Equine Pampering of Olympic Proportions

By now, the Swiss dressage team might be feeling pangs of regret at its decision not to enter the 2008 Olympic equestrian competition.

Citing concerns about weather conditions and pollution, the Swiss announced several months ago that they would not field a dressage squad for these Games in Hong Kong, China. Now that the Olympics are well underway, they're proving a mostly pleasant surprise for competitors, who had expected--well, some weren't sure quite what to expect.

"I had no desire to come to this part of the world," U.S. jumper rider Laura Kraut, of Wellington, Fla., confessed, "but I'm so glad I came. The people are so helpful and friendly, and the facility is wonderful."

Air-conditioned schooling arena

Equestrian athletes have the option to ride in an air-conditioned schooling arena.

"The care for the animals is outstanding," said Kraut's teammate Anne Kursinski, of Frenchtown, N.J.

One doesn't need to experience firsthand the equine facilities' most unique feature: air conditioning.

The barns are climate-controlled, and so is the indoor arena that riders use for schooling. None of the competitors we interviewed have ever seen another horse facility with A/C, anywhere in the world.

"The air conditioning in the stables probably will not affect horses' performance," said Pierre St. Jacques, Boscowen, N.H., who won a U.S. team gold medal in dressage at the 2003 Pan American Games and who's in Hong Kong coaching Canadian eventer Samantha Taylor, "but it will aid their recovery."

The misting fans that were introduced so successfully at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics are whirring away here. So are wash-and-scrape devices that attach to hoses. As Barisone described them, grooms can ply their charges with streams of cool water and sweat-scrape as they go. The process utilizes water's conductivity for maximum cooling: Cool water instantly heats up when it makes contact with a hot horse, and the warmed water is immediately removed from the horse's skin and replaced with fresh cool water.

Don't miss the Olympic Equestrian blog by award-winning equestrian journalist Jennifer Bryant. She will be giving us behind-the-scenes looks at what's happening at the Olympic equestrian events.

About the Author

Jennifer O. Bryant

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation's magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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