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140 horses, 2 ferries and 18 months of planning: how this amazing New York island show was born

How often do you have to take a ferry to go to a horse show? This week (27-29 September) the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) lands in New York, with the show taking place on the 172-acre Governors Island, in the heart of New York Harbor.

LGCT sport director Marco Danese told H&H that planning for the show has been ongoing for well over a year.

“We started meetings with the management of the island 18 months ago and we’ve had fantastic support from them — they were immediately enthusiastic and have done everything to help us,” says Marco.

“They are used to having music and entertainment events here and they had a polo demonstration a few years ago, but they’ve never had stabling here. It was a while before they understood the huge impact this would have on an island where there is no traffic and no accommodation and people usually only visit between about 10am and 6pm.”

Global Champions Tour New York

The view of Governors Island from the One World Observatory, with the Longines Global Champions Tour arena and stables just visible at the right-hand end of the island.

Marco says the organisation of the stabling is “the most important and difficult part of our event and job”.

“Not only do the the stables have to meet all the normal requirements for welfare, but also for quarantine,” said Marco.

Many of the 140 horses attending the show arrived via two flights from Liège, in Belgium, an airport with special facilities for flying horses. As on all flights to LGCT shows, the horses flew “business class” — two to a crate rather than three — and they landed at Newark, about an hour’s drive from downtown Manhattan.

The horses arrived on Governors Island on Friday or Saturday the week before the show, having travelled across on the normal eight-minute passenger and vehicle ferry in horseboxes. They then spent approximately 40 hours in quarantine, under the supervision of seven United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) vets and six LGCT vets, before starting work.

Georgina Bloomberg on Quibelle during the warm-up session at LGCT New York 2019. Picture by Stefano Grasso/LGCT

The build-up of infrastructure for the event began on 11 September, with some equipment coming in on lorries via the ferry and some on barges, with a special ramp being built on the island for the barges to dock.

During the event, the six LGCT vets, the stable manager, security and some of the LGCT team are staying on Governors Island, in caravans. The riders, grooms, owners and other personnel are all staying in hotels in Manhattan — a mere 800 yards away across the water.

In addition to the usual ferry, a dedicated water shuttle has been laid on for the event, with extended hours from 5.30am to 10.30pm so grooms and officials can leave late and arrive early should they need to do so.

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Entrance to the show is free for spectators.

“A lot of people in New York don’t know Governors Island — it’s beautiful and everyone has been wowed by the backdrop of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty,” said Marco. “As in some of the other cities we go to such as Rome and Miami, we expect to attract some spectators who are not so familiar with showjumping and horses, so we can promote our sport in a different way.”

Full report from LGCT New York in next week’s Horse & Hound magazine (issue dated 3 October). 

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