Dutch, German, Spanish Dressage Team Horses Arrive for WEG

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As a seasoned jetsetter, Victory Salute will keep Moorlands Totilas company on his first air flight when they go to the WEG in September. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news/com
Victory Salute (left) kept Moorlands Totilas company on his first air flight. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news/com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The Dutch, German and Spanish dressage team horses for the World Equestrian Games arrived in the United States Thursday on the first of 11 flights from Europe as part of the largest airlift of horses in history.

Moorlands Totilas, the top ranked dressage horse in the world, made his first ever flight and arrived with no problems. The 10-year-old black stallion ridden by Edward Gal of The Netherlands, flew next to Victory Salute, the top rated Australian dressage horse ridden by Brett Parbery. Brett and Victory Salute have been based at Edward’s barn in the Netherlands for most of this year and are seasoned air travelers.

Totilas and Jerich Parzival, the second ranked horse who flew to Las Vegas for the World Cup Final in 2007 but was injured before the start of competition, were among the first off the aircraft in what officials said was an uneventful flight from Liege, Belgium.

They were taken to the temporary stabling for mandatory quarantine of at least 42 hours at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport before they will be transported to the Kentucky Horse Park, 70 miles (112 km) away.

A total of 787 horses from 58 countries are scheduled to compete at the world championships in dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para-equestrian that are held once every four years and for the first time outside Europe beginning Sept. 25 and ending Oct. 10.

At the previous WEG in Aachen, Germany, in 2006, 850 horses from 61 nations competed.

Forty-eight horses for endurance, dressage and reining competitions arrived on Thursday’s flight from Belgium.

In addition to the dressage horses, another arrival was the Dutch reining horse Whizashiningwall BB, ridden by Anky van Grunsven, nine-time World Cup champion and winner of three Olympic gold medals in dressage. She is on the reining team this year.

It was the first of 11 flights to bring about 450 horses from Europe and the Middle East. Another 50 horses from Latin America are being flown into Miami while about 20 from across the Pacific were shipped into Los Angeles.

About 267 horses are coming from across North America, include those from Canada, Mexico and the United States as well from several nations whose riders are based or have been competing in the continent.

Some European national federations–each federation is responsible for paying for their air transportation as well as other expenses–have complained about the high costs of competing in Kentucky.

Germany, for example, said that it will spend about €1.4 million ((US$1.8 million) fielding teams in Kentucky, while The Netherlands will spend a similar amount. The costs have led to some countries cutting back on their participation. Great Britain is not sending a driving team, for example, and neither is Hungary although it was considered a medal contender.

The United States primarily, and Canada to a lesser extent, incur enormous expenses each year competing on the major international circuits, primarily in Europe.

In any given year, the U.S. fields up to 50 horses in international competitions that costs about US$30,000 (€23,000) per horse, including rider, officials’ and other expenses, or a total of about US$1.5 million (€1.15 million) a year, pretty much every year.

Unlike many other nations, there is no government funding of horse sports in the United States.

Most of the funds are raised rom individuals by the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, headed up by Jane Forbes Clark, who is also personally active in horse sports and sponsors athletes and horses who this year will be on three American teams–dressage, driving and jumping.

Temporary quarantine stables at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Temporary quarantine stables at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.