With the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio on my mind, I wondered about the process of transporting our equine athletes overseas. It’s not that different from human travel as it turns out, but does require a bit more careful packing…
Since horses generally travel for work rather than leisure, in the US, it’s all managed by the FEI (FÉDÉRATION EQUESTRE INTERNATIONALE). Per their requirements found here:
https://www.fei.org/fei/horse-health-and-welfare/passports-and-id and here:
“To apply for a new passport; (1) the horse must be life recorded; (2) all owners must be active members of the USEF; (3) the owner must be
a US citizen. Non-citizens may only apply for FEI Passports with the permission of their own National Federation. Although not required to
be USEF members, non-citizens must be members of the National Federation in the country of their citizenship and the horse must also be
recorded with that Federation.
Passport applications can be downloaded from our website, http://www.usef.org, or an application can be sent out from USEF by fax, mail or
email. The application must be completed legibly according to the directions and mailed or faxed back to USEF. A passport cannot be issued
unless the owner is an active junior or senior member and the horse is life recorded. Once all information has been verified, a passport will
be issued to the horse. The passport will be sent along with a packet of information for you and your veterinarian explaining how to complete
the passport. FEI Horse Passports cost $300 and USEF National Passports cost $50 payable by check, MasterCard, Visa, or American Express
which must be submitted at the time of application. Please allow a minimum of four to six weeks from start to finish for the passport to be
validated and ready for competition. Please see the Passport Expedited Service Form for information about rush processing.”
“Clear identification of horses is essential, particularly when competing at an international level, to facilitate the movement across borders and to ensure that the relevant health requirements are satisfied.
The FEI passport and FEI-approved National passport (with a recognition card) are based on the specifications and requirements of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and are mandatory when competing in most FEI events. The FEI passport or recognition card serves as a record of the FEI events attended, medication controls and of vaccinations administered.To learn more about vaccinations, please click here.
In order to access an FEI event, the horse has to be positively identified from its passport, its vaccination status must be correct, the passport and the FEI validation sticker accurate and all other relevant details correctly entered into its passport. This includes the owner’s signature accepting the conditions of the passport when the horse is examined on arrival. Should the above information not be correctly entered, the horse may be prohibited to enter the event site.
In addition to the passport, horses are being increasingly microchipped. This is already compulsory in some countries (such as those belonging to the European Union). From January 2013, all horses newly registered with the FEI must be microchipped, with the intention that, in time, this will become compulsory for all horses competing at FEI events.” And that’s just the paperwork!
Once they’re cleared for takeoff, the horses are shipped in specialty cargo jets, typically two to a unit (with individual stalls), and their “seatbelts” are basically crossties. They do have the benefit of travelling with an entourage, grooms, vets, and other handlers, to make their flight less bothersome, and to step in should a horse become upset. Some horses, depending on their travel habits, even have a “glass or two of champagne” for the trip (just enough safe sedative to keep them from becoming upset during flight).
Research has found that most horses fall into two distinct groups, as they’re often susceptible to jet lag just as we are. They either need to travel about four days prior to activity and be ready to go, or arrive in up to two weeks in advance, to acclimate themselves to the area. Horses are creatures of habit after all, and interrupting a routine days before a competition like the Olympics could be disastrous.
Once airborne, they’ll receive in-flight snacks and beverages, designed to keep them content and well-hydrated. Lights are usually kept dimmed as well, to aid in their comfort. Some flights encounter longer delays due to the efforts made to travel around potential bad weather. I think it’s safe to say that our four-legged athletes are better cared for and catered to when travelling than we are!
Best wishes and safe rides to the 2016 USET competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio!