Equine Visa Run

August 22. 2023

So I’m back again to tell you about my adventures, like I mentioned earlier, life is busy during the summer and this year we made things a little bit different. I definitely got more air miles in this summer than I have in a long time and I will tell you all about it. But first, let me explain to you the reason why.

The import and export of horses and other livestock to and from The United States is regulated by an organization called USDA, United States Department of Agriculture. One of their jobs is to make sure all animals imported are healthy and free of diseases. To ensure this whenever traveling into the US, a horse no matter if it is a Stallion, mare or gelding gets taken in for two days testing in a state facility. For a showgroom, spending all your time traveling and taking care of these horses; this is a process that can feel scary. Leaving them alone for TWO FULL DAYS. Haha but they are ok, they still get food and water, and they are still surrounded by people. This is just the way this process goes and we all have to accept it.

In USDA the horses get tested for Piroplasmosis or Piro as we call it, which is a tick born disease that United States is considered “free” of. If a horse tests positive for this particular disease caused by a parasite, the horse gets denied entry to the US. To avoid this from happening we normally run a blood test before we leave Europe so we can be sure there is no surprises once we get to the US.

After the two days in the USDA, geldings are released to travel freely around the country. However, mares and stallions must move to a quarantine facility for further testing. For a mare, the quarantine period is around two weeks and for a stallion it’s around five weeks. These quarantines are normally privately owned but regulated by the USDA.

Here the horses get tested for CEM, Contagious Equine Metritis, which is another disease that United States is considered “free” from. The reason only mares and stallions get tested for this is that the disease is transmitted primarily through breeding.

They must stay on the quarantine property for the full duration of the quarantine, but you are allowed to come and ride your horse, as long as you follow the quarantine rules. As you can see it is quite the project to import a horse into the US, but there is a way to get around this. Once fully imported the horse can leave the US for a maximum of 60 days before returning, without having to repeat the quarantine.

So this is what I jokingly call the Equine Visa Run. This is just my word for it, for sure it has a fancy name but basically a quick trip in the country so you can restart your 60 days once you travel out again. Of course there is a lot of paperwork involved in keeping track of the horse movements while outside the US but it is nice to be able to fly “home” and get to take ALL ponies home as soon as they are out of the mandatory two days in USDA. As I said before I have clocked some air miles this summer, mostly because of this. We decided this year that we wanted to do these trips with our stallion.

So after doing a couple shows in Europe, Paris being the last one that you can read about in my most recent blog post, it was time to do a quick trip home. After making sure all paperwork was in order and making sure he was well prepared for the trip, me and Don got picked up from our stable outside Brussels, Belgium to begin our journey to New York. Normally flights to New York and Chicago leave from Liege, Belgium and flights to Miami leave from Amsterdam, Holland.

Flying with horses is time consuming: truck ride to the airport, wait, paperwork getting stamped, wait, loading the horses into their jet stalls (a special container built to carry horses), wait, loading the containers into the aircraft, wait. By the time we were ready for takeoff we have been “traveling” already for many hours. The horses don’t seem to be bothered by this though. They are standing happy in their container, with a friend, with water and with hay. I DO bring quite a few apples and carrots as well, I’m not going to lie. During the flight our job is to make sure the horses stay happy, offer them hay and water and keep an eye on them. A lot of these horses are professional air travelers and I do think that many times a flight is a more smother ride than driving in a truck.

So after touch down at JFK airport in New York, all horses got unloaded and moved to the USDA facility. Now all I had to do was to wait for him to get released in two days. First, I caught up on some sleep after being awake for probably around 40 hours. Then I caught up on some work for Yehaww, like writing this blog, put some content on our social media and answered any questions that got sent to us. I would love to split myself up in two people to do everything to my fullest ability all the time but there simply isn’t always the time for it. Then it is nice to have these more quiet days with the horses and I can put more focus on Yehaww. The website is growing more and more each week and I’m still amazed by the amount of people that reach out to me, interested in joining Yehaww. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get the other disciplines on the website but we are planning to do some more marketing in the upcoming weeks that can hopefully help with that.

After spending two days networking and catching up it was time to pick up Don from USDA and take him home. A short truck ride later and we were at the most beautiful farm in New Jersey where we would spend the next few days. After having the busy and intense show schedule that the summer brings, both me and Don were enjoying the relaxing time at the farm. Going for trail rides, enjoying the endless amount of green grass and visiting some retired old friends. At that farm there is seven horses that has been in my care throughout the years of working for Jessie, all healthy and happy. As a groom it is the dream to see that this paradise is what awaits my horses when they retire from the sport.

After a very relaxing week (which is always too short), it was time for us to head back to Europe. Back on a truck we went, back to USDA for a few hours to get the paperwork stamped, loaded back into the jet stall.

The containers with the horses got loaded into the aircraft and we were ready for takeoff once again. Don travelled yet again like a professional, getting bribed with apples and carrots of course. I always take a bottle of apple juice with me on the flight as well to put in his water. Normally this will make him want to empty that bucket of water and make sure he stays hydrated.

Finally back on European soil horses were unloaded into stalls at the airport to chill out for a an hour or so while we were waiting for the paperwork to be stamped, equipment to be released out of customs and go on the short truck ride back to our base in Belgium. About 30 hours after leaving that beautiful farm in New Jersey both me and Don were back in our beds.

This might seem confusing (it is for everyone, trust me) and a hassle but it does make a difference for us not to have to put him in quarantine and we both really enjoyed our little getaway. Thanks to The Dutta Corp. we also had everything going as smooth as it possibly could. 

The Equine Visa run was completed for this time and we had another 60 days before we had to head back to the US again. Now time to try to get back on this time zone for me and Don, (yes horses get jet lagged too) and head back to the shows.

Until the next destination….

This content was provided by Yehaww. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Wellington International.