It dawned on me...Adelaide and I are really going to the UK. It is such a surreal feeling as this is not the first trip I have planned. In fact, this is the third attempt at getting Adelaide on a plane. Obviously, the trick this time was not to tell him what the plans were. So now the reality is I’m sitting in my apartment in Marlborough, Wiltshire writing this blog. It still doesn’t feel real yet.
Wednesday the 13th of June was departure day and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I was extremely lucky to be staying with Sue Ellis who works for Equine International Airfreight, she was able to answer my annoying and probably at times dumb questions. At around lunchtime we took all my gear to the airport to be loaded into an AKE (metal plane storage container). Every bag was checked by security and labelled.
At around 5.30pm along with my travelling buddy, professional groom Nelson Bennett, we got all three horses ready for their flight just as the torrential rain started (got to love Victorian weather). Nothing like wet horses, wet rugs and mud everywhere. Once we got the horses cleaned we waited for the transport truck to collect us to go to the airport. All the horses are supplied with personalised head collars/leads and all travelled naked with no boots. Adelaide and his special ways meant he wore the Hidez compression hood bonnet with sound proof ears and bell boots. He only wore the bonnet for take offs and landings to help minimise the noise.
Once we arrived at the airport the horses are taken (still in the transport truck) into a fully enclosed undercover loading and unloading facility managed by IRT. The timing of loading the horses into the pallet is important as you don’t want them sitting out on the tarmac any longer than needed. Once the horses are loaded into the pallet they are given large hay nets and tied up the same to if they were in a truck or float. Inside the pallet is enough hay (lucerne and grass hay) to last until the UK as well as a couple of water storage containers and buckets. The added bonus was the carrots, apples and of course Adelaide's personal favourite- Nutrigrain. It's amazing how settled the horses are inside the pallet, its fully enclosed with vinyl tie down around all four sides.
It was then time to head to the plane. The pallets are on rollers, so we were rolled onto a trolley that would then take us to the plane. I was lucky enough to travel inside the pallet with the horses. This was probably the only time on the whole trip that Adelaide was a little tense and he did move about a little. While waiting on the tarmac to be loaded into the plane a vehicle turns up and a very serious looking guy gets out and proceeds to follow another pallet that is being loaded, the whole time he is taking photos or video’s, turns out it’s a very expensive painting and worth millions. The horses and I were up next was very cool being scissor lifted into a plane. The horses were one of the last pallets to go into the plane.
I was then able to head up to our business class seats and meet the pilots, this is where we check out all the do’s and don’ts. We were lucky that we had nice pilots and they allowed us to use the beds as they wouldn’t be using them. The pilots also asked what temperature we would like the cargo hold set at, 15 degrees seems to be the ideal travelling temp for horses. What seemed like an eternity we finally taxied out to the runway. It felt like a great take off and I just prayed the horses felt the same. You are not allowed down in the cargo hold during take offs and landings so you just have to hope that all goes well with the horses. Once up in the air the pilot turns off the seat belt sign and you inform the pilot that you are going down to check the horses. You have to take a oxygen bottle with you should the cargo hold depressurise. Not sure what happens to the horses if that happens but hopefully it never does.
The horses all seemed good and I removed Adelaide’s Hood bonnet and we left the horses happily munching on their hay. I then headed back up to bed. I was able to get nearly four hours of good comfortable sleep. It was then time to recheck the horses and offer them some water. The stallion on our flight was the only one that drank really, he had flown before so he was very relaxed. I went back to bed and had some food and more sleep. The next check we did was just before landing in Singapore. Again we offered the horses water and I put Adelaide’s bonnet back on. We had a good landing into Singapore and the horses were nearly the first pallet off loaded from the plane. Due to the heat and humidity in Singapore the horses were taken by trolley to an air-conditioned holding room. We then removed the front partitions and metal bars and put head dividers up. This allowed the horses to eat their hay from the ground and have water buckets. It also meant that they could be left untied. I managed to get to Adelaide to drink a lot of water once I convinced him to play apple bobbing.
What I didn’t realise was that we had a 6 hour stop over in Singapore. As we are in the cargo area of the airport you have a police escort and are not allowed out of their sight. There is really nothing you can do but sit outside where the horses are or sit in the polices car which has the air conditioning cranking. It's really boring and hot. We did refill the water containers and checking the horses regularly. We did have next to the horses the very expensive painting which was also in air conditioning. Again timing was everything as we didn’t want the horses to sit out on the tarmac for too long in the heat and luckily they were the last pallet loaded into the plane. We scored again with nice pilots that gave us their beds. Next stop was Sharjah approx 7 hours flight time.
Sharjah is just north of Dubai and is a cargo airport. We were stopped here for about 1.5 hours just to refuel. Flying into Sharjah was a quiet the experience and the scenery was very sparse, sand and more sand. We were told the outside temp was 38 degrees and were informed that it was a lot cooler than yesterday. Yesterday’s temperature had been 49 degrees. Horses and humans stayed on the plane for the refuelling. Another change of pilots and more food and drinks were loaded into the plane. We didn’t get offered the beds this time by the new pilots. Again the expensive painting was travelling with us, this time it was right in front of the horses, I swear they could touch it with their noses. I’m sure the art gallery that was about to receive the painting would have been horrified that there were horses within millimetres of their million dollar cargo.
The last leg of the journey actually went pretty quick, approx. flight time was 6.5 hours. The horses were all travelling like pros now they didn’t need chest bars or partitions and were able to be left untied so they could eat and drink at their pleasure. I loved the fact that they could get their heads down for nearly the whole flight. Flying into Heathrow was a very stark contrast to Sharjah. The greenery everywhere was mind blowing, lots of green grass and very green leaves on the trees, not like home at all. The horses were unloaded off the plane while Nelson and I were escorted to security and fast tracked through customs. It was great to be off the plane and out in the fresh air. We were then taken to the unloading area where the horse waited to be unloaded out of the pallets. They all walked off the pallet amazingly considering how long they had been travelling for. The horses were checked over by the UK Vet / customs and then they were able to be put into holding stables while the paper work is sorted. Meanwhile we unloaded the pallet and then my AKE with all my gear. The pallet and AKE are then taken away which meant that I could then start moving my gear into the lorry that would then take me on the last part of the journey to Andrew Nicholson’s.
It was then good bye to Leo the stallion, Swiper and my travelling buddy Nelson as Adelaide and I were loaded into the lorry and started the last 1.5 hours drive to our new home in Marlborough. We arrived at approx. 10.45pm, Adelaide was put into his new stable with plenty of water and haylage so hopefully he would get a good nights rest. Then we lugged my suitcases to my apartment. Safe to say I am very glad I don’t need to move these gear bags for a few months. Note to self- don’t pack so much next time. It’s a pain in the arse lol. Well door to door travelling time was 37 hours. It was great and very interesting to travel with the horses and I can’t thank Equine International Airfreight for their professionalism and care of the horses.
In my next blog I will tell you all about what it is like in the UK and at Andrew Nicholson’s!
Don’t forget we currently have an online auction running to help raise funds for this exciting trip of a life time. New items are being added all the time and the items include a wide range of interests, not just horse stuff! Bidding on auction items will close on the 1st July 2018 at 8pm AEST. Go on over to the 'donations' page within tis website for further information and the direct link to the auction.