British Olympic Eventer Retired due to Cardiac Condition

British Olympic Eventer Retired due to Cardiac Condition

Olympic bronze medalist Miners Frolic, ridden by Great Britain’s Tina Cook, has been retired after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Photo: Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography

Olympic bronze medalist Miners Frolic, ridden by Great Britain’s Tina Cook, has been retired due to a non-life-threatening cardiac condition, his treating veterinarian said.

The 16-year-old dark bay Thoroughbred gelding was found to have atrial fibrillation, said Celia M. Marr, BVMS, MVM, PhD, DEIM, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, of the Rossdales Equine Hospital and Diagnostic Centre in Newmarket, England.

“Atrial fibrillation is performance-limiting, but it is certainly not life-threatening,” Marr said. Miners Frolic had a safe journey to his retirement home following the Feb. 4 decision, she added.

One of the more common forms of equine heart disease, atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart beats out of rhythm due to a malfunction in the atria, Marr explained. The atria are the two chambers (out of four total) which receive blood coming in from the circulatory system. Veterinarians talk about “electricity” in the heart because there are actual electrical pulses which control the beat. If part of the heart gets off beat, the heart cannot function properly, and this is considered an electrical problem known as arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia in which the atria fibrillate (or quiver) instead of contract, putting the heart off-beat.

An example of atrial fibrillation, as seen on an electrocardiogram. Each large spike represents a heart beat, and it's apparent that these are occurring at irregular intervals. Between beats, there is continuous electrical activity represented by the smaller undulations.

Photo: Courtesy Dr. Celia Marr

Some affected horses can benefit from treatment to continue performance and competitive careers, Marr said. The main treatments are electric shock therapy and medications. However, as these treatments are invasive with potentially severe side effects, other factors must go into the decision, she said. For example, there could be other underlying heart conditions, or the horse might be at an age where he wouldn’t benefit long from the treatment anyway. “Considering all the options, his owners and his rider came to the decision that they wanted to retire him,” Marr said of Miners Frolic.

“Miners Frolic is not an old horse by any stretch, but he is in the second part of his life,” Marr said. “And he doesn’t really need to prove anything more, does he? It seems like a sensible decision to now offer him a long and happy retirement.”

The gelding “has a very nice future ahead of him” at the home of one of his two owners, Marr said. There, he will not need treatment for his condition because he will not be performing at high levels, and his condition will not prevent leisure riding, she added.

“He (Miners Frolic) is probably unaware of (his condition),” Marr said. “He won’t feel any pain. He’s back to his normal self now.”

The 17-hand Miners Frolic, under Cook, took the bronze medal in both team and individual eventing at the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing. They were European team and individual eventing champions the following year. In 2010 he contributed to the team gold at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky. He was part of the silver-medal UK team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He is owned by Valda and Nicholas Embiricos and Sarah Pelham.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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