Rumbero & Kathryn in the USA
Rumbero in Spain Rumbero arrives in USA JFK airport Rumbero quarantined in USARumbero on way to meet Kathryn
Did you ever wonder if you could import a horse from over seas? Do you know how to do it? Have questions on how it works, or want to know the facts?
Well I did a question and answer interview from a clint of mine who I massage her horses. We were talking one day and I found out that Kathryn Hitzig had imported her horse she has now called Rumbero CII.
Kathryn wanted to get a horse that had clear talent for FEI dressage levels and she found the horse over seas in Barcelona Spain. So I thought I would share her experience with you from our interview.
What type of horse did you purchase?
I purchased Rumbero CII, a young PRE (Pure Raza Espanola) gelding from Barcelona, Spain. He was 6 at the time and had been under saddle for approximately a year. He was also gelded at 5. I spent 10 months looking at horses and I must have viewed hundreds of videos. I had a very clear picture of what I was looking for and it took a while to find. I wanted a young horse that had clear talent for the FEI levels of dressage and was able to push well from his hindend. I also wanted a PRE that wasn’t a “leg mover”, which is rather hard to find.
How do I find an optimal barn and reliable contacts overseas?
This is the hardest part!! Developing International contacts is all about networking and with the strong presence of social media this is now easier than ever. Various International sellers are now utilizing social media, Youtube, and various American equine sites to advertise their horses and/or studfarms. The internet has seemingly bridged the distance gap.
Speak with your fellow equestrians regarding International farms and contacts. You can also use social media to pose such questions and garner leads. Join Facebook groups for different breeds and disciplines that are applicable to your intended purchase. You will frequently find International horses posted for sale on such groups. While you may not find your dream horse this way, it might lead to developing contacts and resources. Also, look at as many videos as you can. Once you do this frequently enough you will start to distinguish quality and the ideal training methods you are seeking. This will help you weed out less than ideal sellers. Even if there is one particular horse that you are interested in, make a point of looking at others that the farm has for sale. Is the training consistent? Is the quality of the horses similar?
Additionally, agents are a regular part of the International horse trade. Agents have vast access to different sellers, farms, and stud farms. They can be quite useful. Think of an agent as your middle man. You can communicate with them directly regarding the specifics of the horse you are seeking and they will readily send you descriptions, video, and any other applicable information. They can negotiate for you and help guide you through the buying and importing process. Obviously, utilizing an agent’s services will add to your overall cost; however, if you can locate a reputable agent this may be a worthwhile expenditure.
Where you set on a specific breed?
I knew I wanted an Iberian horse and I was very interested in the PRE (Pure Raza Espanola) breed. I was certainly open to Lusitanos as well, but since I was looking in Spain there are primarily PREs available there. At the time I had wanted to get away from the Warmbloods as I do have some back problems; however, I have to say that the newer style Warmbloods are much more body friendly than the older German tanks are. My FEI Warmblood is of the latter so at the time I was really set on getting an Iberian. I’ve since had the pleasure of a newer style Warmblood and I have to say I’m really enjoying him, so perhaps I would have broadened my search if I hadn’t been so breed specific. There’s a vast marketplace for high qualityhorses so I think having a general outline of what you’re looking for will help you to narrow down your options. I do have to say,in my experience, most people that are going to Europe or out of the country are generally searching for an exact want; therefore, I’d say that breed specificity is not uncommon.
Is it cheaper to buy a horse overseas than in the US?
As a dressage rider it’s hard for me to speak in regards to price-points of non-dressage based horses; therefore, I will base my answer in regards to dressage horses. Conceivably, this is a similar occurrence in other disciplines; however, since I am not certain I will add that as a disclosure to the following answer…
In my estimation a lot of whether it is more cost effective to buy overseas or not simply depends on the type of horse you are looking for. A lot of the higher quality dressage horses that are for sale in the US are imports. Therefore, you are going to pay a premium for an already imported horse. Iberians are also for the most part imported. If you are considering buying a freshly imported horse that resides in the US, then yes it will certainly be less expensive to purchase a horse overseas and import them yourself. That said, you might find a schoolmaster type that was imported from Germany as a 3 year old and is now 15 and competing PSG. I wouldn’t apply that logic necessarily to such a purchase. In my opinion the general quality of certain breeds is consistently higher in Europe, for example, than that of US breed horses of the same breed (yes, I’m aware that someone is now screaming at their computer screen in lieu of this statement…). Nevertheless, horses are of course individuals, and I personally own an amazing American soil born (parents are imports) Hanoverian / Holsteiner gelding so I am in no way discrediting American bred horses, but when you are horse shopping you can’t always think on individual terms. It’s far easier to go try 15 horses then fly across the country for 1 or 2. I’d also like to add that this is particularly true of the Iberian horses. They are garnishing a premium here in the US, whereas, the PRE’s in Spain and Lusitanos in Brazil are still far more economical than the newly imported US based ones are. I have seen quite a few “cheap” Iberian horses offered here in the US; however, the “bargin” rates are reflections of the quality offered.
