What organizers are calling the “largest commercial airlift of horses ever undertaken in the history of horse sport” is underway with the first 67 horses touching down — but not touching the ground — at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.
The airlift is taking place in advance of the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, which get underway in North Carolina on Sept. 11.
By the time the games start, 550 more air-lifted equine athletes will join 270 delivered over land to the Tryon International Equestrian Center venue, according to a news release.
The 2014 World Equestrian Games took place in France and attracted about 500,000 visitors, and tourism to this year’s 13-day event is expected to reach into the Upstate.
The horses, riders and handlers will come from more than 70 countries at these games, which are world championships in all of the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s eight disciplines and qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to the news release.
Specialist horse transportation company Peden Bloodstock — working alongside The Dutta Corp. — has coordinated the logistics, with horses from six of the world’s seven continents flying into GSP and an airport in Miami.
“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,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “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.”
Emirates SkyCargo brought the first horses on flight EK 9387at GSP Monday afternoon.
The horses are flying on a specially designed Boeing 777 freighter aircraft in customized stalls, with independently airconditioned zones, according to the news release.
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, the news release said. Horses that touch the ground have to meet quarantine guidelines before crossing into North Carolina.