• Christine Keate

First Olympic dressage horses arrive in Tokyo

Olympic dressage horses arrive at Haneda airport, Tokyo

The first 36 international horses have arrived safely in Tokyo amid great excitement – they are the very first full cargo of horses ever, to fly into Tokyo Haneda airport and, as airport administrator Takahashi Koji said. “It is a really big night for the airport and particularly for the cargo team, we see it as one of the major milestones of the final countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

Horse pallets ready to load at Leige

In total 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, travelling two per pallet or, flying stable. They are accompanied by flying grooms and an on-board vet. The complex logistics of this huge effort is coordinated by transport agents, Peden Bloodstock, who have been in charge of Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960. They are the Official Equine Logistics Partner of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), global governing body for equestrian sport.

Positioning the pallets for flight; In flight snacks; Unloading at Baji Koen

From the airport the first arrivals were transported - along with their 13.500kg of supplies and equipment, directly to the Baji Koen equestrian park in Setagaya, in a convoy of 11 state-of-the-art air-conditioned lorries. Baji Koen is a public park owned by the Japan Racing Association.

It was also the venue for dressage at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. Now fully refurbished for 2020, Baji Koen will host dressage, show jumping and two of the three eventing phases. Course designer, Derek di Grazia (USA), has spent five years creating the eventing cross country course on what was previously a landfill site on the waterfront at Sea Forest, where equestrians share the venue with Olympic rowing and canoeing.

Flying horses: stats for this first journey!

  • Cargo: 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

  • Flight time Liege to Tokyo, with a touchdown in Dubai; 18 hours 15 minutes

  • 19 flying stables on-board; each 317cms long, 244cms wide, 233cms high

  • On-board temperature 14-17° Celsius

  • Total weight of horses flying from Liege 22,700kgs approx

  • 13,500kgs of horse equipment

  • 12,000 kgs of feed

  • 40 litres of water per horse

Alan Davies prepares Gio for the flight to Tokyo

Flying horses: stats for both Games

  • 247: total number of horses travelling to Tokyo for the Olympic Games

  • 78: total number of horses travelling to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games

  • 630kg: average weight of a dressage horse; 515kg average weight of an eventer; 610kg: average weight of a showjumper

  • 14: total number of horse flights for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

  • 5: total number of horse flights for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

  • 100,000kgs: total weight of the horse equipment (including saddles, bridles, boots, bandages, rugs, lungeing equipment, headcollars, grooming kits, shoes & studs, wheelbarrows & pitch forks)

  • 60,000kgs: total feed weight

  • 185: total number of truck journeys between Haneda airport and the equestrian park at Baji Koen

What else might be interesting to know about the 2020 Olympic Games?

A record number of 50 countries will be competing in the equestrian events. The introduction of the new format limiting team competitions to three members, has allowed more countries to be able to meet the requirements and send teams to these Games. Yes, that adds pressure to the competitors as every effort will now count, with no scope to discard the lowest score.

Seven countries are sending full teams in all three equestrian Olympic disciplines, including the host nation Japan. The others are Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and United States of America.

Number of competitors for each discipline

Dressage (60 starters)

Eventing (65 starters)

Show Jumping (75 starters)

Gender equality

Equestrianism is the only sport in the Olympic movement in which men and women compete equally against each other throughout the Games; making it a totally gender neutral sport. The FEI doesn’t need a policy regarding transgender athletes as there are no requirements for these athletes to state their gender in order to participate in FEI competitions or, at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Success in equestrian disciplines is largely determined by the unique bond between horse and athlete and refined communication with the horse.

Baji Koen Equestrian Park, home to equestrian sport during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games



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