Pegasus for a Day: How the Olympic Horses and All Their Gear Get to Rio

Photo by Hippo Foto/Dirk Caremans. Photo by Hippo Foto/Dirk Caremans.

The first groups of Olympic horses have been arriving in Rio over the weekend from all corners of the world. Team USA took to the skies out of Miami, Fl. on Friday and we’re happy to report that the horses and riders have all arrived safely.

Getting the world’s top dressage, show jumping and eventing horses to the Olympic Games is no small undertaking. Besides the necessary delicate handling of live animals, there are thousands of pounds of baggage and gear to organize and transport, too.

The FEI’s Jon Stroud followed along to the London Stansted Airport as 34 Olympic event horses from ten nations were loaded onto an Emirates SkyCargo Boing 777-F and captured some awesome shots of the equestrian world’s most precious cargo settling in for the journey.

When it’s all said and done, more than 200 hundreds will have departed from London on nine different flights and make the 12 hour flight to the Rio International Airport en route to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park. More horses will fly from Liege Airport in Belgium.

By necessity, sending a horse 30,000 feet in the air and touching down in another part of the world is a highly organized affair. First things first, each horse must have a passport, microchip and health certificate, and a veterinarian will check them over carefully before they begin the loading process.

The FEI reports that each horse has an allocated baggage allowance by weight for feed, hay, bedding and equipment plus the weight of the horse itself. In their “stall,” the horses are allowed 40 litres (about 10 gallons) of water, a large haynet, a personal bucket and a small bag with a spare halter and rug.

The Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F aircraft is a freight plane especially equipped for equine transport. The Olympic horses are traveling two to a pallet in stalls that are 44 inches wide. The staff aboard the aircraft are trained to fly with horses and ensure their safety and well-being throughout the flight and of course there is a vet on board.

See you in Rio!

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