Hundreds of Show Horses Booked to Return Home After Coronavirus Closes Wellington Dressage, Jumping, Polo

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Rows of tents to house horses at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Mar. 17, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Hundreds of show horses were booked to return to their homes after the coronavirus pandemic caused early closing of Florida’s Winter Equestrian and Global Dressage Festivals and U.S. polo tournaments along with cancellation of Global Champions Tour events in Mexico and Miami.

Cancellation of about 100 dressage, jumping, eventing, driving, endurance, reining, vaulting and para-dressage shows around the world in the next month added to transportation issues as some horses in Florida for the massive winter circuits were destined for the events.

The U.S. Polo Association on Tuesday night announced cancellation of polo tournaments, of which the International Polo Club in Wellington is the center of events in winter.

Tim Dutta, chief executive of Dutta Corp. that is the official air transport company for the major winter-long dressage and jumping events, said that between 1,500 to 2,000 horses came to Wellington, Florida from around the world for the shows.

More than 300 horses are booked to leave on freight flights that, he said, are operating at full capacity–the opposite experience of passenger planes.

Some horses will stay in Florida short term while others will go to their home farms.

Special care also has to be taken of grooms who travel with the horses because of restrictions on humans on both ends of U.S.-Europe flights. American grooms who fly To Europe with horses, for example, stay with the aircraft for its return flight.

In the 33 years since he founded the company based out of New York and Wellington he has never before experienced the “crazy uncertainty” created by coronavirus officially named COVID-19.

Changes in travel rules and cancellations of shows has led to what he describes as a “very fluid” situation that is keeping his staff busy around the clock.

Horses, Tim said, are treated by governments with care as “essential” live animals and no issues have occurred even when requirements for humans change. There have been no limits on horses being transported within Europe.

Equestrian organizations, such as the U.S. federation and British dressage and jumping have canceled national events for the next month in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington said the recent spread of the novel coronavirus has raised serious concerns of the potential impact on the equine industry.

Equine Enteric Coronavirus and COVID-19 are both coronaviruses but are “distinctly different viruses.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious disease experts, and multiple international and national human and animal health organizations have stated that at this time there is no evidence to indicate that horses could contract COVID-19 or that horses would be able to spread the disease to other animals or humans.

Equine enteric coronavirus and COVID-19 are not the same strain, the clinic said in a statement, and there is no indication that either are transmissible between species.