How do horses get to the Rio Olympic Games?

29th Jul 2016

By plane of course!

The first group of Olympic horses departed from London Stansted Airport (GBR) today (29 July) on a special cargo plane bound for Rio 2016, marking the start of the Olympic dream for the world’s best equine athletes.

With 34 horses from 10 nations on board, the equine cargo worth multiple millions, was loaded into customized pallets for the almost 12-hour flight aboard an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F which was organised by Peden Bloodstock left the UK at 15.20 BST.

Eventing horses from Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China are on board Friday’s flight out of Stansted, the first of nine shipments delivering more than 200 horses to Rio International Airport, en route to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park.

This highly complex operation involves three hubs in Europe and America: Stansted (GBR), Liege (BEL) and Miami (USA). The competing horses and their riders will represent 43 nations from around the globe in the Olympic disciplines of Dressage, Jumping and Eventing.

The question is, do horses get air miles?

Stansted flight facts:

  • Estimated flight time Stansted – Rio: 11 hours 40 mins
  • Aircraft detail: Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F
  • 17,500 kgs of horses flying from Stansted
  • 515kg is the average weight of an Eventing horse (630kg is the average weight of a Dressage horse and 610kg for Jumping horses)
  • 9,900kg of horse equipment
  • 6,000 kg of feed (doesn’t include feed they’ll eat on the flight)
  • 40 litres of water per horse
  • 34 Eventing horses – representing Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China

 

Did you know:

Baggage allowance: Just like human flights, each equine passenger has an allocated baggage allowance, by weight – however this includes the horse itself! Plus water, hay, 30kg shavings as bedding, water buckets, feed buckets, tack bags (for saddles and bridles), rugs and any spare equipment.

Each horse is also allowed: 1 large haynet, water and his or her own personal bucket, and a small overnight bag with a spare headcollar (halter) and rug, in case it gets chilly.

In-flight entertainment: What are the horses’ favourite in-flight movies? The Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, Seabiscuit, National Velvet and its sequel International Velvet.

In-flight meals and drinks – bran mash (a bit like porridge) before they get on the flight, then hay and water throughout the flight. Some like apple juice in their water to make it a bit tastier

Passports: Every horse has a passport but, unlike human athletes, they must be microchipped to travel. They all also have an export health certificate.

In-flight wear: Horses, like people, like to travel in comfort. Some may wear a light rug but generally wear as little as possible to stay cool and comfortable. Most will wear protective leg gear – a bit like flight socks!

Check-in: Flights are a carefully orchestrated operation though Peden Bloodstock, so check-in is a very civilised affair, no fighting for the best seats! All have arrival slots at the airport so that vet checks can be carried out, and loading follows a specific planned order to place all passengers in the right part of the plane.

First Class/Business/Economy: All Olympic horses travel in style, in 112cm wide stalls, with two horses per pallet – the human equivalent of business class. This gives them plenty of room to feel comfortable, but there is the option to upgrade to first class.

Cabin crew: Specially trained staff fly with the horses, looking after their welfare, comfort and safety. They are known as Flying Grooms.

Stallions at the front: Stallions travel at the front of the plane so they aren’t distracted on-flight by the mares.

Is there a doctor on board? This is never an issue if you’re a flying horse, there are always vets on board to ensure happiness and comfort throughout.

Aircraft facts: The horses fly on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F aircraft – this is a freight plane, and one especially equipped for the safe and comfortable transport of horses. It has custom-designed horse stalls and controlled temperature zones to ensure maximum comfort and minimal stress for the horses and comes complete with trained and experienced expert personnel who know how to handle horses to safeguard their welfare.