Prohibitively high costs of transporting horses and riders to next year’s Alltech FEI (International Equestrian Federation) World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Lexington, Kentucky, could have serious repercussions for the competition.
National federations have expressed real concerns over the costs of flying horses to America for the 2010 WEG (25 September-10 October) and at the inflated prices that “official” hotels near the horse park are charging for accommodation.
The competition has been held every four years since 1990 and 2010 is the first time it will take place outside Europe.
New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Australia and the British Equestrian Federation have told H&H they are struggling to meet budgets to send full teams.
Team GB manager Will Connell said: “It will cost between £1.25million and £1.5million to take eight full teams to WEG — it’s an expensive operation.”
A full Team GB contingent would include 51 horses and transporting them by air to the US, together with feed and kit, will cost £750,000-£875,000.
Julia Wiltschko, a spokesman for the Austrian equestrian federation, said: “We don’t know yet if we are able to send a full team.
“Of course we strive to, but it depends on the achievements of the riders and on money — the costs of flights from Europe to Kentucky are a bigger problem than accommodation.”
“Getting the horses to Kentucky will be hugely expensive, but we accept the location for WEG will not always be geographically convenient,” he said.
“But it is WEG and it does provide Olympic qualification opportunities.”
In 2006, WEG was held in Aachen, Germany, so many Europeans drove to the venue and grooms stayed in horseboxes.
For Australia, however, travel is always an issue and performance manager Brett Mace said any shortfall is normally met by riders and owners.
“We will do whatever we can to have full teams at WEG,” he said. “But we are disappointed — and surprised — at the greatly inflated prices being charged for accommodation for teams in Kentucky.”
But 2010 WEG chief executive Jamie Link said accommodation had been discussed at a recent meeting between national federations and organisers.
“We’re working closely with hoteliers to see what can be done, and hope to be able to publish a new [pricelist] soon,” he said.
For this story in full, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (11 June, ’09)