The first Olympic horses have touched down on Brazilian soil, a week before the opening ceremony takes place.
A flight carrying 34 event horses from 10 nations landed at Rio de Janeiro Galeão International Airport just before 12am today, with New Zealand travelling reserve Tim Price’s ride Ringwood Sky Boy the first to set foot in the country.
They are now settling into their own Olympic village; the newly-built stables at the Olympic equestrian centre in Deodoro.
As well as nearly 17,500kg of horses, the flight left London Stansted airport carrying 9,900kg of equipment, 6,000kg of feed, not including that to be eaten en route, and 40 litres of water per horse.
An FEI spokesman said: “The horses may have been on a cargo plane, but it was a specially designed Emirates Boeing SkyCargo 777-F, and they all flew business class.
“And there’s no need for flat beds as horses sleep standing up, but that doesn’t stop some of them asking for extra legroom!
“Just like the human athletes, they had to go through passport control (and a health check) at London Stansted before boarding with their carry-on luggage and check-in bags.
“Sporting the equine equivalent of flight socks (leg bandages), they received the full business class treatment, with special meals delivered by flight attendants (grooms), a drinks trolley (buckets) offering water (not fizzy) with a choice of mixers. Apple or carrot sir?”
Nathan Anthony, team vet for the Australian eventing squad, was one of six vets who flew with the horses.
“Flying is actually easier on the horses than going by truck,” he said.
“The only slightly difficult bit is the take-off, after that there are no bumps in the air. And we had a great captain on board who made the landing nice and smooth, and then the transfer to the Olympic stables was really easy.”
The horses were driven in “specially kitted-out trucks”, accompanied by a police escort, to the Olympic stables.
“Some of the equine stars clearly thought they were on a catwalk, with Zimbabwean horse Sam The Man strutting his stuff in a very fetching compression suit, colourfully emblazoned with his national flag,” added the FEI spokesman.
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“And Chilli Morning, the stallion Britain’s London 2012 team silver medallist William Fox-Pitt will ride in Rio, was sporting an equine baseball cap, complete with sheepskin lining.”
The flight, the first of nine during the Olympic period, transported horses from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China.
Over the coming days, more than 200 horses from 43 nations will be arriving in Deodoro.