What does it take to transport a horse to Rio for the Olympics? I suspected it was more than just packing an overnight bag so I spoke with veterinarian Dr. Usha Knabe and asked her. Usha is on the road to Rio as the accredited vet for the two individual dressage riders for Canada ,Belinda Trussell with Anton and Megan Lane with Caravella. Usha is a busy woman but I managed to speak with her at Belinda’s Oakcrest Farm and asked her what had to be done to get Belinda’s Anton to Rio.
For the Games, the country of origin, in this case Canada, has to arrange with the Country where the Games are held, this is Brazil, to provide the information they want. There is not a lot of movement of horses between Canada and Brazil so there is quite a lot of back and forth deciding on what is needed in the paperwork for bringing a horse in for the Games in Brazil. . The agriculture departments are the government bodies that do this. For the 2012 Games in London or WEG in France this was easy as horses move between these countries and Canada all the time. The first leg of Anton’s trip will be to ship by road to New York and JFK airport. Those export papers are easy as there are horses travelling between the US and Canada every day. Horses shipping to other countries must be inspected prior to leaving Canada and for the actual inspections of the horses there is a government vet and the stable vet and they work together.
Every feed that Anton eats must be approved for entry by the Brazilian government. A list of the feeds, the ingredients and the manufacturer must be supplied. For Anton’s supplements the same type of list of ingredients, the purpose of the supplement and manufacturer must also be provided. If he has any medications the ingredients, manufacturer and the purpose of the medication must be listed. These lists are all sent to Pedens, the horse transport company arranging the flights and must be approved by the Brazilian government. All medications must be placed in a separate container for shipping. The same for the supplements and the feed. An interesting side note….Brazil will not accept anything made of wood into the country so no one can take boot pulls with wooden handles and there can be no wooden boxes. Even rakes and brooms cannot have wooden handles!
Usha must record all of the veterinary equipment she is taking. For example she will be taking a laser and that had to have serial number recorded, be photographed and all this information submitted to the FEI for permission to take it and for its use at the Games
Preparation for Anton.
Vaccinations: flu has to be current within 90 days and West Nile Virus must also be current. No other vaccinations are required but blood work for internal and external parasites( ticks)must be done. The horse must be treated within 48 hours of departure with a de-wormer and a dusting for ticks. The blood work will check for piroplasmosis which is a tick-borne disease and it is important to know that the horse does not have this before it leaves Canada as when it returns there will be blood work done while it is in quarantine before re-entering Canada and if it has piroplasmosis it will not be allowed to enter Canada. The quarantine on return is 7 days to get test results.
As of the week of July 11 Anton in quarantine. This means that he cannot have any nose to nose contact with another horse. He is able to stay in his usual stall at Oakcrest and be turned out in his paddock and be ridden by Belinda. But his usual stable neighbour had to move to another stall.
All the paperwork and preparation must be completed before Anton gets onto the transport trailer on August 2 for New York and JFK airport. He will travel in a sealed transit. He will stay near the airport until the evening of July 3 when he will fly out to Rio. His groom, Lynsey Rowan, can stay with him while he is in New York and then she will fly out to Rio separately. There will be a groom from Pedens , the transport company and also a Canadian vet on the flight. This vet is actually the vet for the Canadian jumper team who will also be coming back with the horses from Rio. Anton and the other Canadian dressage horse will fly on a cargo plane with three horses from the Venezuelan jumper team. There will also be a Venezuelan groom with the horses. Unlike us horses have a universal language so they can all chat away during the flight without the aid of a translator!
Prep for transit
Anton is a good shipper so Usha does not recommend anything more a mash the night before and ulcer medication for the trip. If he needs fluid by IV for rehydration he will get that when he arrives in Rio. For the trip he will have his legs wrapped in standing bandages and these will be secured with masking tape so they will not unravel while he is on the road or in the air. He will also have four bell boots on.
Prep for Usha
Usha will fly down the day before and will be there to meet Anton when he arrives in Rio. She told me she was having vaccinations for hepatitis and a tetanus booster and was also going to take Ducoral before the trip to Rio. The Canadians will also be supplied with water bottles that have built in filtration. The horses will all have filtered water to drink in the stabling area at the Games.
When in Rio
Usha will be staying with the rest of Team Canada in an apartment building that has been built specifically for the Games. The place where the horses are staying is on a military base and there is an equine hospital nearby. Equestrian Canada has arranged for $20K of medications and drugs for the horses in case there is any need while they are at the Games.
I asked her how she was feeling about going to Rio with this official responsibility. “Excited and nervous” was her reply. She explained that she is excited as this is a thrilling moment to be going as an accredited vet to the Olympics but she will be nervous until she gets there and knows everything is going according to plan.
Veterinary symbol photo credit: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license