Adrianne Cruz has created a business and lifestyle around flying with horses and other animals between California and Hawaii.

When people find out that California horsewoman Adrianne Cruz makes her living flying with horses from Los Angeles International Airport to Honalulu International Airport, the comment is usually: “What a cool job!” They envision flying clear, smooth skies, having set itineraries, hanging out with horses in-flight and layovers on sandy, oceanside beaches.  While Cruz says she has “the best job,” she adds that there are a lot of logistics that go into horse air transport and sometimes things don’t go as planned. Plane delays, cancellations, sick or lame animals, changes in plans are all part of the nature of her business, and she must be adaptable to any situation.

Adrianne Cruz flies with horses
Horses arrive at the Cruz Ranch in Moorpark, California, about two weeks before flying.
Photo by Jennifer Denison

As a teenager growing up in Waianae, Oahu, Adrianne competed in rodeo and was the Hawaii State High School Rodeo Association Queen. Transporting her horse inter-island to rodeos required coordinating transportation from barn to barge, then arranging for someone to pick up the horse when it arrived and take it to the arena and then back again. In Hawaii, horse trailers aren’t as prevalent as they are in the United States because of the high cost of shipment. So, if she didn’t have a friend with a trailer, she had to pay a horse transporter to haul her horses in Hawaii.

Recognizing the challenges horse owners encounter transporting horses between Hawaii and the United States and inter-island led her to establish Latigo Livestock Air Transport. She travels a few times a month between LAX and HNL with up to six horses, as well as an array of other animals from turtles and roosters to cattle, alpacas and even water buffalo.

Preparing for Horse Transport

The process of air transporting a horse involves at least a month of coordination to prepare for the flight, and starts at $5,000. Cruz arranges for the animals to be transported to her family ranch in Moorpark, California, about two weeks prior to the flight. She monitors them during this time to ensure they are healthy for the trip.

“We’re always looking for signs of shipping fever, especially if an animal has been hauled across the country. We don’t always know how many stops they’ve made and what other animals they’ve been with,” says Cruz. “If an animal is not properly vaccinated and it’s exposed to other animals, temperature changes and the stress of travel, it just wears it down and could lead to pnomonia.”

She also works with the client and a local veterinary clinic to make sure the horses’ health certificates and Coggins tests are current, and they have all required tests to be brought into Hawaii. About a week before shipment, she reviews all paperwork a second time and makes sure everything is complete and organized to submit to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture prior to departure. Even a small mistake or oversight could delay shipment or require a horse to be quarantined.

Adrianne Cruz visits the vet clinic
Cruz makes a quick trip to a local veterinary clinic for a Coggins test on a horse she’s transporting.
Photo by Jennifer Denison

About five hours before her scheduled flight departure, she and her husband, Steven, and step-son, Steven Jr., load the horses in trailers and haul them to the Pacific Air Cargo Warehouse at LAX. At the warehouse, they are transferred from the trailers into custom made “air stalls” and that are loaded into the main deck of a cargo plane.

Horses fly in air stalls
Horses are loaded into a three-slot air stall, which is then loaded with a scissor lift onto the main deck of a cargo plane.
Photo by Jennifer Denison

When everything comes together and the horses are safely on the plane, she sits back, relaxes and reflects on the rewards of her job. Once the plan reaches cruising altitude, she checks the horses to make sure they are content. If she’s concerned about a horse, she will check on it as necessary during the five-hour flight to Hawaii.

Read more about Cruz and Latigo Livestock Air Transport in the January 2022 issue of Western Horseman.

Adrianne Cruz ranch ropes
When she’s not transporting horses, Adrianne ranch ropes and helps on the family ranch and at friends’ brandings.
Photo by Jennifer Denison

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