Cooling Systems Help Olympic Horses Beat the Heat

Years of in-depth preparation, planning, and some luck combined to make cross-country at the 2008 Olympics a success, according to vets on the scene.

"We were lucky with the weather," said Foreign Veterinary Delegate Leo Jeffcott, MA, BVetMed, PhD, FRCVS, DVSc, VetMedDr, of Australia, who has spent three years monitoring the climatic conditions in cooperation with the Hong Kong Observatory.

With a temperature of around 80°F, a cloudy sky and light rain, the weather--one of organizers' greatest concerns--was by no means extreme. Moreover, it remained stable throughout the morning which allowed for all the participants to compete under equal conditions. Humidity was high at around 70%.

"The horses were tired, some more than others, but all did finish well," Jeffcott explained. All were taken to the cooling installations--cooling box and misting fans--which functioned very well. Most teams took care of their own horses but help was provided whenever necessary; it proved very efficient. At approximately 41°C (106°F), the body temperature of some of the horses was rather high upon arrival. They were monitored until it went down to 38-39°C (100°F), a proof that the cooling had worked well. Some horses needed rehydration and were administered fluids.

"All went extremely well," Jeffcott pointed said.

Where the riders are concerned, there were several falls, but no injuries at all have been reported.

Read more veterinary reports from the 2008 Olympics.

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