Tuesday, May. 21, 2024

Let The Games Begin: First Horses Touch Down In Tokyo


Thirty-six Olympic dressage horses landed in Japan on Wednesday. It was the first time horses have flown through Haneda, a waterfront airport that serves the greater Tokyo area.

“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.”

Horses Unload Tokyo

Thirty-six dressage horses arrived in Tokyo on July 14. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo

The 36 equine passengers will be representing 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. Additional horses will arrive Friday.

The horses traveled from Liège, Belgium, which has a special airport horse hotel, and flew on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, where they had a 90-minute stop to refuel and change crew, and then on to Tokyo.


Alan Davies prepares Charlotte Dujardin’s mount Gio for the flight. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo

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.


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.


Equine passports must be checked before horses load. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo

Business-Class Travel

The horses fly two per pallet, which is the equivalent of business class. Their comfort and safety is ensured by in-flight grooms and an on-board veterinarian. And, unlike two-legged passengers, the horses not only get their in-flight meals (including special meal requests of course) but are able to snack throughout the trip, on hay or haylage.

A total of 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The complex logistics for the massive airlift have been coordinated by transport agent Peden Bloodstock, which has been in charge of the Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960.

A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art, air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, transported the horses—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.


Horses Land Tokyo

Horses unloaded in Tokyo before loading onto vans to take them to Baji Koen, where the equestrian events will take place. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi

“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!”

Fast Flight Facts:

  • 18 hours 15 minutes: flight time Liege to Tokyo, with a touchdown in Dubai
  • 777-F: Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F (flight numbers EK9388 LGG-DXB, EK9442 DXB-HND)
  • 19 flying stables on-board
  • Dimensions of the flying stables: 317cms long, 244cms wide, 233cms high (10.4 feet long, 8 feet wide, 7.6 feet high)
  • 14-17° Celsius (57.2-62.6° Fahrenheit) – on-board temperature (57.2-62.6° Fahrenheit)
  • 36 dressage horses – teams from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal and host nation Japan, and individual horses from Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Morocco.
  • 22,700 kgs +/- (50,044 lbs +/-) total weight of horses flying from Liege
  • 630 kg is the average weight of a dressage horse (1390 lbs)
  • 13,500 kgs (2976 lbs) of horse equipment
  • 12,000 kgs (26,455 lbs) of feed (not including in-flight meals & snacks)
  • 40 liters of water per horse

British dressage rider Charlotte Fry loads hay for her mount Everdale before the flight. FEI/Leanjo de Koster

Total Transport Trivia Across Both Games

  • 247: total number of horses traveling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games
  • 78: total number of horses traveling to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games
  • 630 kg (1390lbs): average weight of a dressage horse; 515 kg (1135 lbs): average weight of an eventing horse; 610 kg (1345 lbs): average weight of a jumping horse
  • 14: total number of horse flights for the Tokyo Olympic Games
  • 5: total number of horse flights for the Tokyo Paralympic Games
  • 100,000 kgs (220,462 lbs): total weight of the horse equipment (including saddles, bridles, boots, bandages, blankets, longeing equipment, halters, grooming kits, shoes and studs, wheelbarrows and pitchforks)
  • 60,000 kgs (13,277 lbs): total feed weight (feed/haylage)
  • 185: total number of truck journeys between Haneda airport and the equestrian park at Baji Koen
Horses Depart Liege

The horses are loaded onto pallets before they are lifted into the aircraft. FEI/Leanjo de Koster

A record number of countries—50—will be competing in the equestrian events at the Tokyo Olympic Games following the introduction of new formats that limit teams to three members, meaning that more countries will have the opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage than ever before.

A total of seven countries will be fielding full teams in all three Olympic disciplines:  Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Sweden and the United States.


Steffi Wiegard with Isabell Werth’s mare Bella Rose 2. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo


Only one groom per team flew with the horses. The others headed to Tokyo to prepare for the horses’ arrival. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo


The horses flew with plenty of snacks. These buckets belonged to Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose 2 and Dorothee Schneider’s Showtime FRH

Groom Phone

A groom takes pictures of the transport process. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo

All At Once

Morocco’s Yessin Rahmouni loads All At Once in Liège, Belgium. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo

Horses Arrive Tokyo

Grooms await the first load of horses to arrive in Tokyo. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo


German Olympians (left) Dorothee Schneider and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl at the airport in Liège, Belgium. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo


Horse pallets waiting to be loaded onto the plane. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo

Horse Trailer

After an 18-plus-hour flight, the horses still had to travel to the Olympic stabling. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo


Belgian Olympian Domien Michiels arrives with his horse Intermezzo Van Het Meerda in Liège, Belgium. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo


A look inside the plane. FEI/Leanjo de Koster Photo


Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose 2 settled into her stall in Tokyo. FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi Photo



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