Getting one horse to an event at your local competition venue requires a fair amount of kit and logistical planning. So how about loading 40 of the world’s top sport horses onto a plane for the FEI World Cup finals for dressage and jumping in Las Vegas (15-19 April 2015)?

On Saturday (11 April) a hugely valuable cargo was loaded onto the Qatar Airways B777 aircraft at Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands — including dressage royalty Valegro (pictured below with his groom Alan Davies).

Valegro-SCHI15X0772

“We estimate there’s about €150 million worth of horses on the flight,” said Tim Dutta, the man in charge of transporting these elite equine athletes from Europe to America.

“Horses are just like you and me,” he said. “Some fall asleep before departure and snooze most of the way, and others start praying from the minute they take off and don’t stop until they’ve landed! But the majority of them are like seasoned CEOs, they’ve flown so many times that they just take it all in their stride.”

Flying horses to Las Vegas: facts and figures

  • The horses were looked after by a team of 10 grooms, under the supervision of the Dutch vet Jan-Hein Swagemakers who works with the German showjumping team.
  • Each horse is allocated “a stall and a half” in the cargo hold. “We like to keep them together by country,” says Tim. “There are two horses per box and it’s a business-class service. We pay attention to each horse’s little idiosyncrasies and requirements — do they like wet hay, or not? Do we use sea salt to encourage them to drink?”
  • In all the horses spent 11 hours and 20 minutes in the air.
  • The temperature on the flight was 17 degrees.
  • There were 24 geldings, nine stallions and seven mares on board. 26 of these were showjumpers  and 14 were dressage horses.
  • 11 pallets of equipment were checked in — including tack, blankets and boots — weighing almost 12,000kg.
  • On board dining included 120 pre-packed haynets, ad lib water (with optional sea salt), oat bran for mash, mixed feed, carrots and apples.

Stay up to date with the action from Las Vegas World Cup Finals on HorseandHound.co.uk and don’t miss our full report in Horse & Hound magazine, 23 April issue