by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
For most, managing the move of a household, its humans and pets is the biggest logistic challenge ever faced.
Now imagine moving a 1,500-pound athlete with its team and accompaniments several times a year.
This is the logistical challenge those involved in competitive horse jumping face each and every time they want to compete.
Obviously ensuring the horse’s safety and comfort is paramount, and whether it’s during transport or at the competition site, everyone involved takes the situation seriously.
Comfortably housing animals at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping of Canada at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird) in June is one of many challenges faced by Chris Pack, chief operating officer and tournament manager of the show park.
“We upgrade their stabling with light fluffy shavings,” Pack explained of part of the process on site.
Hundreds of packages of shavings are stacked near the stables already in place for the equine guests to arrive.
These shavings go on top of the rubberized mats on the floor of every temporary and permanent stall on site at tbird.
Plus, there’s a new feature to provide added safety and security for the horses when they are on site in Langley.
Tbird has installed web-enabled 24-hour monitoring of every horse.
“The system gets to know the horse’s routine,” Pack said.
“It sends an update owners can check.”
If the video monitoring system senses something unusual in the horse’s behaviour, an update is immediately sent to the phone of the owner or team member.
It’s an additional tool tbird is offering to competitors, to increase comfort levels for those who may be a long way from home.
To get to tbird, many horses travel around the world. Some may be coming from their home country, while others may be training or competing in different regions.
Regardless of whether it’s a horse from Brazil, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, or the U.S., these competitors are familiar with travel – and, in fact, often do so better than their human counterparts.
“Some of the horses are flying on a specialized horse charter,” noted Pack. “It’s basically a 747 for horses. Other horses come in crates on big air-ride semi-trailers.”
No matter how they travel, there is always a vet on a horse flight, or as part of the travel convoy.
Horses are social creatures, so more important than the vet – at least from the animal’s perspective – is having other horse companions on the ride. Pack said like anyone, travelling with a buddy makes things more enjoyable.
Many horses are so familiar with travel that if a crate is opened they will just walk right in onto the rubber mats, and enjoy their water and hay. They are never sedated, but instead travel standing, which is how they are most comfortable, he explained.
On flights or in a semi-trailer, similar to the new system at tbird, the horses are monitored by video so team members can check on them during transit.
Those animals travelling across country via semi-trailer may even be lucky enough to have a stop at one of the horse B&Bs located all over the continent.
Plus, every horse has a special groom who knows that particular horse from muzzle to tail. This relationship ensures that during travel, or on the ground, someone is able to spot any different behaviour in the horse as soon as it happens.
While humans may not think of horse travel as luxurious, for these competitors, the amount of logistics required guarantees the ride to be as comfortable as possible.