(first appeared in the October 2014 issue of The Equiery)
By Katherine O. Rizzo
To most horse owners, the thought of shipping horses via plane either nationally or internationally seems, at best, a luxury or–at worst–a scary crazy idea. But with an average of 100 to 150 horses being flown weekly, The Dutta Corporporation is proving that air travel for horses is easier and safer than one might think (albeit still a luxury!).
Wings for Horses
J. Timothy Dutta founded The Dutta Corporation in 1988 to fill a void in the international transportation of horses. “Most airlines that ship horses are not run by horse people. We are unique in that we are fully staffed by horse people and understand the needs of our clients,” he said. These needs include everything: setting up vaccination schedules, filling out customs paperwork and even arranging transportation to and from the airport if needed. “We provide full-service global travel. We do it all if that is what they want. We are a true door-to-door transport company.”
The company can even provide “equine flight attendants” (i.e. grooms) to fly with horses if the owner does not have a qualified groom available. To ensure the safety of the horses while in flight, these equine flight attendants are trained to handle all kinds of air travel situations. The airline also has access to a network of FEI team veterinarians on call if needed.
“This is really what the perk was for me that made me choose Dutta Corp.,” explained international four-star rider Colleen Rutledge (Frederick). “Something went wrong with my paperwork on one trip and another a driver wasn’t there on time. I just called my contact at Dutta, who was right on top of it. They are the best kind of travel agents you could ask for!” Rutledge has used Dutta for all of her trips to Europe with her four-star horse Shiraz.
Dutta has offices in New York and Miami, Florida, where the East Coast U.S. import/export facilities are located. They also have offices in Amsterdam, England and Germany and are looking into expanding to South America. The airline flies horses to 16 places weekly, spanning six continents. Although their focus is on high-performance sport horses (such as those competing for the U.S. at this summer’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France), they will ship for anyone to almost anywhere.
And Dutta does not look at horses simply as freight! Just like human passengers have the option to fly coach, business or first class, so do horses flying on Dutta. Coach is, of course, the least expensive option with the horse in a single standing stall in a block of three. For Business Class, the dividers are moved around so that, instead of three standing stalls, there are two “roomy” stalls measuring about 45”x91”. And yes, there is a First Class option as well: all dividers are removed so that the horse has can move about a 68” x 91” stall.
Riders can travel with their horses as well. Horse equipment, such as all those driving carriages for WEG, can be shipped ahead of time or stored on the main deck cargo area. An average flight from New York to Europe costs about $7,500.
The Man Behind the Wings
Dutta came to the U.S. 31 years ago from his native India, where he had grown up with horses. He fell in love with the U.S. and decided to stay while he was pursuing show jumping. “I tried competing at a higher level but just didn’t get far,” he explained. “Horses are still my passion and I am fortunate to be able to have this company that shares this passion.”
Although he does not compete in show jumping any longer, he does continue to play polo. “I love it so much. And my son Timmy plays as well and sometimes we can play together depending on the handicapping, making it a great family affair.” Dutta’s wife Susan is an international dressage rider with a show stable in Wellington, Florida.
Dutta is committed to supporting the international equestrian community, which is why you will see The Dutta Corp. as sponsor of many of the U.S. team activities as well as at some of the top national competitions around the country. The Dutta Corp. is already on board to fly horses to Las Vegas next year for the World Cup Finals in show jumping and dressage, as well as flying the U.S. teams to Toronto for the Pan-American Games. Dutta also serves on the advisory committee of Just World International, which is an international non-profit that brings basic education, nutrition, health, hygiene and vocational programs to children in third-world countries.
“The world is getting flatter. What I mean by that is that horse sports around the globe are getting more and more popular and the quality of high-class shows is increasing year-round. Horsemen can now travel almost anywhere at any time in the season and compete on an international scale.”
A Perfect Fit
One such international venue that The Dutta Corp. supports is the Fair Hill International here in Maryland. When USEF Executive Director of Sports Programs Jim Wolf approached Dutta with the news that Dansko had pulled out of FHI, Dutta jumped on the opportunity to take over the title sponsorship for 2013. “It is a natural fit for us. Eventing is the ultimate horseman’s sport and many of the high-performance horsemen already give back to our company as well,” Dutta explained.
At first, it was just a one year deal, but Dutta was so impressed with the venue, the riders, the horses and the organizers that he immediately signed on for a multi-year sponsorship. “I was blown away by the warmth and hospitality of everyone I met!” said Dutta. “Fair Hill is one of the premier eventing facilities, a fabulous event, and I am very happy and proud to have our name stand behind it.”
In addition to providing funds to help improve the facility, The Dutta Corporation provided a free round-trip international flight to the winner of the 2013 CCI***, who happened to be their old client and friend Jan Byyny. For this year’s event, The Dutta Corp. is providing a giant scoreboard for the main arena. Could a jumbotron out on cross-country be next? Here’s hoping!