So with all this athletic horse research I’ve been doing lately, it was inevitable that I would have to check out the Olympic team horses. I have to say they have a pretty good gig. If it weren’t for all the fitness stuff, I would try out. I look good in red, white, and blue and I like to travel so I think I could get a spot on a team. I suppose I would need to pick a sport but since it’s too late for this Olympic cycle, I will look to something for 4 years from now. Plenty of time for that later.
Just a warning, I went hard core social network stalker for this week’s blog. I started at the USEF and USEF Eventing High Performance Facebook pages, then checked out the Chronicle of the Horse, and finally went to the social media pages for the humans involved in this endeavor. Apparently getting to the Olympics is a very long process. It may take more patience than this cat can muster. It starts with a list of potential horse/rider combinations. These combinations are watched by a coach so special they need a French name: Chef d’equipe. Around the beginning of the year this coach narrows the list down to 7-10 possibles (the long list). And then the real fun begins.
Being a Team horse is kind of like being an NFL player. There are lots of perks, but there are lots of people who want to know all about how fit and healthy you are. It starts with a VERY complete examination by the Team veterinarian. They look at everything from tendons, to bone, to muscles, to eyeballs, to fitness. Next that special coach looks at competition results, how the horse works at home, and the rider’s history in high stress situations. Finally, there are some “test events.” These are set horse shows or three-day events that Team horses have to go to. Based on all of these factors the Chef d’equipe gets to pick a team. The check-ups continue after that. The coach is constantly checking in to see how training is going, the vet is checking to see how healthy the horses are, and the behind the scenes people are checking to be sure all the organizational stuff is ready.
Now the horses have to get to Brazil. No matter what discipline (Dressage, Eventing, or Show Jumping) if you made that long list you had to have a complete list of everything you wanted to bring for feed, supplements, and hay ready to go in January. This Olympics thing is looking a bit too complicated for this cat. All of the things on that list had to pass through the government of Brazil for approval and were shipped down well ahead of the Olympics. Next the grooms have to pack everything they could ever want to have in two tack trunks (OK they are big ones, but still). I mean this is the Olympics and you get a maximum amount of stuff you can pack. I don’t have a lot of experience at this sort of thing but I think I would want to take everything just in case. Meanwhile, the horses have to get special blood tests, vaccines at designated times, and make sure their passports are ready because they are getting on a plane. I think it would be really fun to get on a plane! Luckily by this point in their careers most of these horses are pros at the international travel thing.
Once the horses arrive at the Olympics they have an entire staff of people making sure their every whim is catered to. The vets are checking for soreness, stiffness, or any sign of even a slight sniffle. The physiotherapists are stretching, massaging, and FESing away to keep everyone in tip-top shape. The grooms are taking care of all the details like fluffing the bedding just the way these superstars like it, providing their favorite snack, and scratching that particularly itchy spot. Like I said earlier, there are perks to this Olympic horse thing.
And at the end of it, no matter the outcome, every one of those people will be honored to have taken care of these amazing horses. And with that I’m off to watch Eventing Show Jumping. I’m rooting for Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Mostly because I have black feet so I’m sure it’s a sign but also because who doesn’t love an off the track Thoroughbred.