Endurance at the World Equestrian Games level is the most amazing combination of high tech and old-fashioned traditional methods of horsecare that you’ll ever see. I was determined to learn as much as I can, so I opted to follow the United Arabs Emirates team’s pit crew in action.
Well, how naive was I! This was like a neophyte saying she was going to learn how to dance by watching the Bolshoi Ballet. What I learned was how choreographed this group was. I couldn’t keep up with them, but I was fascinated by the dance.
After reviewing about 500 photos of the Emirates team and the horses from other countries, I have some photos of a few areas of horsecare for comparison. One interesting area was the cooling of the legs. Different boots were used on different horses within the same teams and there were different boots used in sequential breaks.
Some horses had their feet and pasterns cooled as well as their cannon bone areas; some horses wore tall ice boots that extended from their fetlocks to above their knees. Some wore boots front and hind, others just in front. Some were cooled first with just ice water dribbled down the backs of their legs from a water bottle.
What worked? It all worked for the UAE, who brought home the Team Gold Medal in Endurance. Yet other teams followed the same or similar practices and ran into leg problems, of course. It was fascinating to watch all the teams go to work on their horses. They were all working for their horses, that’s for certain.
And everyone tried to stay cool, while they kept the legs cool. They were watching the clock, getting ready for the next phase, and remaining in the moment so as not to miss any sign that the horse might give them.
It really was a ballet of people dancing around a horse, bending in and out, reaching under and around, attaching and detaching, to an overture of velcro ripping, ice cubes tumbling, grain rattling in tubs and excited voices in a dozen (or more) languages asking and answering the same horsecare questions.