Precious cargo: horses fly ‘business class’ to the Tokyo Olympics

  • Flying horses to the Olympics is a mammoth undertaking and the first equine athletes have already arrived at the Olympic equestrian venue in Tokyo with plenty more to follow.

    The horses fly the equivalent of business class, with two horses in each “stable” or crate. Grooms and vets are on hard to ensure all their needs are catered for during the flight. Then on arrival they are chauffeured from the airpoint to their own “Olympic village” via air-conditioned lorries designed for moving horses in comfort.

    Thirty-six Olympic dressage horses flew into Japan last night (14 July) – the first full cargo load of horses ever to land in Haneda, the waterfront airport that serves the greater Tokyo area.

    This historic flight was responsible for bringing a number of equine superstars to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, among them Bella Rose, the mare ridden by Germany’s Isabell Werth, and as well as the British horses.

    Flying horses to Olympics

    The first Olympic flight out of Europe saw the horses travelling from Liege in Belgium, flying on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, where the plane underwent a 90-minute refuel and crew change before flying on to Tokyo.

    The horses have undergone a 60-day health surveillance period prior to a seven-day pre-export quarantine. They all have an export health certificate and have been thoroughly checked over by vets prior to boarding.

    The horses travel two per pallet (or flying stable if you prefer), which measure just over three meters long, by almost two and a half meters wide and over two meters high. The horses’ comfort and safety is ensured by flying grooms and an on-board vet.

    A total of 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo across the two Games and the complex logistics for this massive airlift have been coordinated by transport agents, Peden Bloodstock, which has been in charge of Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960.

    A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, are transporting the equine cargo – and 13,500kg of equipment – on the final transfer from Haneda to Baji Koen where the stables are located.

    Olympic horse flights in numbers

    • 18 hours 15 minutes – flight time Liege to Tokyo, with a touchdown in Dubai
    • Aircraft detail: Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F (flight numbers EK9388 LGG-DXB, EK9442 DXB-HND)
    • 19 flying stables (pallets) on-board
    • Dimensions of the flying stables: 317cms long, 244cms wide, 233cms high
    • 14-17° Celsius – the on-board temperature on the flight
    • 36 dressage horses – including team horses for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal and host nation Japan, and individual horses representing Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Morocco.
    • 22,700kgs +/- total weight of horses flying from Liege
    • 13,500kgs of horse equipment
    • 12,000 kgs of feed
    • 40 litres of water per horse

    Total transport numbers across both Games

    247 – total number of horses travelling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games

    78 – total number of horses travelling to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games

    14 – total number of horse flights for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

    5 – total number of horse flights for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

    100,000kg – total weight of the horse equipment

    60,000kg – total feed weight (feed/haylage)

    185 – total number of truck journeys between Haneda airport and the equestrian park at Baji Koen

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