Originally published in the 2017 October/November issue of Arabian Finish Line Magazine

     After a decade of experience in the shipping industry I took the leap into starting my own company. In 2016, Centurion World Logistics was born.  Over the past year I have singlehandedly taken on the roles of horse travel agent, freight forwarder, airline broker, and Indirect Air Carrier. Confused? So are all my friends. Can you use Expedia to organize your trips? How do horses go on the airplanes? Do they need passports? What does your passport look like? What countries do you go to? These are the most common questions that come my way.

     My passion for this industry was instilled in me by my parents. A childhood of mucking stalls and spreading shavings in trailers laid the groundwork for me to take on more responsibilities as I grew older. I learned quickly this unique and rewarding profession comes with more than its fair share of stressful situations my non-horsey friends (and some horse friends) will never be able to relate to. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) dictates what must happen to manage the risk of injury to both horses and their accompanying grooms, but individual airlines have their own rules as well. Preparing a shipment for Lufthansa isn’t the same as preparing a shipment for Qatar Airways. Furthermore, shipping to the UAE isn’t the same as shipping to Israel despite common layovers in Frankfurt. Between all that and coordinating health tests and quarantines with USDA-approved veterinarians and client deadlines, a 9-5 routine is practically impossible.

     My years in the shipping industry prior to founding my own company showed me the strong demand for horse travel agents that offer cafeteria-style options for their shipments, from full-service loads to coordination with USDA-approved inspection facilities, health certificates, and day-of airport assistance. In the past year I have unexpectedly received inquiries to also ship cattle, dogs, and donkeys. When I began this adventure I never thought I’d be recruited to assist with relocation of pets for multi-national and military families, but with this job I never know what will turn up in my inbox!

     Being available and adaptable is crucial for any logistics company. This is true even more so when dealing with large live animals, as not every airline and airport can handle them. If one of my flights gets delayed or canceled, it’s never a basic matter of pulling up an app on my phone and booking whatever takes off next. For example, the recent hurricane that hit Texas caused George Bush Airport in Houston to shut down. Other passengers might have been able to catch a similar flight out of Hobby or find something with a connection at DFW, but when you are sitting in the cargo lot with a trailer full of horses needing to arrive to their destination in time for a race the logistics become more complicated. Keeping organized travel documents and being prepared to provide animal care longer than the initial planned travel time helps manage these unforeseeable delays.

     When I talk to my friends about my work, they tend to be dazzled by my almost-full passport, weekends in Dubai, and custom built 6-horse trailer. Then they overhear a work call or visit my office and become overwhelmed by all the acronyms and logistics jargon. A niche line of work requires a niche lingo as well as niche certifications. In order for my company to be successful, I have obtained status as an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) from the TSA as well as Dangerous Goods Certification and Live Animal Regulation Certification. These specialized qualifications enable me to not only meet the high expectations of my clients, but enable me to negotiate directly with the airlines to ensure my clients are getting the best available options to meet their needs. Maintaining a working relationship with the major cargo airlines hasn’t hurt either.

     With all the logistics and hoops I jump through, those same friends often ask me why I do this job. A 9-5 schedule isn’t realistic unless I’m hopping the right time zones on a particular day, keeping up with laundry is as impossible as keeping a consistent social calendar, and even if I personally do everything perfect, weather and live animals can turn at any moment. I spend more nights in my truck than I do my bed and skip meals without realizing it.  Even with all this, horses have been part of my life since before I was born, and coming from a multi-national family I have a personal interest in exploring the world and experiencing other cultures. The career I have is definitely not one I stumbled across at a high school Career Day. Who would have thought I’d be blessed enough to merge two of my greatest passions, horses and travel, into work that pays the bills? Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I am definitely lucky to have accomplished this before the age of 30!

Text by Paige Cooksey

Photos by Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere