Written by Andrea Evans and Glenye Oakford, US Equestrian Communications Department. This story was originally published by US Equestrian.


U.S. Dressage riders Laura Graves and Kasey Perry-Glass were among the “flying grooms” accompanying horses as they jetted to the FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, Nebraska.

The event will take place at the CenturyLink Center Omaha March 29-April 2; Graves’s mount Verdades and Perry-Glass’s ride Goerklintgaards Dublet both arrived at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield on March 27. The two were on the same three-hour flight that departed out of Palm Beach International Airport. The Dutta Corp., which has been flying horses for 28 years, handled the charter flight and leased the plane for this trip from Tex Sutton Forwarding Company.

“The more times you fly with your horse, the more accustomed they become, and it makes me less stressed,” explained Graves, a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. Dressage Team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “The first time, I was really super-nervous, but now that I know how he flies, I really look forward to it.

“They take such good care of the horses,” she added. “Hopefully, everything is just a piece of cake. It’s really well organized, and it feels good knowing that if something were to happen, that you are there. Going into such a big event, I like to have eyes on my horse.”

Graves has been flying with “Diddy” since 2014, and the pair have shared many journeys.

“The way we are with our horses, we like to be with them whenever it’s permitted,” she said of herself and her fellow riders who fly. “But for me, especially with this horse, he can be really jumpy and extremely nervous, and he has no self-preservation. So if he were pushed into a situation and had a bad experience, he could potentially do some damage to himself, either mentally or physically.”

Graves said she talks to the sensitive 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding a lot on their travels, which helps keep him relaxed and happy.

And Graves has one definite must-pack for travels with Diddy.

“Food, even though he normally ends up wanting his neighbor’s food!” she said. “When we pack, whatever you think is too much hay, you double it. Because God forbid you should get stuck somewhere.”

Before you fly with your horse for the first time, Graves has this advice: “Ask a lot of questions. You get trained to be a groom and you learn about the safety of the plane and all of that, and that is very important. But ask your friends who have flown: what do I bring? What do your horses like? If you’re not flying with a professional groom, make sure you have a medical emergency bag. Make sure that you stay calm in emergency situations, because even though you hopefully don’t have a big emergency, sometimes horses do panic, and you have to stay cool and make the safest choices for all of the horses and often take care of horses that are not your own. Just know that people are trusting you with that.”

To watch the loading process, check out our exclusive, behind-the-scenes video on Facebook.