The first Olympic horses are settling into their athletes’ village – the newly-built stables at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro – with Team New Zealand’s Ringwood Skyboy winning the opening heat of the Rio 2016 Games to be the first to set foot on Brazilian soil.
It’s not just the human athletes that are flying into Brazil for Rio 2016. The Olympic horses touched down at Rio de Janeiro Galeão International Airport just before midnight last night after a near-12 hour flight from London (GBR).
The 34 Eventing 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 Airport 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 (actually grooms), a drinks trolley (buckets) offering water (not fizzy) with a choice of mixers. Apple or carrot sir?
Vets are also on board to ensure the precious equine cargo arrived in tip-top form. Which is important, as these four-legged athletes mean business!
Nathan Anthony, team vet for the Australian Eventing squad, was one of the six vets that 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 with a police escort was really easy.”
Welcomed into Rio in the early hours of the morning, the horses were driven in specially kitted out trucks, complete with a full Federal highway police escort, under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer en route to the stables at the Olympic Equestrian Centre, where they rolled out the equine equivalent of a red carpet – black rubber matting!
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. And Chilli Morning, the stallion that Britain’s London 2012 team silver medalist William Fox-Pitt will ride in Rio, was sporting an equine baseball cap, complete with sheepskin lining.
One that let his natural beauty shine without any adornments was Leonidas II, the horse that legendary Kiwi Mark Todd will ride. The 60-year-old Todd, who took individual gold at Seoul 1984 and Los Angeles 1988, is contesting his seventh Olympics and also training the Brazilian team on the side.
This in-bound flight, the first of nine during the Olympic period, transported horses from Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China. And over the next couple of weeks, more than 200 horses from 43 nations will be arriving in Deodoro, ready to put in their bid for gold with their human partners in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines of Eventing, Dressage and Jumping.
How do horses get to the Rio Olympic Games?
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.