CHRIS Burke is a man who loves logistics.
Which is lucky, given Chris is responsible for flying some of Australia's Olympic equine competitors around the world.
- FLYING HIGH
- Last year 5522 horses were imported and exported from Australia - 2598 exported, 2446 imported from New Zealand and 478 horses imported from countries other than New Zealand.
- Horses are usually transported in the cargo hold of a Boeing 747 400 freighter, a Boeing 747 800 freighter or a Boeing 777.
- Bringing a horse into Australia from Europe or the UK will cost about $25,000. Sending a horse from Australia to Europe or the UK will cost about $11,000.
- Australian horses not already in Europe will fly to the London Olympics from Sydney on July 6.
Chris is operations manager at IRT - a horse transport company in Melbourne - which has been put in charge of managing horse travel for the upcoming London Olympics
"I really enjoy problem-solving and the logistics of it all," Chris says. "It is a big equation - horses, aircraft, managing equine diseases and all the import permits and protocols for each country."
Last year IRT transported about 5000 horses in and out of Australia. Aside from Olympic horses, IRT has flown most breeds and types of horse around the world.
"You would be surprised," Chris says. "We have flown just about any type of horse you can think of - we have even flown a few miniature donkeys."
Some of the world's best racehorses have also travelled courtesy of IRT - including Melbourne Cup winners Media Puzzle, Americain and Delta Blue.
Horse owners usually contact Chris two months prior to travel, which gives IRT enough time to find a flight, organise vaccinations, quarantine at the destination or at Werribee for imports.
Horses fly on commercial cargo flights in the carrier hold of the aircraft. They fly in an air stable, which is similar to a horse float or truck, but it is moveable.
"The horses are loaded on the tarmac into the air stable, which can hold three horses," Chris says. "They are then lifted on to the aircraft and they are bolted into the carrier hold."
An aircraft can fit anywhere from one to 87 horses into the carrier hold. One person is usually allocated for every six horses that are flying. They will handle all issues - from sedating a horse to feeding and watering it during the flight. Sometimes a vet will travel with the horse - "if the client wants the pay the cost".
CHRIS says the type of horse he transports has changed over the past few decades. "Sixteen years ago, traffic would have been close to 50 per cent Thoroughbreds racehorses (mostly the breeders, stallions and mares), and the other 50 per cent pleasure horses," he says.
"Now it would be more like 70 per cent pleasure horses and 30 per cent Thoroughbreds."
Chris says the strong Australian dollar had made it cheaper to import a horse from overseas.
"Where once there was more mystery about it, now more people are doing it as they have to compete on a world stage," he says. "Now, I can get a horse to Singapore quicker than you can drive it from Melbourne to Sydney."
Despite the growth, it's not exactly a cheap exercise. "We tell clients to budget about $100,000 for a round trip," Chris says.
This covers scheduling - and in some cases re-scheduling, costs of travel and staff and import permits and associated paperwork.
Simply flying a horse into Australia from Europe or the UK will cost about $25,000, but sending a horse from Australia to Europe or the UK will cost about $11,000. The price difference comes down to import restrictions into Australia. There is more red tape getting a horse into Australia, Chris says.
Chris has a comprehensive system which allows him to keep files on every horse and every client. "It's a bit like a Frequent Flyer program for horses," he says. "Having technology that allows us to keep records about vaccinations, a horse's passport, any information at all is easily accessible."
And while Chris has transported elite athletes, the most fulfilling transactions are still families moving house who want to take a beloved pet with them. "These are really rewarding," Chris says.
- LONDON TIME
Greenwich Park, Greenwich, is 11km southeast of London. It is the oldest Royal Park in the city, dating back to 1433.
- When will Australia compete?
Eventing: July 28-31: 75 riders compete for two gold medals
July 28, 10am - 4:45pm (London time) - individual and team eventing: dressage
July 29: 10am - 4:45pm - individual and team eventing: dressage
July 30: 12.30am - 5.40pm - individual and team eventing: cross-country
July 31: 10.30am - 4.15pm - individual and team eventing: jumping and medal ceremony
Dressage: August 2-9: 50 riders compete for two gold medals
August 2: 11am-3.30pm - team dressage, day 1
August 3: 11am-3.30pm - team dressage, day 2
August 7: 10am-4.55pm - team dressage, finals and medals ceremony
August 9: 12.30 - 4.30pm - individual dressage, grand prix freestyle and medal ceremony
Jumping: August 4-8: 75 riders compete for two gold medals
August 4: 10.30am - 2.05pm, individual jumping qualifier and team jumping: qualifier for round 1
August 5: 11am - 2.15pm, team jumping round one
August 6: 2pm - 5.15pm, team jumping round two and medal ceremony
August 8: noon - 4.35pm, individual jumping, final round and medal ceremony
August 30-September 4
78 riders compete for 11 medals.
Channel 9 and Foxtel will air the London Olympics equestrian events as part of their Games coverage.
Visit foxtel.com.au, channelnine.com.au or london2012.com