Four years of work amounts to what happens in the rings at Deodoro Park, the Olympic Equestrian Centre, over the next three weeks, with the eventing horses kicking things off this Saturday.
With each Olympic games come a new venue, new pressures, and unique challenges for all competitors, and that includes the horses.
Rio 2016’s top two issues for European horses are heat and humidity, and the distance travelled from Europe. So just how do you move eventing horses 5,500 miles from Ireland to Rio de Janeiro while remaining in prime condition? Preparation – and a Boeing SkyCargo 777-F.
Almost 20 tonnes of eventing horses left Stansted Airport in London on Wednesday, embarking on a near 12 hour flight. This also included almost 10 tonnes of equipment, six tonnes of feed and over 40 litres of water.
That was the first of nine shipments set to go through the three transport hubs – Stansted, Liege in Belgium and Miami in the US – and it contained 34 of the world’s finest eventers, including Britain and Ireland’s stars.
Maintaining Peak Condition
Getting them on that flight in peak form is only the beginning of the journey though. The team managers and grooms are already at Deodoro Park setting up to ensure their equines have everything they need immediately and can recover from the journey in a new home-from-home.
That last point is key whether you are travelling your horses 10,000 miles or 10 miles. Always keep things as normal as possible for the animals; stick to routines and never change in their feed or bedding.
However, one of our top tips for overnight journeys does involve changing things up – and not just when you’re away.
It is not logistically viable to transport enough water from home to last three weeks of the competition. This can bring forward the risk that your horse won’t drink the local water, but you can get around this by making it taste similar to the water at home.
For a few weeks before the trip, add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your horses drinking water to slightly change the taste. The horses will get used to the flavour while drinking it in a familiar and safe environment and will then recognise the taste when added to their water bucket while at the games.
Ensuring that your horse stays hydrated during multi-day competitions will be a challenge, especially in warm weather. Just the stress of being in a different environment can be enough to keep eventing horses sweating and sometimes not talking in enough water to maintain optimal levels. Having some Equi-Lyte G or Refuel to restore electrolyte levels is essential. Putting these in your nutrition box will balance fluids, promote faster rehydration, maintain appetite and improve muscle recovery post exercise. Some Ice-Clay, for sore, tired legs, will be greatly appreciated too.
All that remains is to wish all contenders the best of luck at the games and to sit back and enjoy the show!