Moreover, if you are a professional or an ambitious AA than perhaps you may want to consider crossing the pond for your purchase. If you have a certain quality in mind that you want and can’t seem to find it in your price-point in the US than perhaps importing is an avenue to explore. Again, a lot depends on what you are seeking. I would advise consulting your trainer or any qualified professional who can help you determine whether looking outside the country is an advisable option.
How does the money, bank, financing work out is it US dollars?
Generally, the price of the horse will be presented to you in the currency of the country that it resides. Exchange rates are ever changing; therefore, sellers often opt to price the horse in their native currency so they are not subjected to potential losses from a less than ideal exchange rate. For example, if you are shopping in Europe, most European countries are now part of the European Community and use the Euro as their form of currency. The easiest way to calculate the approximate cost of the horse would be to identify the form of currency and you can google the current exchange rate to US dollars.
The most commonly used form of International monetary transfer is a bank wire. International wires are very easy and quite cost effective for both parties. If you are obtaining a loan to purchase your horse, you can still wire transfer the funds once they become available to you. There may be other financial options offered, I would advise speaking directly with the seller and/or your financial institution.
This is an area that you definitely want to invest some time in. The individuals that I purchased my horse from are very reputable in the dressage world and they recommended a veterinary clinic that they often use for their pre-purchase examinations of sale horses. Now I know what you might be thinking and believe me I thought it too… probably not a good idea to use the vet clinic that they are recommending, but after further research I determined that this clinic was indeed my best option for the pre-purchase. Note- they did not use this clinic for their own veterinary needs- only for vetting out sales horses- otherwise this could certainly be viewed as a conflict of interest. This particular clinic had vets that were fluent in English and will call you directly to discuss the findings via telephone. They obtained current and quality equipment for the pre-purchase. They provided me with a full detailed report as well. Of course, I consulted with my veterinarian about additional veterinary recommendations in Spain. My vet here in the US provided me with a detailed list of what x-rays he wanted to see. In total I believe we did 34 x-rays, so it was a rather extensive pre-purchase. I also required them to video all flexions and lunging for myself, my vet, and my trainer to review. We also pulled blood to be kept for an additional 8 months should anything suspicious arise after the fact, we can then go back and test his blood for any drugs that should not have been present in his system. Since we were very concise in what we wanted (my vet, myself, and my trainer) my whole pre-purchase went very smoothly. I received a phone call from the vet in Spain once she completed her examination. Her phone call was followed that evening by a VERY detailed pre-purchase report with findings and my 34 x-rays. Her report was so detailed in fact that there was one finding that caused me mass panic as I was envisioning it to be a deal breaking issue. Fortunately, my vet assured me that it was nothing and he was very happy with all the x-rays, flexions, and lunging circles… so whew!! I had a couple horses prior that hadn’t worked out due to Piroplasmosis and also bone spurs so I was of course imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios, but as it turns out the 3rd time is the charm!
I would definitely advise x-raying the daylights out of your horse. The vetting overseas was a fraction of what the same pre-purchase would have cost here in the US so there was really no reason not to go all out. The vetting is not an area to try to be conservative and save money on in my opinion. You never want to pay for foreseeable problems, especially International ones 😉
I would very strongly advise insuring your horse. You will be able to insure your horse for mortality and I would also recommend trip / travel insurance prior to your horse departing for the US. Additional policies can be added once your horse is in your possession such as; major medical and loss of use. Keep in mind that you can only insure your horse for the purchase price; you cannot add the cost of transport to their mortality value- fyi. Once your horse passes the vet and monies are exchanged I would then proceed forward with insuring him or her.
What are the requirements, example: Flight, Stall, Passport, Shots?
Requirements will differ depending on the country of origin. Horses do need Passports to travel and these documents should be readied by the seller and your pre-purchase veterinarian. You will likely have your choice of which transport company you’d like to use. The seller will probably recommend one that they use. There aren’t many available.
Is there any quarantine, and is it different for a stud vs. a mare, or a gelding?
Upon arriving in the US your horse will be transported directly to quarantine. This is a mandatory requirement or evil depending on how eager you are to see your new arrival! There are different quarantine requirements depending on whether your horse is a stallion, gelding, mare, or has been breed. The initial USDA quarantine is a mere 3 day period. However, if you import a stallion or mare that has been previously bred they will be sent to CEM quarantine after their 3 day stay at USDA quarantine. These facilities often offer turnout options for your horse and/or exercise / grooming services as they will be residing there for an additional 3 weeks of breeding testing. CEM quarantine for a stallion is usually around $7,000usd (no additional services added) or $3,000usd for a mare (no additional services added). CEM quarantine will add to your overall cost and can be rather significant for a stallion. If CEM quarantine is going to burst your budget bubble, I would then advise purchasing a gelding or a non-bred stallion or mare; thereby rendering CEM quarantine obsolete.
Where did your horse fly into at the US? New York?
