Recently a friend of mine, who had gone horse shopping in Europe, returned with loads of photos and videos of horses she had tried while abroad. I could hardly wait to see them! There was one particular horse that she couldn't stop talking about - a beautiful 5-year-old Hanoverian mare with three lovely gaits and a good mind - her trainer was pleased and she was ecstatic. Now it was time to begin the process of bringing Starlight to the United States.
Although Lauren will have professionals handling the process, she knows that importing her mare, a potential breeding animal, from Europe to the U.S. will require that Starlight go through extensive testing before she will finally be released to begin her new career. Wanting to make Starlight's journey as easy on the young mare as possible, we decided a little research was in order.
Since we live in South Florida, our first stop was Wellington Quarantine, LLC, a Florida Department of Agriculture approved full-service C.E.M. facility in Wellington, FL, owned by James Lala, a well-known and highly respected trainer and rider. James is a seasoned competitor both abroad and in the U.S., and he's imported hundreds of horses, we felt his experience made him uniquely qualified to answer all our questions.
Here is what we learned:
Once Lauren's veterinarian gives the green light on the pre-purchase exam, Starlight must, as stated in the USDA import requirements, be tested for contagious diseases before leaving her country of origin. If her results are negative for these diseases, she can be imported into the United States through one of the following ports of entry; New York, Miami, Chicago or Los Angeles.
If, like Lauren, this is your first experience importing a horse, find a dependable and experienced International Horse Transportation Company with as direct of route as possible to your horse's final destination. Get referrals from others you know who have experience in equine international travel. The company you choose will be making all your travel arrangements. It's important that they have experienced and professional attendants on the ground and in the air to make your horse's journey as smooth and stress free as possible. Most companies will even assist with quarantine concerns upon landing and make ground transportation arrangements if needed.
In addition, it will be important to insure Starlight before she begins her journey. Whether on a van, ship or aircraft, horses travel entirely at the owner's risk. Lauren was advised to obtain mortality insurance on the mare to include the purchase price and cost of shipping, if possible.
Upon Starlight's arrival into the United States, she will be detained at the port of entry and retested for dourine, glanders, equine piroplasmosis, and equine infectious anemia (EIA). Test results are generally available three days after the date of arrival. If Starlight's test results are satisfactory, she, as a breeding animal over two years of age, must proceed, under seal, from the USDA facility to a State approved CEM quarantine facility for additional testing for Contagious Equine Metritis (C.E.M) - a highly contagious venereal disease in horses caused by bacteria and spread through breeding.
It will be up to Lauren to decide which quarantine facility Starlight will be transported to, keeping in mind that the quality of care and the facility itself will make a big difference in how fast Starlight gets back on track and prepared for training or competition.
If all goes well with Lauren's purchase of the mare and the importation into the U.S., she will bring Starlight to Wellington Quarantine, LLC for her CEM testing. After meeting and speaking with James Lala and seeing his facility firsthand, Lauren feels assured that Starlight will be in an ultra-safe, peaceful environment.
James' knowledge and experience, along with his caring and qualified staff, will be available to Lauren throughout Starlight's stay at the facility - from the day Starlight arrives (and possibly sporting an attitude from her long journey) to the day she leaves for Lauren's farm. Every aspect of the facility is thought out with the safety and best interests of the horse and rider in mind.
Starlight's testing will get underway quickly to prevent a protracted stay, however, the shortest timeline the process can be completed is 14 days. A blood test will be taken and three cultures three days apart. It takes eight days to get the results on the cultures. Starlight must then go through a five consecutive day cleaning process. Once all cultures are reported to be negative and the cleaning process is complete, Starlight may be released to Lauren.
While at Wellington Quarantine, Lauren will have everything she needs to get Starlight back in work while the mare undergoes her testing. A round pen and separate lunging area for exercising her horse as well as a sand ring, dressage arena, and large ring with GGT Footing and jumps are available for her use. Once Starlight has a chance to settle in and relax, there are grass paddocks for turnout and lovely areas for Lauren to graze her horse.
Should Lauren need assistance with that first ride in the States, or others, James is available for riding and lessons. In addition, Wellington Quarantine offers services such as grooming, tacking up, body clipping and more.
Although it's a tough journey for a young horse and nervous time for a new owner, I'm thankful that Lauren and Starlight will be in good hands as they get to know each other and get back on track!