Travel-related Health Fears at Root of US Olympic Dressage Selection Trials Decisions and Schedule

Steffen Peters and Floriano competed for the USA at the 2004 Olympics. Photo courtesy of Professionals Choice boots.

How far should a horse fly? Does it make a difference if it’s in a westerly or easterly direction? How many flights in how many weeks can a super-fit horse endure?

Internationally-placed Grand Prix dressage rider Catherine Haddad of the United States is based in Europe, where she is aware of controversy; the Swiss dressage team has pulled out of the Olympics entirely out of fear for the effects of transport and stress on their top horses. She knows that US horses will have even farther to travel and that her own qualification to ride in Hong Kong this August would demand that she first take her horse from Europe to Los Angeles for the June selection trials.

After two weeks of competition in California, the team will be selected and pack up for a move to Aachen, Germany, where they will enter quarantine and train in July before packing up again and flying to Hong Kong in August. Advisers to the US team devised this plan based on schedules and health concerns.

Haddad does not agree and has written an open letter criticizing the US Equestrian Team’s selection procedure, saying that she will not subject her horse to as many flights and as much stress as would be required to make the team and then continue on to Hong Kong.

She noted that the Netherlands and Germany have already selected dressage squads that are training toward Hong Kong.

Today, US Equestrian Federation President David O’Connor responded to Haddad’s letter, but upheld the decisions made to schedule the selection process for California in late June. Among O’Connor’s concerns were that it was safer to fly the horses to Hong Kong via Aachen than to train in the USA and fly westward to Hong Kong. He said that stopping for fuel or repair in Alaska endangered the horses, since quarantine and veterinary facilities were not available there. The route from Aachen to Hong Kong would mandate fuel or repair in Dubai, where first-class horse services are available.

Both Haddad’s and O’Connor’s letters with horse health concerns raised or answered are published on the Dressage Daily web site today.

? 2008 The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines. All rights reserved.

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