The Olympic Games will begin in one week in Tokyo – a year behind schedule because of the COVID pandemic. One of the 46 sports on display will be equestrian, which is divided into three disciplines: dressage, which highlights the elegant ballet-like moves of the horse and rider, jumping and a triathlon of sorts that includes the first two disciplines plus a cross-country test.

Getting the equestrian teams and all their equipment to the Olympic Games is an enormous undertaking and the air cargo industry plays a critical role.

A total of 325 horses will be flown to Tokyo for the Olympics and the Paralympics, according to the International Equestrian Federation. The logistics is being coordinated by Peden Bloodstock, which has been doing this work since 1960 and works closely with airlines. 

The cargo division of Dubai-based Emirates is operating eight charter flights on Boeing 777 freighters to fly 247 horses from Liege, Belgium, to Tokyo. The first flight with 36 dressage horses landed Thursday at Haneda airport in Tokyo. 

Horses being loaded on an Emirates SkyCargo freighter at Liege Airport. (Photo: Flickr/Fédération Equestre Internationale)

Emirates SkyCargo is flying 131 specially designed horse stalls in the large 777s to keep the horses comfortable during their journey. There are two horses per flying stable, which is their version of business class. In addition, 59 grooms will fly with the horses on the eight flights to ensure they are well cared for, fed and watered during the journey, which includes a brief stopover in Dubai. 

Emirates will transport 20 tons of inflight food and drink for the horses along with 100 tons of special equipment.

Horses travel with passports, just like humans. They will already have undergone a 60-day health surveillance period prior to a seven-day pre-export quarantine. They also have an export health certificate and are thoroughly checked over by veterinarians prior to boarding.

A convoy of 11 air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, transported the first shipment of four-legged cargo  –  and 29,800 pounds of equipment – on the final leg from the airport to the equestrian venue, the International Equestrian Federation said.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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