Even those of us who didn’t watch the Rio Olympics and Paralympics couldn’t fail to be impressed by the likes of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, or humbled by Paralympians like Ibrahim Hamato, Sarah Storey and Daniel Dias. But let’s spare a thought for equine superstars like Valegro, Weihegold OLD, Rio and Big Star. These magnificent horses helped their riders win gold (although they don’t get a medal, just a rosette!).
Of course, to get the world’s greatest sporting event, they and most of the three hundred other horses had to board a plane. As you can imagine, transporting top competition horses, worth multiple millions, to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park is a highly complex operation.
No roundabouts or potholes, and a generous luggage allowance
But if you think that flying is much harder on the horses than being transported by truck, think again. Nathan Anthony, team vet for the Australian Eventing squad, believes that flying is actually easier on the horses. As long as there’s no turbulence, it’s a lot less bumpy and there are no roundabouts or sharp bends to contend with.
Many aspects of flying are actually quite similar for both horses and humans. Horses need passports, have to go through check-in procedures, and mustn’t exceed their ‘luggage allowance’. Perhaps the biggest difference is the segregated seating arrangement - stallions always travel at the front of the plane so they aren’t distracted on-flight by the mares.
Specially designed container stalls for safety and comfort
Loading and take off is perhaps the trickiest aspect of transporting horses by air. The horses are loaded into specially designed stalls on the ground and then levered up into the plane. This is when they are most likely to get spooked, which can result in an injury. That’s why these aircraft container stalls have special features such as:
- Front and rear ramps for uni-directional loading and unloading;
- A kick door with rubber padding;
- Impact-resistance side panels;
- A rubber floor for extra grip;
- Extendable sniffer boards that act as a barrier.
Once safely installed, they can relax, drink, eat and sleep whenever they want. In fact, the horses often arrive much more refreshed than the professional grooms who accompany them. Although many of the horse transport stalls can accommodate three horses, all these Olympians travelled in pairs to give them more leg room (yes, it’s not just us who appreciate the extra space on a long haul flight). Good that the aircraft horse stables of VRR can be transformed from accomodating three horses to two and even to one in just a few minutes. We love to keep them comfortable.
Only the best stalls for our equine athletes
We’re very proud of the fact that every horse stall used to transport all the horses to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics was built by VRR in Rotterdam. These horse stalls ensure maximum comfort and minimal stress for the horses. They also provide a safe working area for the professional grooms, and are certified and approved by EASA and FAA.
Just another great reason why VRR is considered number one in certified high quality horse stables.