EVER WONDER HOW all the horses got to RIO?

Several years ago, I wrote about how the Olympic horses traveled to their destinations.

Well, as time has passed, technology has grown.  I find this complex job fascinating!

Here are two current articles.  One from EVENTING CONNECT and the other from Carrie Waltemeyer.  Plus, I found a video of horses flying on AIR HORSE ONE!


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Click to go to the original story.

Click to go to the original story.

How are the horses travelling to Rio?

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 organized 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 civilized 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.

FEI press release


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Around 200 horse and rider combinations will fly to Rio for the Olympic Games.

As athletes converge on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games, a special group of competitors are taking an unexpected journey to Rio.

Roughly 200 horses will fly to Brazil to compete in equestrian dressage, eventing, and show jumping. The sport is contested at the Deodoro Equestrian Centre, roughly 20 kilometers from the Olympic Village. But before they can compete, the horses must get to Rio.


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“[Horses] have to go through customs, their gear needs to go through TSA and get certified so that it’s clear to fly, which means they’ve gone through a bomb chamber or drug detection unit,” says Tim Dutta, whose company will transport the U.S. Olympic equestrian team.

“Horses have passports just like human beings. Once all of these have gone through the checks, we load the horse in the jet stall and then bring them to the airplane.”

Jet stalls can fit one to three horses, making accommodations similar to choosing between flying first class or economy.

A groomer leads a horse out of a jet stall.
A groomer leads a horse out of a jet stall. Credit: Richard Picken

How do Olympic horses fly? “Only business class,” says Dutta, “These are the best of the best in the world and they’re incredibly valuable and nothing but the best is used for them.”

Horses travel with in-flight groomers and veterinarians to ensure that they stay as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

“My role is to make sure that there’s no problems,” says Richard Picken, a U.S. groomer who estimates that he’s flown with over 1,000 horses in the past fifteen years. “Once you’re up in the air at 36,000 feet there’s not a lot you can do,” says Picken.

In-flight groomers travel with horses to ensure the animals are healthy and safe.
In-flight groomers travel with horses to ensure the animals are healthy and safe. Credit: Richard Picken

In-flight dining options for horses include hay and water with apple juice. But business class seats and high-end dining come at a cost.

“I would say you’re probably looking at, round trip, about $20,000 a horse,” Dutta estimates of a flight from Miami to Rio, the route the U.S. eventing team will take to the Games.

While the cost may seem steep, equestrians are left with few other options. Traveling by boat would take weeks and would make competition nearly impossible for horses.

“They’d lose their fitness,” Picken says. “Like an athlete in a hotel room for three weeks and then going out and told to run the 100m. It’d be impossible.”

“Horses are athletes at the end of the day and flying them is the quickest way to get there and the safest.”


This video is for horses showing in the US… imagine the lack of stress in a 3 hour ride versus a few days…  Wow.

Click image to watch the video of Air Horse ONE.

Click image to watch the video of Air Horse ONE.

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Such luxury but also LACK OF STRESS for high level show horses.


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