Megan Jones said she had planned to send Kirby Park Irish Jester (Festy) on the 30-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with a hay bale bag with a bale of wet hay, "so the front bars could come out once they were in the air and he could eat off the ground, so his head was down and nose was draining. This has worked very well for all of his very long flights he has done before."
However, Jones explained that the bars could not come out. Then, when the horses arrived for quarantine, she was told the boxes "were small and dingy and (the horses) were not walked at all. (Quarantine staff) wouldn't communicate to Bear (our team vet Denis Goulding) any details of how much they were eating or drinking. No-one was allowed in."
Some 12 hours into the quarantine it was reported that Festy's temperature had spiked "slightly", but no actual figure was given.
"By the time we got a figure, it was 40.3 - the damage was done. They gave him 10 litres of fluid when he should have gone on a drip all night," Jones said.
"By day 2, with the intervention of the FEI head vet, Bear was allowed in every 6 hours to walk Festy and treat him. His temperature came down and he stabilised."
By this time, the rest of the team except for one other horse, had flown out. The plan was to travel the pair on Saturday, but as there was no direct flight to Kentucky it would have meant a five-hour flight to Indianapolis, then a five-hour truck trip to Kentucky. "But knew we couldn't do that route with Festy - too much stress and he would probably get sick again," Jones said.
Festy was transferred to an Equine Hospital in Chino Hills, about an hour from LA, and was recovering, however an ultrasound revealed a small black patch on his lung.
Jones made the decision yesterday to withdraw from the team.
"Risking a trip and stress is not worth it. Festy is my left arm my right arm and my soul - I would do anything to keep him happy healthy and safe."
Festy heads to a nearby farm tomorrow to recover, and Jones will head to Kentucky next week to cheer the team on.
Atkins, 44, is based in Reddick, Florida. He owns Henry Jota Hampton, a nine-year-old Argentine Sport Horse (HJ Carapalida x Napoi Honorable). The pair were second last year at the Florida CCI**, and this year won an intermediate division at Rocking Horse (Florida) and were third in an advanced class at the same venue.