Challenges facing equine atletes travelling to Olympics

Challenges facing equine atletes travelling to Olympics

The challenges of transporting equine athletes on an international level are an aspect of the Olympics that most of us probably have not even considered.

For instance horses spend most of their lives standing up, they even sleep standing.

The first phase of the journey requires a veterinary exam and issue of a certificate of veterinary inspection or (CVI).

The purpose of a CVI is to protect, people, animals and other competitors from diseases that can be brought in by visiting horses. Most countries also require horses to be implanted with a microchip to ensure exact identification.

Horses traveling and competing are usually vaccinated for infectious diseases. Diseases that horses would customarily be vaccinated for are, Equine Herpes, Strangles, Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, Rabies, Equine Influenza and Tetanus.

Health problems that can result from equine international travel are myriad. Shipping Fever is a common consequence of travelling. Shipping fever is another name for pneumonia. Stress lowers the body's ability to fight off disease and as a consequence viruses and bacteria that would normally be held at bay are able to cause disease. Mingling with other horses that harbour bacteria and viruses new to a particular horse are also a source of shipping fever.

Horses are prone to a musculoskeletal disease called laminitis, also known as founder. Laminitis is a complex pathological process that results in painful feet. The condition can be severe enough to ruin the career of an equine athlete. Stress from travel is known inciting cause of laminitis.

Horses are also susceptible to colic. Colic is a generic term used to for abdominal pain from a number of different causes including, stress, feed changes or not drinking enough water. How many of us have had intestinal upset when travelling? As uncomfortable as it is for us the situation can be much worse for a horse. Colic can and often does result in serious and even life threatening consequences.

Most equestrian teams utilize air travel for transatlantic trips. The airplanes have been modified with comfortable stalls complete with grooms who attend to the passengers every need. Crews are experience and very comfortable working with horses. It is critical to have someone on board who can calm a nervous equine passenger or can spot the first signs of illness.

Once they arrive at their destination horses may be required to remain in quarantine facility for anywhere from 72 hours to 30 days. Some countries allow horses to go directly to their final stop after an exam by a customs veterinarian.

These horses are world class athletes and will receive the best care possible. They have travelled more than most of us will in a life time. Every precaution has and will be taken to ensure that they arrive happy, healthy and ready to win Olympic gold.

Categories: News, Olympic Games