There are 3 geographical locations here in the US where you can choose to have your horse imported into. They are as follows: Miami, FL, Los Angeles, CA, and Newburgh, NY. My horse traveled by horse van from his farm in Barcelona, Spain to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He completed 3 days of mandatory quarantine in Amsterdam before he was allowed to fly into JFK airport in New York. He was then transported from JFK airport to the USDA quarantine facility in Rock Sound, NY for an additional 3 days of quarantine. It took a total of 8 days to get him door to door or should I say stall to stall!
Can you visit your horse while in quarantine?
Yes and no. You may not visit your horse during their 3 day quarantine at the USDA facility; however, if your horse is required to attend CEM quarantine which is a 3 week duration you may visit them during that time. See question #9 for more information regarding CEM quarantine.
Once your horse has landed what is the transportation procedure when on ground?
Your horse will be transported from the airport to the local USDA quarantine facility. For example my horse was flown into JFK Airport in New York and then he was transported to USDA quarantine in Rock Sound, New York. It was an approximate 30 minute drive. This transport is completed by your US Agent, as individual buyers are not allowed accept the horses, you have to have an authorized agent to do so.
Is it easier to import from different countries then others?
Yes, for example in Spain there is an epidemic of Piroplasmosis. The country has “piro free zones” which are typically found in the regions of Barcelona and Madrid. Piroplasmosis is a tick bourne illness that was eradicated from the US (mostly) in the 1980’s. While there are a few farms in the US that still have the disease, these horses are quarantined to those farms and isolated from outside contact. I believe the majority is in Texas. The US no longer allows the importation of Piroplasmosis positive horses into the US. Therefore, importing a horse from Spain or Brazil poses additional concerns that other countries may not. I know that different countries have different importation guidelines that need to be followed regarding disease testing. For specific requirements I would ask either your agent, the seller, or you can call USDA headquarters here in the US for further information.
Furthermore, you should also consider the distance that your horse will be traveling or that you will have to travel should you wish to shop in person. Those can be mitigating factors as well in relation to ease of purchase.
I believe that the inherent risks involved are a strong mitigating factor in deterring individuals from the idea of importing. While it is certainly true that importing does indeed pose its ownunique set of risks, other forms of transporting horses can also present similar concerns.
It is an intense travel period for the horse and how they will handle the stress of such a trip is I think one of the main apprehensions I experienced. I have known horses that were a bit PTSD like after such a journey, but for the most part they travel quite well and the shipping companies send them in style! I think they receive more individual care and monitoring than if you were shipping a horse across the country. My advice would be to stay proactive. For example, perhaps putting your horse on Ulcergard for his travels would be a preemptive way of managing your new horse’s stress upon his arrival.
How was your horse after the flight?
Rumbero arrived at the farm in great health and had apparently traveled quite well. He walked into the stable like he owned it and he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying all of the scratches, attention, and fawning he was receiving. He really enjoys being the center of attention so in retrospect this isn’t surprising. The real challenges started the next morning when we tried to turn him out in a very small paddock as we placed him on quarantine as a pre-caution. He was very agitated even though he could see the other horses, but being slightly separated from them was stressful for him. He wasn’t used to daily turnout in Spain so I think this was an initial large stressor for him. Another great nuisance for him were the bugs- they don’t have the same biting bug population in Europe that we have in New England so I think that was a bit of an unpleasant surprise for Rumbero. I used to sit with him during his turnout time to try to make it more pleasant. We listened to Spanish soap operas together on my phone…
My advice would be to expect the unexpected. Horses are individuals and while we can foresee many problems and take measures to prevent them we can’t anticipate every issue that may arise. Try to make yourself available if possible for the first week after your horse’s arrival if you are not a trainer and/or barn owner and keep a large supple of Ulcergard on hand. Sometimes the honeymoon’s over before the champagne is gone 😉
What did you learn from importing a horse?
That the Dutch don’t seem to converse well auf Deutsch and I picked-up a few words in Spanish… ha ha just kidding!! I actually used to live in Europe so a lot of the leg work was simpler for me in terms of being familiar with currencies, locations, and such.
In retrospect I wish I had insisted on him traveling on Ulcergardand I also wish I would have put more thought into his feed program ahead of time. They don’t feed fortified grains in Spain, the horse eat fortified oats. It never occurred to me that he could have sensitivities to our feeds and the soy that is used for fiber. He had chronic hindgut ulcers / upset for a while and I think this could have been prevented had I kept him on his same diet initially. That said, everything is hindsight and while it may have made a difference for Rumbero it might not have necessarily affected another horse. I would advise trying to implement as close of a routine / diet as what your import was used to and then once they’re settled start gradually making changes.
Patience is certainly a huge factor in the whole process. You must exercise great patience and keep your end goal in mind- you will get there! Know that there will be bumps in the road and that it is a bit of a journey; however, it is certainly a rewarding one!
*Please note (The information obtained for this article was based on this person’s individual experience)
* Please note (Photos were submitted with permission of owner Kathryn Hitzig)
Until next time
ESMT, CCMT, NHVTA Continuing Education