Touchdown! Flying Irish Olympic horses arrive in Rio de Janeiro!
- 30 July 2016, 13:32
Ireland’s team of five Olympic Eventing horses landed in Brazil in the early hours of this morning (Saturday) and are settling into their ‘athletes’ village today – the new-build stables at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Park.
The Irish Equine stars were among 34 horses who boarded an Emirates Boeing SkyCargo 777-F at Stansted Airport in London on Friday afternoon, before embarking on a 12 hour flight to Rio.
Just like the human athletes, they had to go through passport control (and a health check) at London Stansted Airport before boarding with their carry-on luggage and check-in bags.
Sporting the equine equivalent of flight socks (leg bandages), they received the full business class treatment, with special meals delivered by flight attendants (actually grooms), a drinks trolley (buckets) offering water (not fizzy) with a choice of mixers. Apple or carrot sir?
Vets were also on board to ensure the precious equine cargo arrived in tip-top form. Which is important, as these four-legged athletes mean business!
Nathan Anthony, team vet for the Australian Eventing squad, was one of the six vets that flew with the horses. “Flying is actually easier on the horses than going by truck”, he said. “The only slightly difficult bit is the take-off, after that there are no bumps in the air! And we had a great captain on board who made the landing nice and smooth, and then the transfer to the Olympic stables with a police escort was really easy.”
An Irish horse had the honour of being the first to set foot (or hoof) on Brazilian soil. Ringwood Sky Boy (ISH) who will be ridden by New Zealand’s Tom Price, won the first competition of Rio 2016 to see who could get out of the plane fastest.
The five Irish team horses, Europrince, Cooley Rorke’s Drift, Jemilla, Simon Porloe and Portersize Just A Jiff, were driven in specially kitted out trucks, complete with a full Federal highway police escort, under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer en route to the stables at the Olympic Equestrian Centre, where they rolled out the equine equivalent of a red carpet – black rubber matting!
They were greeted by their Irish grooms, Stephanie Abbott, Jane Felton, Amy Kisby, Gemma Fuller and Bridget Speirs who had travelled to Rio a day earlier to make sure everything was prepared for the big arrival.
Ireland’s five Olympic Eventing riders, Mark Kyle, Padraig McCarthy, Camilla Speirs, Clare Abbott and Jonty Evans, arrived on a later flight and have now been reunited with their equine partners.
The Irish Eventing team finished fifth at London 2012 and will begin their quest for Olympic glory next Saturday August 6th. Ireland’s remaining Equestrian team members, Show Jumper Greg Broderick (MHS Going Global) and Dressage rider Judy Reynolds (Vancouver K), will be among eight more Equine flights who will arrive in Rio over the next couple of weeks.
More than 200 horses from 43 nations will be arriving in Deodoro, ready to put in their bid for gold with their human partners in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines of Eventing, Dressage and Jumping.