  That means you feed and clean twice a day.  You supply your own feed as well.  Yes, DoD barns are cheap because you have to be a military ID card holder to board at one and that is one of the privileges we have.  But also beware that some barns are nicer than others!  Local barns may have more of what you are looking for in a barn than a DoD barn or vice versa, it all can vary.  Unlike many other things in the military there is no formal, standardized instruction for barns.  Another fact to keep in mind is that slowly they are being closed down one by one.  So if you DO board at one, always have a back up barn in case the end comes for your DoD barn.

Here is a resource with state by state (or country) listings of barns either on the base or in the local area:  http://www.militarystables.com/

Aren't DoD barns cheap?

Yes, but as mentioned before, they are totally self care.  Another thing to keep in mind is local resources.  Yes, DoD barn board may be what seems to be ridiculously cheap, until you end up in a place like Hawaii where hay is now $40/bale.  It was $28/bale while I was there from 2006-2010.  Everything else in the tack store is marked up as well.  Supplies are limited, and hard to find.  Plan on paying A LOT in shipping because you will repeatedly have to order.  I should be sponsored by SmartPak because they were my main supply while I was in Hawaii.

Make sure you do your research before you make your dream sheet if you are that serious about taking your horse with you.  Check out the local area and see what kind of barns it has to offer, what the local show scene looks like, etc...  I know all my options and availabilities before make any changes or updates to my dream sheet (base preference list).

How do you have time to ride as much as you do?

I make time.  But to be fair, I don't have any children either.  98% of the time that an active duty military member doesn't have time for something, it is not because of their work.  There may be some jobs with unique situations that can take up extra time (or have a lot of TDYs) but for the majority of us, we only see long days when exercises are going on or in my case a court martial is going on.  What civilian job doesn't have those types of days?

Throughout my military career I have been able to show pretty much as much as I want.  I attended local shows in Hawaii but have evented since moving to New Mexico.  I have been able to compete once a month at recognized horse trials (along with numerous local shows) and we are even qualified for the Area Eventing Championships this year.

How long do you stay in one place?

Honestly, there is no way to tell.  Even if you think you know, you really don't.  I am a great example.  I PCS'd from Hickam AFB in Hawaii to Holloman AFB in New Mexico in the summer of 2010.  I was SUPPOSED to have four years time on station (stay there for atleast four years).  That was 22 months ago.  I just arrived in Valdosta, GA last Sunday.  I have already PCS'd to Moody AFB.  Things happen.  There are numerous possibilities of why you may be moving a lot sooner than you though.  That's why again, ALWAYS have a PLAN!  Have a bank account set aside for your horse's travel if you don't already have an account for their vet care, emergency funds, etc...  I always have shipping money in a bank account for my mare.

The same can happen with deployments.  Your tempo band (your window for possible deployment) may come up in the rotation, you may not be selected for deployment this time around, so you thought.  I have seen this happen a few times.  An individual will have a medical issue, a family emergency, or fail their physical fitness test and at the last minute become unqualified to deploy.  What happens next is the unit will go looking for someone else in that tempo band.  It COULD be you!  It also could be the day before the other individual was set to deploy, this means you will be spun up and out the door within a day or so as well.  Sometimes maybe you'll have a week notice, but sometimes not.  See why having a plan is a reoccurring theme here?  I know at all times which trusted friend would be available to "ponysit" for me. 

Planning and organization can make a world of difference when it comes to owning horses while serving in the military.  I am very thankful for the many adventures the Air Force has already taken my mare and I on.  From galloping down some of the most famous beaches in Hawaii and riding through the dunes of White Sands National Monument to eventing in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and now Georgia and Florida.  We have enjoyed every new adventure and are looking forward to the ones that await us in the future!
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{Stacey and Klein in eventing action! Dressage, X-Country, and Show-Jumping)


 {Notice the air force helmet cover (above) and arm patch (below)}

How awesome are Stacey and Klein Mare!?
Did you learn anything new, or do you have any other questions?
(I especially liked the parts about estate planning for your horse (wills/ trusts), and thinking of those enormous ocean freighters carrying horses!)

Thank you so very much for sharing your Air Force-Equestrian life with us!
You can find more about their adventures at her blog, The Jumping Percheron.