The first 67 of a total 550 supremely fit airborne equine athletes have now set foot – or should that be hoof – on the Tryon International Equestrian Center venue, nine days before the start of one of the biggest sporting events on US soil this year.
They will join a further 270 horses coming overland to team up with their human partners from over 70 countries at these games, which are world championships in all of the FEI's eight disciplines and qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Specialist horse transportation company Peden Bloodstock - working alongside The Dutta Corp - has co-ordinated the highly complex logistics, with horses from six of the world's seven continents flying into Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina and Miami, Florida.
The horses will be flying into the USA on a total of 23 flights from Liège (BEL) and Dubai (UAE), plus flights from 11 South American cities including Buenos Aires (ARG), Sao Paolo (BRA), Santiago (CHI), Lima (PER), Montevideo (URU) and San José (CRC).
"This is the largest commercial airlift of horses in history, with only wartime shipments of horses coming close, so the military precision involved in the logistics is incredible," says FEI President Ingmar De Vos.
"These horses are finely-tuned equine athletes and are not only very valuable, but they must arrive in peak competition condition, just like their human counterparts."
First Class travel
Emirates SkyCargo, a world leader in the air transportation of premium horses, is now celebrating its largest ever horse charter, which started with the landing of flight EK 9387 at GSP today.
The horses are flying on a specially designed Boeing 777 freighter aircraft in customised stalls, with independently air conditioned zones maintaining the perfect temperature for these four-legged athletes, which weigh anywhere between 450kg for the lighter Reining and Endurance horses, and 840kg for the heavyweight Vaulting giants.
"Emirates SkyCargo is excited to be working on our largest horse transport charter for the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018," says Wilfred D'Souza, manager cargo scheduling, planning and equine transportation.
"Over the course of the last 16 years we have developed strong expertise and capabilities in equine transportation and this, combined with careful planning and attention to detail, allows us to consistently deliver a comfortable environment for the horses in flight."
The freight carried from Europe alone – not including the horses themselves – will total 123,500 tonnes of equipment, ranging from saddles, bridles, rugs and grooming kits, wheelbarrows and pitch forks, to horse shoes and all-terrain studs, as well as 51 tonnes of feed, in-flight snacks and 20 litres of water per horse.
Kevin Howell, senior vice-president and chief operating officer for GSP, notes: "Today's a little different, because this is four-legged cargo, we don't move a lot of that.
"Actually our first equine charter was the test flight earlier this spring. The team is very focused on moving the horses safely, and keeping the horses in the best health and spirits for the competition."
After touchdown at GSP, the first equine arrivals were transferred directly onto trucks – without setting foot on South Carolina tarmac – for the 50-mile journey to Tryon, crossing over the state line into North Carolina with its stunning Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop.
The FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 will see human and equine athletes compete for 29 medals in the Olympic disciplines of Eventing, Jumping and Dressage, the Paralympic sport of Para-Dressage, alongside Driving, Endurance, Reining and Vaulting.