Great Britain’s dressage horses have landed safely in Tokyo ahead of the Olympic Games, which kick off at the end of this week.
All four horses (Carl Hester’s En Vogue, Charlotte Dujardin’s Gio, Lottie Fry’s Everdale and travelling reserve Gareth Hughes’ Sintano Van Hof Olympia) had to isolate for seven days prior to flying. They were quarantined at the British Showjumping National Training Centre in Leicestershire, with the exception of Everdale being quarantined at Aachen with the other European horses, as Lottie Fry is based in the Netherlands.
The horses were then transported by horsebox to Liege in Belgium, where their flight departed.
The horses were loaded into containers which are then moved onto the cargo aircraft, in this case a Boeing 777, the biggest twin engine aircraft in the world. A strict loading plan is followed, keeping stallions at the front, followed by geldings, with mares at the back of the plane.
With a stopover in Dubai, the flight from Liege to Haneda airport in Tokyo took 18 hours and 15 minutes in total.
“There are approximately 10 people on the flight,” said Henry Bullen, director at Peden Bloodstock. “On every flight there is a Peden professional groom. They fly with horses the entire time — that’s their job.
“We also have the national federation grooms, so some of them are the actual grooms of the horses. Then we’ve got vets from federations as well.”
Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin’s head groom, Alan Davies, accompanied the British horses.
“It’s quite a big responsibility,” he said. “I’ve got three horses that haven’t flown before, so I’ll be making sure they are happy, calm and relaxed.”
Once they landed in Tokyo, the horses were transported to the Equestrian Park. This is where they will be stabled for the duration of their stay and where all of the equestrian Olympic events take place, with the exception of the eventing cross-country, which will be held at Sea Forest cross-country course.
It is not just the logistics of transporting the horses that is required, but also for equipment too. There’s approximately 100,000kg of equipment and 60,000kg of this is horse feed.
It is not unusual for riders to fly separately from their horses; the Great British team flew out from Heathrow airport and arrived safely in Tokyo a few days later.
The dressage competition begins this Friday, 23rd July, with the first horse inspection. For the full Olympic Equestrian schedule, click here.