US Government Officials Impose Media Blackout on Arrival of World Equestrian Games Horses, FEI Also Restricted Early News Coverage

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Thr Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777 touching down at Greenville-Spartanburg airport with the first dressage horses for the World Equestrian Games. © 2018 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Sept. 3, 2018

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

TRYON, North Carolina, Sept. 3, 2018–The largest airlift of sport horses in history was well underway Monday with the first dressage mounts arriving from Europe for the World Equestrian Games as competition arenas and spectator stands were being completed with just eight days to the opening ceremony at Tryon, North Caroilina.

Although the combined world championships of eight equestrian disciplines is one of if not the biggest sports event in the Americas this year, federal officials forcefully followed up a decision by the Switzerland-based International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to restrict news coverage to itself and imposed a total news blackout of the arrival of the horses in an air amarda from Europe and at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

The initial FEI restrictions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ban for which no reasons were provided and was extended to ordering grooms and national federation officials to cease taking videos on their phones and to delete any images of their horses injected a sour note into what had been expected to be a festive kickoff  for the WEG with photos of the finest sport horses before competition begins Sept. 11.

Local law enforcement officers were friendly and did not interfere with photographers taking pictures from public areas of the arrival airport.

Dressage team horses for Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are scheduled to arrive Tuesday. Brazil, Denmark, Portugal and Russia arrived Monday. Horses from Canada and the United States will arrive by truck later in the week. Individual combination from numerous other nations will also compete, some representing countries in the WEG for the first time.

The organizers of the WEG have positioned the WEG as an effort not only to exhibit top horse sport for an estimated 500,000 people projected to visit the championships but also an effort to expand the fan base. All aspects of the WEG have generated enormous public interest, including mainstream media in the United States due to the event beind staged at home.

This correspondent who has covered the arrival and departure of horses for numerous championships in the United States and Europe has never previously experienced a blackout that was enforced by unloading horses transported from Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina within the normally restricted quarantine area and federal officials threatening photographers attempting to take pictures from a distance. Typically, the horses’ grooms and highly experienced employees of the air and ground transportation companies handle all the arrival arrabgements with the USDA insuring quarantine and health requirements are met. On this occasion, several USDA officials watched the unloading procedures.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on developing the Tryon International Equestrian Center with huge additions made for the WEG that was taken over by the Tryon organizing committee two years ago when a Canadian group did not have the financial support to host the event at Bromont.

A total of 550 horses from around the world are being flown into the United States for the second WEG in the United States since the combined championships that have grown to eight disciplines–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage–were first staged in 1990. Another 270 horses are coming overland.

The Dutta Corp. of the United States and Peden Bloodstock of Germany are coordinating the complex logistics of horses from six continents.

The first dressage horses arrived at the Tryon show grounds Monday but most will fly from Europe Tuesday in the third of 23 flights from Liège, Belgium and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, plus flights from 11 South American cities including Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Santiago, Lima ,Montevideo and San José.

The horses are flying on a Boeing 777 specially designed for Emirates SkyCargo Boeing and configured with customized stalls and independently air conditioned zones.