First Dressage Horses Land Safely in Japan

July 15, 2021 – Tokyo, Japan – For the first time in the history of Haneda International Airport, the third busiest in Asia, a full cargo load of horses touched down on its runway. Thirty-six dressage horses, including Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose and Charlotte Dujardin’s Gio flew into Japan Wednesday evening.

Photo by FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi

“To see these horses arriving at Haneda airport is a truly historic occasion, and what makes it even more special is that these are not simply horses, they are Olympic horses”, Administrator of Tokyo International Airport Takahashi Koji said. “It’s a really big night for the airport, and particularly for the cargo team, and we see it as one of the major milestones of the final countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

Alan Davies making Gio ready for transport to the Olympic Games in Tokyo from Liege – Belgium. Photo by FEI/Leanjo de Koster

The 36 equine passengers will be flying the flag for teams from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal and host nation Japan, as well as individuals from Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Morocco. And they will be joined by a further group of dressage stars flying into Tokyo Thursday before heading to the equestrian venue at Baji Koen, owned by the Japan Racing Association,.

The first Olympic flight out of Europe saw the horses traveling from Liege in Belgium, where there’s special airport horse hotel, flying on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, a 90-minute refuel and crew change and then on to Tokyo.

Great Britain’s Lottie Fry unloading the truck. Photo by FEI/Leanjo de Koster.

From a sustainability perspective, Emirates has implemented a number of initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions where operationally feasible, including its long-standing operation of flexible routings in partnership with air navigation service providers to create the most efficient flight plan for each flight. The airline, which operates one of the world’s youngest aircraft fleets, also uses advanced data analytics, machine learning and AI in its fuel monitoring and aircraft weight management programs.

Like human passengers, all horses travel with a passport. They will already have undergone a 60-day health surveillance period prior to a seven-day pre-export quarantine. They all also have an export health certificate and are thoroughly checked over by veterinarians prior to boarding.

Loading horses into the plane from Emirates. Photo by FEI/Leanjo de Koster

The horses fly two per pallet, and their comfort and safety is ensured by flying grooms and an on-board veterinarian. And, unlike two-legged passengers, the horses not only get their in-flight meals, but are able to snack throughout the trip on hay.

A total of 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo across the two Games and the complex logistics for this massive airlift have been coordinated by transport agents, Peden Bloodstock, which has been in charge of Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960 and is the Official Equine Logistics Partner of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). Peden Bloodstock became title partner of the FEI Best Athlete Award in 2019.

Dressage Horse of Convoy arrives at EQP from Haneda Airport in Tokyo,Japan. Photo by FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi

A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, transported the precious equine cargo – and 13,500 kilograms of equipment – on the final transfer from Haneda to Baji Koen where the equine superstars had the chance to settle into their Olympic Athlete Village, aka the stables.

“Like all the athletes arriving into Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the horses are honed and ready to compete on the sporting world’s biggest stage”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “After all the challenges the world has faced, finally we’re almost there and now it’s only a matter of days before we hear those magical words, let the Games begin!”

Dressage Groom Stefanie Wiegan (GER) greets Bella Rose at EQP having just arrived from Haneda Airport in Tokyo,Japan. Photo by FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi
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