52 Horses Stranded in a Cargo Plane at the Singapore Airport.

The Sydney Olympics 2000. All the British horses; eventers, show jumpers and dressage,  52 in total, were flying home on a cargo plane. There was engine trouble. The plane had to land at Singapore and it was not able to continue. What to do with the 52 horses on board in the heat and humidity of Singapore?  Alan Davies, now travelling groom for two of the world’s top dressage riders, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, was with those horses and he  told me what happened next.

“There were two options. One was to get all the horses off the plane and transport them to  stabling in Singapore. The second was to get another plane and transfer the horses to that plane.  They had to take the second option as there was no transport and no stabling available for that many horses in Singapore.”

“The horses were all in crates with two horses in each crate”, Alan continued. “We were worried about how those 26 crates were going to be moved from one plane to the other across the hot tarmac. But another plane  was brought as close as possible and all the crates were transferred as quickly as possible. The only problem was that when the crates were put into the first plane we made sure that the stallions were in the middle and not able to get their heads out to the walkways which are on the sides of the plane. These walkways are very narrow and the last thing you want is a stallion leaning out and trying to bite you. But when the horses were all loaded onto the second plane all the stallions were facing out to the walkways. So we had to bend down as we went up and down the walkways to care for the horses.”  Alan said this with a smile.

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“The other problem was the big container with water for all the horses that had to be moved as well from the first plane. And they had to do it without any water spilling as that could cause electric shock if it got onto any of the plane’s electric circuits.”

I interviewed Alan at the end of May this spring at Carl Hester’s yard.  I asked him if he was ever nervous when travelling with horses and shipping them around the world.

“A lot of people have asked me if I was nervous transporting Valegro, the  most famous dressage horse in the world and I would say “no”. The reason I’m not nervous is that I’ve been doing this for so many years and after experiences like the one in Singapore I am not nervous at all now. ”

When I spoke with Alan I asked him what goes into preparing the  horses for travelling to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) at the Tryon Equestrian Center in the USA this September. He told me that preparation had already started.

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“Packing lists have to be made months in advance. I can’t take all the spares with me that I would like so I have to plan very carefully. We have to know all the US Argiculture regulations and requirements as well. We’ve already discussed the vaccination program for all the horses who have declared for WEG. Blood work has to be done as well. ”

What about the feed for the horses?  I know that horses are susceptible to digestive upsets if their feed is changed.

“The horses are fed on Saracen feeds here,”Alan told me. “They have a sister company in the US so it is not necessary to take feed with us. But for the Olympics in Rio we had to send all the feed and it had to be shipped in a container two months before we went. Different countries have different rules and regulations about what you can bring in. For the USA the regulations are the same as for the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) so that’s OK for all the supplements the horses here get. ”

What are the things you have to be the most careful about? I asked.

“We have to be very careful about any creams and powders as there can be no steroids and that includes anything we might be using on ourselves such as hand creams. ”

Are we there yet?
This photo is of horses in a crate or pallet which will be lifted up onto the airplane. 

How will the horses ship to the US and Tryon for the WEG?

“All the dressage horses will fly together. That is organized by Peden in Europe and the Dutta Corporation in the US. First we will travel four hours by horse van to get to Folkestone and then across the Channel to  Calais and on to Liège in Belgium.  We will stop overnight there and the next day the flight will go depart from Liège. There will be two horses in each crate on the plane.

What do you do before the trip to prepare the horses?

“Twenty four hours before the flight I will give them a bran mash two times and on the flight, once the horses have settled after take off,  I will give them  a grain feed. For longer flights I will give them two more mash feeds as well. I always take an extra halter and leadrope and a tube of electrolytes in case a horse does not drink and a tube of omeprazole to ease their stomachs. I give omeprazole before the trip as well. ”

Do you wrap their legs or use shipping boots?

“I wrap their legs for travel. Once we get to Liège I will unwrap  overnight and then wrap again for the flight. ”

Have you had any other things you have had to do to prepare for a trip?

“When we took Carl’s horse Nip Tuck to the Olympics in Rio I had to prepare him beforehand. He is a very sensitive and nervous horse and also very big. I knew that he would have to duck his head down to get into the crate so I had to train him. I had to get him to trust me. ”

This is not Nip Tuck but it does show a horse being led onto the pallet or crate for a flight. 

 

The British Dressage Team  for the World Equestrian Games 2018 has not been announced yet.  This year they have announced a “short list” and from that the team of four will be chosen. Two of the horses on that short list, Carl Hester’s Delicato and Charlotte Dujardin’s Mount St. John Freestyle, are in Alan’s care and he will be travelling with them and looking after them at the Championships.

“The riders may not see the horses for three or four days,” Alan told me. “But I am with them all the time. On our way to the championships I say to the horses “we’re off on another adventure!”

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The entrance to Carl Hester’s yard (stable). All the horse’s stalls open onto a courtyard. 

When I was at  Carl’s yard in Gloucestershire I had a few minutes to visit with some of he horses including Charlotte’s horse Freestyle.

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This mare was such a sweetheart. She loved to be given a pat and rub behind her ears.  In September I hope to see her again at WEG.  Then it will be in the arena where she is a hugely impressive dressage superstar. But I will also remember the  gentle mare who liked to be made a fuss of.

