With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) being held outside of Europe for the first time in its history, 499 horses are being flown to Kentucky, USA, this week.

This is the largest number of horses ever airlifted for a single event.

Belgium is the departure hub for the British, and the majority of the European horses, with 445 departing from Liege airport between 16 and 29 September.

They will travel on 10 separate charter flights, with an in-flight crew of approximately 24 — made up of vets, professional flight grooms and attendants — provided by Peden Bloodstock, who arranged the charters.

The majority of the horses will be flying in business class — two horses to a container, while some will be in economy class (three to a container) and one undisclosed competitor will be flying first class and have the container to itself.

Pilots have been briefed to give their cargo the smoothest ride possible on the nine-hour flight, employing a more gradual climb on take-off and slower braking during landing.

“Once in the air, the flight is generally smoother than on the road, unless of course, there is the odd patch of turbulence,” says Henry Bullen, director of Peden Bloodstock.

A further 19 horses will be flying in from Australasia and 35 from South America.

Upon arriving in Cincinnati airport, USA, the horses will spend 42 hours in quarantine near the airport, before being transported by road for 90 minutes to the Kentucky Horse Park.