Rio 2016 Olympic Equestrian Facilities and Plans

Rick Mitchell, DVM, isn't anticipating any major challenges regarding the health or welfare of the horses that will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

"The health concerns are pretty routine," said Mitchell, who regularly travels from his home base of Fairfield Equine Associates, Newtown, Conn., to serve as a U.S. equestrian-team veterinarian at international competitions. He was the team vet at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, and he's well-equipped to discuss the setup in Rio, having also served at the 2007 Pan American Games there.

"There is not a great concern regarding infectious disease and the American horses," Mitchell said.

Equine piroplasmosis, a potentially tick-borne disease caused by two forms of protozoan, is present in South America, as is equine infectious anemia. Fortunately, Mitchell reported, "The stabling is very tightly controlled regarding vegetation" that could harbor ticks. "There is some risk for the three-day horses," he said, referring to the event horses going cross-country, but even so he's not too worried.

Anyone who toughed out Hong Kong's notorious heat and humidity last August will be pleased to learn that, south of the Equator, the 2016 Summer Olympics will occur in the winter, Aug. 5-21, with the Paralympics Sept. 7-18. Mitchell, who attended the 2009 World Equine Veterinary Association Congress near Sao Paulo, Brazil (roughly 275 miles west of Rio) in late September, reported enjoying daytime temperatures of between 75 and 80° F and cool 60° nights. The region is rainforest, he said, and so precipitation is frequent, especially during the winter months.

Brazil's government-owned National Equestrian Center, site of the 2007 Pan Am Games and the 2016 Olympic equestrian events, is "a pretty secluded, secure venue," Mitchell said. It features a "fantastic stadium" and "very nice" stabling, the latter of which probably will have to be expanded somewhat to accommodate the Olympic horses, he said. The facility is located within the so-called Deodoro cluster, the northwest corner of Rio's planned four zones of Olympic venues and facilities.

If there's an issue related to horses at the 2016 Games, it's going to be the importation process, Mitchell said. "The Brazilian Agricultural Ministry has some very strict rules," he said, but luckily the Americans had a dress rehearsal of sorts with the Pan Ams, and now they know what to expect and how best to expedite the process.

Still, Mitchell admits, "I would have preferred to go to Chicago," referring to that city's failed 2016 Olympic bid.

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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