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Olympic Horse, Rider Arrive Early in Athens

Olympic Horse, Rider Arrive Early in Athens

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Shelley Osterloh reportingSome of our athletes are already headed overseas for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Getting there early gives athletes a chance to acclimate, and that is especially important if you are a four legged athlete.

One of the local athletes we're following is a horse.

The horse, named Brentina, and her rider, Debbie McDonald, are both from Sun Valley, Idaho. But they are already in Europe, competing in Germany and getting used to time change.

You might think it would be difficult to send a horse to Athens, but 13-year old Brentina is used to traveling. Her passport --- that's right, a horse with passport --shows she has traveled the world with her teammate, Debbie McDonald.

Debbie McDonald, Olympic Dressage: "It's actually easier for them to fly than it is to do it by land, less stress and they travel much better."

Internationally, the horses usually fly KLM --- but in the U.S., it's Federal Express.

Debbie McDonald: "Which is always humorous for most people to heart that you are Fed-Exing your horse to the East Coast."

McDonald says Brentina flies untranquilized inside a large container-like pallet.

Debbie McDonald: "The first few times she was a little nervous about the whole thing. But now she flies so much she actually knows the sound of the engines for take off and landing, and adjusts her weight accordingly."

And she doesn't travel light. There's a lot of blankets and bridles, and the groomer always has treats.

Debbie McDonald: "They get their hay and water and Reuben always travels with peppermints and apples and carrots and all sorts of goodies."

McDonald and her teammate have trained together for ten years. Now at age 50, McDonald is arguably the best Dressage rider in America.

"This is something I have worked for for a long time. As you can tell, this is an age friendly sport. I'm hoping that this is finally my shot at doing that. So I'm very excited and it means everything to represent the United States."

Debbie McDonald and her husband live in Hailey, Idaho, where they train as well as teach young riders.

US Equestrain -- the governing body for the sport -- recently had a fundraiser and in an open auction three different bidders each paid $80,000 to come and train with her in Sun Valley after the games.

We'll be telling you alot more about her in a couple of weeks when we report live from Athens.

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