First Horse Through the Door of America’s New Equine Import Center is a Young Rider’s Dream

Saturday, September 9, 2017
Posted by Lynndee Kemmet

Courtesy of Marcie Miller

Parker Miller and Sandy (Photo: Marcie Miller)

New York, New York – Young event rider Parker Miller’s future dream horse arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport (“JFK”) in New York on September 1 as the first guest to walk through the door of America’s newest USDA-approved equine import quarantine center.

The ARK at JFK (“The ARK”), an animal import/export center located in Cargo Building 78A, directly on the airside ramp, at JFK, is now open for quarantine of imported horses and livestock. Beginning January 2, 2017, The ARK could accommodate other animals being imported or exported, but only provided export services for horses. That all changed when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved The ARK for import quarantine just before the Labor Day weekend.

Among the first group of imported horses to walk into The ARK was Miller’s new partner, a seven-year- old Irish Sport horse mare named Superstorm Sandy. It was perhaps fitting that the mare landed at JFK, located on Long Island where Hurricane Sandy, often referred to as Superstorm Sandy, struck with such force in 2012.

Miller, a 16-year- old event rider from Georgia who is now based in Ocala, Florida, first saw the mare in England at the barn of Olympic event rider Blythe Tait. Miller purchased the mare from international eventer Lizzie Brown. “We traveled throughout Ireland and England in search of just the right partner for me. From the first moment I sat on Sandy, I just knew she was just the ride I was looking for,” Miller said.

The young rider trains with Canadian Olympic eventer Kyle Carter. From The ARK, Superstorm Sandy will travel to Maryland for two weeks of CEM quarantine at Rigbie Farm before heading to Florida to be based at Carter’s Five Ring Stable, which Carter operates with his wife Jennifer.  

Miller has been competing in the equestrian sport of eventing for several years and has already made her way into international competition. She has competed several times in the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in which she earned a Team Silver Medal last year. She is finishing her high school studies through online courses so that she can have the flexibility to focus on training. “My long-term goal is to go as far as I can in the sport, hopefully to the Olympics.”

Superstorm Sandy will help Miller fulfill those aspirations. The horse has already competed successfully at the one-star level in the sport of eventing. “She is what I need at this time,” Miller said. “She has already shown the talent to go further and is still young enough to move up the levels of the sport. She has all of that and is yet very rideable for me.”

Superstorm Sandy was imported by Horse America, a subsidiary of Brook Ledge Horse Transportation. Horse America handles international transport of horses and Brook Ledge will be doing the ground transport of Superstorm Sandy to Florida. Scarlette Gotwals, DVM, operations manager for Horse America, said she chose to use The ARK as the import quarantine center because of its high-quality care.

“Horse America and Brook Ledge have a long history of shipping premium horses and we were looking for a facility that provides an exceptional standard of care,” Gotwals said. “We believe in treating all horses with the best care. We can have American Pharoah on a truck but every horse on that truck will get the same top care. Our customers mostly want peace of mind and The ARK helps provide that.”

Currently, there are only four airport locations in the U.S. that accept horses for import – JFK, Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare and Miami International. Other airports may only accept horses for special events and with special permit. Previously, horses arriving at JFK in New York had to unload from the airplane and be reloaded onto trailers for a two-hour trip to the existing quarantine facility in Newburgh, New York (NYAIC).

“That creates more stress on the horses because they get off the plane and then have this trailer ride. With The ARK, they get off the plane and go right into stalls and can start to decompress,” Gotwals said. “And, The ARK is very comfortable for the horses. It’s climate controlled and has an excellent standard of care that goes above and beyond what one normally finds in an import center. The ARK will definitely become my place to go for the sort of clients with which I deal.”

Miller’s mother, Marcie Miller, said Superstorm Sandy is important to her daughter and she was pleased to learn the horse would be housed at The ARK upon arrival. “We are so excited that she has the opportunity to be one of the first horses to be housed at this state-of- the-art facility.  We have complete confidence that Sandy will be very comfortable and well-cared for at this new facility.”  

For her part, Parker Miller is just happy that her new eventing partner has made it safely to the U.S. and will soon be joining her in Florida. “Importing a horse has been a new process for us,” said the young rider. “I’m looking forward to the start of my partnership with Sandy and I’m hoping that we’ll do our first competition together later this fall or early in the winter.”