London 2012 Olympic Show Jumping (Screenshot: YouTube)

The 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro is largely devoted to human achievement in athletics. It’s true that there was an animated film in 1980 called Animalympics in which creatures from various species—including storks, alligators, and rats—gather to compete in various Olympic-type events such as pole vault and the 100-meter dash. And before that, there was Hanna-Barbera’s 1977 series Laff-A-Lympics, in which humans and animals alike vied for glory. But generally, in the real world, only human beings have been invited to prove their physical prowess among the world’s best competitors on the world’s greatest stage. However, there are a few events, namely equestrian dressage, eventing, and show jumping, that do require horses. There’s even a facility in Rio, the Deodoro Equestrian Centre, specifically for these contests.

But one question remains: How the hell does one get a horse all the way to Rio De Janeiro? The answer, as revealed on NBC’s official Olympic website, is that horses get there the way most athletes do: They fly. Business class, to be precise, like a regional sales manager who has to give a big presentation at a branch office in Newark.

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A horse deplanes. (Photo: Richard Picken/NBC)

Tim Dutta, whose company is in charge of transporting America’s horses to the games in Rio, explains that these magnificent animals have to go through the same hassles as human beings when they fly: Four-legged athletes have to have passports and go through security, just like anyone else. They, too, know the indignities of the TSA. Once on board an aircraft, horses ride in special “jet stalls,” each of which can hold one to three horses at a time. Cost per animal? About $20,000, round trip. Yikes. To be fair, that price includes such amenities as in-flight groomers and veterinarians, plus plenty of hay and water with apple juice. Why can’t horses take other transportation, like boats? It would take too long, explains groomer Richard Picken. “They’d lose their fitness. Like an athlete in a hotel room for three weeks.”

Is it all worth it? Well, here’s some equestrian footage from the 2012 games. Pretty neat. But $20,000 worth of neat?

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