The horses heading to Rio won’t settle for cattle class. The 229 eventing horses representing 43 countries head to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park in first class style.
Last weekend, two of the nine planes — carrying equines from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China — set off on 11 hour and 40 minute flights from Stansted, UK, and Liege, Belgium. The other main transport hub is located in Miami.
The horses jetted off on a custom SkyCargo Boeing 777-F, complete with 3.5-foot wide stalls, with two horses per pallet, and a dedicated flight team known as Flying Grooms who ensure the animals’ welfare. Each horse is allowed a ‘"baggage allowance" of 660 pounds.
"The animals landed at the cargo terminal. But they don’t even touch the ground. They go directly from the plane to a sort of air barn that was installed on the platform. Then, they go straight on to special trucks that take them to Deodoro," said Mariana Sitta, the manager of Planning and Finance for the airport Rio Galeão.
The Deodoro area has been certified as a quarantine area and the horses will remain there until it’s time to fly home.
"Keeping the horses fit to compete is our main challenge. Their well-being is our priority," said Martin Atock, director of the Games’ official transportation company for the horses.
About 130 tons of food will arrive in Rio de Janeiro on the specially-designed planes. To ensure air flow and cabin temperature, the maximum number of horses allowed on a plane is 40.