Sport horses are a different breed. Unlike Arabians and Thoroughbreds whose metabolism is well-suited to hot climates, heavier warmbloods have a metabolic difference in the way they react to hot, humid conditions and stress. Knowing this, the Veterinary Committee and the Welfare Sub Committee of the FEI had a meeting to discuss transport related issues for the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong (HKG). The 19 March meeting was attended by Martin Atock, Managing Director of Peden Bloodstock, and the FEI Directors of the Veterinary and Olympic Departments.
Peden Bloodstock is the specialist flight/transport management company that has arranged and managed horses in transport for FEI events around the world in the past and will be transporting horses from several continents to Hong Kong for the Olympic events in August 2008.
In a report provided by the FEI, the Veterinary Committee advises that horses arrive approximately 10 days before the competition. This is in accordance with Atlanta Olympics research and will enable a thorough flight recovery and give the horses a fair chance to get used to the HKG climatic conditions. It also leaves room for treatment in case any horse suffers from travel sickness or minor injury in flight. At the moment, flying schedules are being designed to adhere as closely as possible to the 10-day period, although this will not be possible in each case.
Further discussions are required to define the optimal stable temperature in air-conditioned stables and the temperature phases leading from horse arrival to competition (e.g. start with a cool temperature and gradually increase in the days leading up to competition). The test event will help in this evaluation.
At the moment it looks like most of the horses will travel to HKG in combi flights; this creates more room for transport of grooms, gives more flexibility in flight scheduling, but causes some problems in terms of unloading the horses and the aircraft turnover time. This issue is being given urgent attention as the time from aircraft to air-conditioned vans/stables at the venue is one of the most important transport-related factors in preventing post-flight fever and has a major effect on post-flight recovery of the horses.
It would be of great benefit to the sport if those participating in the Olympic Test Event in HKG shared their monitoring protocols in an attempt to collect as much data as possible in a standardised way, and also to allow these data to be shared for the benefit of our sports both at the Olympic Games and in the future.
The group plans to organize a seminar on Competition and Transport issues in heat and humid conditions at the beginning of 2008, during which the findings from the test event will be discussed. This seminar will be open to all interested.
The meeting was chaired by John C. McEwen BVMS MRCVS, Chairman of the FEI Veterinary Committee and Dr Frits Sluyter, Director of FEI Veterinary Department.
(photo from www.PedenBloodstock.de)