By: Megan Arszman
In Europe, the excitement has been building for months, and now, in a matter of days, the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) will begin in Normandy, France. The Games include the world championships of equestrian events including reining, three-day eventing, dressage, show jumping, endurance, vaulting, and driving. They occur every four years, just like the Olympics, with the last event occurring in Lexington, Ky., in 2010.
In April, you met Team USA (http://www.equinechronicle.com/meet-team-usa-for-2014-world-equestrian-games-flarida-m-mccutcheon-larson-fappani-heikes-and-t-mccutcheon/) when they competed in the Kentucky Reining Cup in Lexington in order to be selected for the team. The team members are:
• Andrea Fappani (Scottsdale, Ariz.) riding Custom Cash Advance, owned by Silver Spurs Equine.
• Shawn Flarida (Springfield, Ohio) riding Spooks Gotta Whiz, owned by Michell Kimball.
• Troy Heikes (Scottsdale, Ariz.) riding Lil Gun Dunit, owned by Denise Bixler and Steve Tarani.
• Jordan Larson (Whitesboro, Texas) riding HF Mobster, owned by Heritage Farm.
• Mandy McCutcheon (Aubrey, Texas) riding Yellow Jersey, owned by Tim and Colleen McQuay.
• Tom McCutcheon (Aubrey, Texas) riding Dun Git A Nicadual, owned by Jennifer Marley.
Last week, the team’s horses were shipped to Houston, Texas, where they stayed at Steve Archer Quarter Horses to prepare for transport to the USDA export facility. Then, they were placed in shipping containers for the flight to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Each container is a specially-designed stall that has non-slip floors and no sharp edges. Each container can fit two to three horses. Grooms and veterinarians can gain easy access to horses inside the containers during the flight. Other members of Team USA from different disciplines also joined the flight, which included the United States Equestrian Team’s veterinarian, Dr. John Newcomb, and the grooms for the horses.
Similar to the feeling you get when you’re on an airplane, horses experience pressure changes while flying. Fortunately, equine passengers are kept comfortable with plenty of hay and water, and their reliable grooms and crew are close by to ensure their safety and comfort.
When the plane arrived in Amsterdam, both horses and humans had their paperwork processed. The reining horses were shipped 500 kilometers to Paris, France, to their temporary training facility at Jay Kay Farm Quarter Horses, where they will stay until they ship to Caen, France, for their home during WEG on Friday, August 22nd.
For the horse owners, this is the chance of a lifetime. For Michael and Michelle Miola, who own Silver Spurs Equine in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Custom Cash Advance, this was the first time they’ve ever shipped a horse overseas. “This was a very nervous experience for us,” Michael says. “I was really nervous about it at first, but then the shippers showed us exactly what happens, how gentle they are with the horses, and how they do everything they can to eliminate stress. That was great—we were much calmer about it. Jenny Ricotta, Cash’s groom, will be there with him all the time. Even when he’s in quarantine, and Andrea can’t be there, Jenny will be with him at all times.”
Michael and Michelle didn’t have to worry, though, because Jenny reported that Cash shipped just fine—sleeping through most of the flight. “He’s very unique in that he has a laid back personality, but, when you get him to the show pen, he’s all business,” Michael explains.
Between the team selection and the flight to France, Custom Cash Advance, “Cash,” a 2006 sorrel Quarter Horse stallion by Custom Chrome and out of Cash In Roan, continued his usual work sessions with rider Andrea Fappani. He also enjoyed time spent in Silver Spur Equine’s saltwater therapy and conditioning pool, just to work out any muscular soreness.
So what do you pack for a horse being shipped to Europe to compete in a world-class event? “Really nothing out of the ordinary,” Michael explains. “The only thing different that was packed, besides Andrea’s saddle, bridles, blankets, etc., was that we sent a 50-pound bag of carrots for Cash’s treats along for the trip. He loves carrots!”
In fact, Cash and the rest of the Silver Spurs Equine stallions love carrots so much that local supermarkets in Scottsdale will sell the farm 50-pound bags of quality carrots for only $6-8. The supermarkets love to talk about the equine fans of their carrots and often post signs around the stores featuring the stallions’ photos.
“What’s very interesting is that, in order for Cash to go, I had to sign a lease agreement,” Michael says. “So, from the moment he got on the plane, he’s not my horse. I leased him, just like everyone else did, to the USEF. They take over everything. It’s a lease agreement that goes from one date to another, until the horses come home. It gives them liability for their care, so there were reasons for it. It just felt funny. I read the fine print real carefully.”
When the riders arrive in Paris, their access to the horses is pretty limited, by FEI standards. By now, the conditioning and training for the event is done, and it’s time for the team to enjoy the experience.
Competition during the WEG for the reining horses starts Monday, August 25th with the team competition and individual qualifying round. After the team competition concludes on August 26th, there will be a second individual qualifying competition on August 28th. The individual final will be held Saturday, August 30th.
Michael has high hopes for Cash and Andrea to bring home double gold. “We’re extremely confident that Cash is going to do his part to bring home the Team Gold, and I’m confident he’ll bring home the individual gold as well.”
Stick with the EquineChronicle.com as we keep you updated on the WEG Games and how Team USA and Team Cash are doing next week.
Go Team USA!
Click here to view a YouTube video that chronicles Team USA’s trip to France.
Scroll below to view more fun photos from the horses’ journey to the WEG, courtesy of Silver Spurs Equine and Tom McCutcheon’s Virtual Horse Help.