34 Comments Add yours

  1. LifeAmazing says:

    Wow what an interesting post. Who knew the preparation involved. I think the changing planes must have been heart stopping, but it sounds like the airline were very accommodating and everything went to plan.
    I wonder what the horses think of all this though, I wonder about my own animals if they actually understand that everybody is in their side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Horses for the most part are surprisingly calm about flying. It is also so important that they have their grooms with them. They are familiar with those people and trust them. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  2. LydiaA1614 says:

    This was such an interesting read. You don’t think about what it takes to get those gorgeous animals from place to place, let alone any problems that can and do occur. Last September when we picked up our rescue dog who flew from Mexico to Seattle I was amazed how those little animals (mostly puppies) spent that time in crates in the baggage compartment of the plane for well over 3 hours. My mind is blown to think of 52 horses. Thank you so much for sharing this Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome Lydia. The story had a good ending thanks to work by the airline and also the grooms like Alan Davies who were looking after the horses.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joyful2bee says:

    That is an incredibly talented horseman who truly loves his charges and his work!! I never dreamed there was so much to shipping horses! Thanks! What an education!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You’re welcome! Alan Davies is a wonderful horse person and you are right he loves his work and truly loves the horses.

      Like

  4. Emma Cownie says:

    I never really thought about how horses were flown around the world. What a situation to face in Singapore!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes it would be a nightmare but fortunately it all worked out well. The airline must have worked very fast to get another plane. Also grooms like Alan Davies were a big help in looking after the horses and keeping them calm and hydrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dprastka says:

    Excellent post and interview!! WOW, is definitely the first word that comes to my mind. Thank you so much for sharing as I never thought about behind the scenes travel, and those crates for flying are amazing! And am so thankful all 52 horses were moved and shipped with no injuries or losses! Carl sounds like an AMAZING horseman! ❤️ The photos are amazing too! Thank you Anne!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes it was wonderful that they were able to move all the horses safely to the second plane. And Carl Hester is my favorite dressage rider. I also think that having a groom like Alan Davies with all his experience and genuine love of horses is such a big plus as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating interview thank you. What a difference to us loading ponies into a Chibuku beer truck to take them from Francistown to a gymkhana in Selibe Pikwe. It took us 2 weeks to train them to walk in as it stank of beer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh my, they were suspicious of that hop smell I guess. The whole process of horses traveling by truck and then on a cross channel ferry and then on a flight across the Atlantic is pretty amazing. These horses are good travellers but I have to say that having a groom like Alan Davies with them is a huge help. Thanks for your comment I enjoyed hearing about the ponies.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks for this reblog Danny.

      Like

  7. Judy says:

    I didn’t realize they shipped two to a crate. Where the stallions are makes perfect sense, but I never thought about it for traveling. Thanks so much for giving us a peek into the world we rarely see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You’re most welcome. I so enjoyed talking with Alan Davies.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thoroughly enjoyed this! I’m nervy enough about trailer or lorry travel let alone an aeroplane to another country!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. Surprisingly the horses are usually quite calm on the planes.

      Like

  9. What an experience for those involved .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Indeed! It was lucky that they managed to get all the horses transferred to the second plane without incident.

      Like

  10. sandyjwhite says:

    I had no idea it is such a complex process to transport horses. A very interesting read as always, Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you Sandy. I remember speaking to someone at the shipping office here in Toronto and he told me that he was in the process of shipping poodles and a thousand pigs that day. The next time I saw him I asked how they had arrived. Poodles all arrived safely but two pigs had become ill.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very interesting story, of a task I’d never imagined. I had no idea you could put 52 horses into boxes and then onto one airplane, an amazing job.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Alli Farkas says:

    Holy sh*t!!! and I get nervous just taking my mare “off-campus” to a local show an hour away. She’s a great trailer traveler but refuses, except on rare occasions, to drink more than a sip or two from the time we leave the barn till the time we get back, which is usually the next day. And when we get back, sometimes she’ll just run right by the water in a hurry to get out to her friends in the pasture. I can’t imagine taking her anywhere on a plane, or for that matter being responsible for anyone else’s horse on a plane! Or even on a long trailer trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Karen M says:

    Really incredible how much preparation goes into flying horses!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is. Equally incredible to me is how most horses are so calm on the flights.Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  14. Jo Price says:

    This was absolutely fascinating! I’m embarrassed to confess that it never ever crossed my mind about how immensely complex it must be to travel internationally with competition horses (or even Shetland ponies but then again just traveling to the corner with Shetland ponies can be a pain). What an incredible interview!

    Also I would like to add that I have total saddle envy and wish that I had a rack hanging in my kitchen with those, too. I miss the smell and feel of those. Your post made my heart smile on so many levels. Tremendous and beautiful as always sweet friend. 🙂 Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thanks Jo! It is quite a process to move the horses. I share your saddle envy. And….every single one of them was spotless! That’s the standard at Carl Hester’s barn@

      Like

  15. Fascinating!! Thank you for sharing. I have always wondered how they transport the horses and what goes into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is pretty incredible that there are horses travelling around the world everyday. Most horses are pretty calm about it too.

      Like

  16. Irene says:

    Wow! The behind the scenes work that most of us don’t even think about. Thanks for the education.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome! Alan Davies is one of the world’s top grooms so it is fascinating to talk to him. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  17. Juli Hoffman says:

    This was a great post!!! I’ve never seen the crates used to ship horses in. It must have been nerve-wracking for EVERYONE moving 52 horses from one plane to the other. WOW!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      It must have been very stressful especially as the heat and humidity in Singapore was intense and horses in the crates would be getting hot and stressed. But it all ended well. Thank goodness!

      Liked by 2 people

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