More than 300 horses will be flown to Tokyo for the Games to participate in equestrian events. But how do you get a horse to travel from one country to another? Do they also need passports?
When the postponed Tokyo Olympics kick off in Japan in a few days, it will be an unusual occasion. Not only will local fans not be present at the Games largely behind closed doors, but international spectators will also be absent.
Given the state of emergency in many prefectures in Japan, including Tokyo, only limited staff will travel to the capital of Japan from all over the world. This selective group will include athletes, coaches and other administrative staff, match officials, journalists… and horses.
More than 300 horses will be flown to Tokyo for the Games to participate in equestrian events. But how do you get a horse to travel from one country to another? Do they also need passports? First message explains:
How to make a horse fly
Transporting a horse from one country to another can be done the same way humans fly: airplanes. Only, in the case of horses, they fly in spaces much more spacious than the cramped seats of economy class passengers. Depending on the equestrian event in which the horse will compete, it can weigh between 500 kg and 600 kg (eventing horses are the lightest while dressage horses are the bulkier).
The horses are loaded into stalls, which are then loaded into the holds of large cargo planes. The stalls are equipped with hay or haylage and water.
“Horses are very, very hardworking, you can put them on a flight or in trucks. Some horses travel more easily than others. Some don’t like it, but there are ways to get around it and make them feel comfortable. Flying horses are very expensive. They are heavy and large animals, and they need a lot of care, especially on flights, ”said Fouaad Mirza, the only Indian competitor in the equestrian events at the Tokyo Olympics. First post Last year.
This is why, to accompany the horses, there are grooms, who take care of the horses and put them at ease, and veterinarians, who are there to take care of the four-legged passengers in case of illness. .
Mirza admitted to being nervous ahead of the Asian Games by loading Lord Medicott onto the pallet that was loaded on the flight to Jakarta in 2018. “But he was very calm and it didn’t bother him at all.”
“The transport of horses, at least before the coronavirus pandemic, was pretty easy. Horses flew around the world every two weeks to compete. Having said that, there was a lot of logistics that was involved. “
Do horses have passports?
Yes! A horse passport has an identification page containing details of the markings and where the horse was born. The passport contains details of the vaccines they have taken.
“The only thing different about a horse’s passport is that it has a record of its flu shots, booster shots, and tetanus shots. The vaccinations page must be up to date before the horse is allowed to leave a country or enter a country. This is mainly for disease control. Because these horses are traveling from different countries, you don’t want them to pass disease from one to the other that has never had the disease before and that can cause an outbreak there, ”said Mirza. .
Bio-bubbles and 60-day movement record
The logistics of organizing the equestrian events for the Tokyo Olympics are breathtaking.
According to the International Equestrian Federation, the international governing body of equestrian sport, 247 horses will be in action at the Olympics while at the Paralympic Games – which have only one event, para-equestrian dressage – 78 horses will be in action. competition. All of these will be flown to and from Tokyo in special flights — 20 according to the FEI.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, bio-secure bubbles have become the standard for hosting sports competitions. The Tokyo Olympics will be no different. For horses flying to Tokyo, they will need to be kept in mandatory quarantine for a week before flying away.
Not only that, riders were also asked to maintain a 60-day pre-export movement record for horses airlifted to Tokyo. During these 60 days horses can only be based in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Chile, Japan, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom United, United States of America and all member countries of the European Union (EU).
“Every horse traveling to Tokyo is in very good health. We have to watch their temperature, their movement. They must be checked regularly by veterinarians. The horses will be quarantined in Germany for seven days before being exported to Japan, ”Mirza recently told reporters at a virtual press conference hosted by the Sports Authority of India.
Riders can train with the horse when they are in quarantine in Germany. Once in Japan, the horses will have to live in another bio-bubble.
“Once in Japan, their temperatures will be monitored regularly. Their vaccination status will be checked. They will be kept in a bubble in Tokyo. The quarantine area where the horses will be kept will be free from other animals. This is so that there is no risk of transmitting diseases to horses, ”said Mirza. “They don’t have to quarantine themselves in Tokyo. They will fly from one bubble in Germany to another in Tokyo. The competition site in Tokyo will be a quarantine area. “
Fouaad will travel to Tokyo with a three-member team. The groom, who will take care of the horse, and a veterinarian. Then there will also be a physiotherapist – for the horse.
His trainer, Sandra Auffarth, will also be in Tokyo – competing for Germany.
“It is normal for runners to have coaches who still participate in events. I don’t think it changes anything. At the end of the day, we are competitors who compete against each other in any role. At this point most of the training is done at home, ”said Mirza, giving the example of Mark Todd, who coached the Brazilian team while competing under the New Zealand flag at Rio 2016.