STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The largest competitors at this summer's Olympics in London are not weightlifters or shot-putters or basketball centers, big as they may be. The largest competitors are horses. In our countdown to the Olympics today, we're going to find out how these athletes travel to the games. That is the job of Tim Dutta who does this for a living. He's on the line from the stable in Wellington, Florida.
Mr. Dutta, welcome to the program.
TIM DUTTA: Thank you very much. Look forward to speaking to you.
INSKEEP: Where are you exactly right now?
DUTTA: We're in Wellington, Florida, which is about 15 miles inland from Palm Beach, at the indoor riding center watching some horses exercise.
INSKEEP: So, how many horses do you need to transport from the United States or from across North America to London this summer?
DUTTA: I would say we expect somewhere about 50 or 60 horses, but they'll be all going in different times. Plus, we have the Paralympics, so they'll be also sending their horses and para-riders.
INSKEEP: I guess if you're transporting horses from the United States to London, you can't just load them in horse trailers.
DUTTA: That's correct. Our company, the Dutta Corporation, give horses wings. This is what we do. We've been doing it for 25 years. Most horses, I anticipate, will be going from Newark Airport in New Jersey to Stanstead in England. We'll be flying them on an MD-11. And the carrier, we expect, is going to be Federal Express.
DUTTA: Yeah, and this is an all-cargo airplane and we should have a team veterinarian and, of course, a professional groom accompanying these horses; coach classes - three in a box. And business class is two in a box, same service except the seats are much more comfortable.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
DUTTA: Or, in this case, the palette is much more comfortable.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: So, OK, business-class flights...
INSKEEP: ...you've basically got the equivalent of a row of stalls on board the plane.
DUTTA: That's exactly correct.
INSKEEP: Some hay down on the floor and everything?
DUTTA: They will have hay. They'll have maybe apple juice just in case they don't want to drink enough, so we mix that with water. We do Gatorade just to make sure the hydration level goes, and of course carrots.
INSKEEP: Two horses get jetlag?
DUTTA: They do. They are animal of routine. They get fed at a certain time. They get exercise at a certain time. They wake-up at a certain time. They go to sleep.
What we have seen is the best performance is either a short arrival, four days out of competition venue. Or we do a long-term staging, which is about 14 days to 21 days. So the horses, the grooms, the staff, the riders get used to the jetlag and get back into a routine.
INSKEEP: There must have been horses over time that were extraordinarily skilled but they just didn't travel well.
DUTTA: Absolutely, just like humans. Some people fall asleep just before takeoff on an airplane. And some people worry about and pray to God till they land. Most horses that travel around the world are used to it. But even though they are superstars, we do have some horses that do not like to travel, that our worriers. And we do all we can to make sure the stress level is little as possible.
INSKEEP: Some people will, of course, take a drug of one kind or another when they're flying. Do some of the horses get drugged?
DUTTA: It is the call of the team veterinarian. And if they need a mild sedative, which is equivalent to, say, a glass of champagne or two on the airplane, we certainly make sure that happens.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
DUTTA: And the job of us, on that call, is we want to get the horses there as safely and as relaxed as possible. We dim the lights inside the cabin of the airplane. The pilots are very skilled; they understand that we have very, very expensive precious horses on board. We sometimes reroute an airplane 15, 1,800 miles away just to beat the weather, so they don't have the trans-Atlantic bumps.
We do leave no stone unturned to get these expensive animals there as safe as possible.
INSKEEP: Tim Dutta is owner of the Dutta Corporation. He joined us from a stable in Wellington, Florida.
Thanks very much.
DUTTA: Thanks, Steve, best to you.
INSKEEP: Covering the world, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. You can follow us, by the way, on Facebook, Google Plus, and on Twitter. We're @morningedition and @nprinskeep.
I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
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