These Belgian Olympic and Para Olympic horses will fly to China for the upcoming Olympic and Para Olympic Games in Beijing. The Sports Medicine Center of the Veterinary Medicine Faculty, directed by Tatiana Art, was chosen by the Olympic Committee to administer resistance tests to horses scheduled to participate in Olympic competition.
In August and September the various equestrian events that are part of the Olympic and Para Olympic Games will take place in Beijing. Actually, not all of these events will be held in Beijing. Some will take place in Hong Kong, a city that has a tradition of horse racing, but also a location where “high-tech” air-conditioned stables have been constructed especially for Olympic competition. Why such expense? Because in the summer, parts of China can be very hot and humid. To prevent any medical problems from occurring, a small army of veterinarians will be on call at the three sites that will host Olympic equestrian competition.
Even before these precautions come into play, the Belgian Interfederal Olympic Committee (COIB) chose the Sports Medicine Center of the Equine Clinic of Sart Tilman to test 6 Olympic horses and 4 Para Olympic horses scheduled to travel to Hong Kong. The University’s laboratory is in fact one of the only facilities in Europe that is able to subject horses to a complete range of tests of effort and resistance. It possesses the most modern equipment of any lab and has a staff of clinical veterinarians specializing in different areas (cardiology, equine musculature, orthopedics, equine respiration) emphasized by the Equine Clinic of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. “We already have experience from working the Atlanta Olympics in 1996,” says Tatiana Art, “and the conditions as regards heat and humidity there were pretty similar to what they will be in Hong Kong.”
The competing horses undergo two different series of tests, at rest and during effort. “These tests are not at all intended to influence the selection of horses based on their performance, but they have to do with prevention in terms of the physical risk (of competition), and they will help riders and veterinarians predict what horses will do in certain circumstances, in order to avoid possible accidents as far as possible.”