Apart from more than 10500 men and women from 205 nations, the upcoming Olympic Games will also have participation from more than 300 animals, all of whom will be horses. Without these lucky equines, the Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon events cannot take place. While it is far easier to manage the humans, the same cannot be said about the horses. The animals’ welfare at the Olympic venue of Deodora is not the sole issue because the Olympic organizers need to oversee the related matters of horses’ deportation from the countries of their origin, arrival in Brazil and upkeep over the fortnight before sending them back safely to where they came from. The procedure is standardized by FEI or Federation Equestre Internationale headquartered in Lausanne and Olympic organizers have been working closely with FEI to ensure that the horses remain in top shape over their fortnight’s stay in Brazil. Equestrian events have been scheduled between 7 and 19 August while five Modern Pentathlon events will be held over a 2-day period on August 19 and 20, 2016.
All horses arriving in Brazil will have to be under FEI Regulations. IOC has appointed the German company Peden Bloodstock as official international shipping agent and stable manager. This company will coordinate the equine transportation services for 2016 Rio Olympic Games while import of veterinary medicines and other non-prohibited substances will be the responsibility of Brazilian Animal Health and Agriculture Authority, MAPA. FEI Veterinary Committee has decided that FEI examination will take place upon flight boarding, instead of upon arrival. This examination includes checks of horses’ rectal temperature, pulse, respiration and general well-being for identifying horses suffering infectious or contagious diseases. During the flight, the horses will be under the supervision of an FEI veterinarian and after they arrive in the stables, they will be re-examined for any flight-related issues. There will also be a re-check of the horses’ identifications. This process is in the best interests of the horses’ welfare and will only apply to horses entering Brazil by air from approved hubs. Horses arriving by road will be examined upon their arrival at Deodoro. Influenza vaccinations will be checked in horses’ passport and must comply with FEI Veterinary Regulations and health requirements established by MAPA.
Horses will have to be under strict biosecurity control during transport and throughout their stay in Brazil. Foot mats with disinfectant and hand sanitizer must be used upon entry and exit from horse stables. After initial biosecurity examinations, the responsibility for monitoring contagious or infectious diseases will rest with horses’ staff and veterinary advisors, who can consult FEI Veterinary Commission members at all times. Horses must have their rectal temperature taken twice a day in morning and evening. This will be responsibility of team veterinarian, who must visit the Veterinary Clinic each day to sign the rectal temperature form. In cases, where no team veterinarians are available, members of veterinary services will monitor the horses’ rectal temperatures. Brazilian government veterinarians will be on venue to inspect biosecurity procedures and oversee the horses’ health.
Equine anti-doping and controlled medication testing will be carried out in accordance to the FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations. For this, horses may be selected for testing at any time during the period of the event. The appointed FEI testing veterinarians will liaise with the president of the Ground Jury and FEI Veterinary Commission. The testing of horses will be done by FEI Veterinary Department and in the event of adverse findings; subsequent processes will be managed by FEI Legal Department. Materials/substances used to treat horses in contravention of FEI Veterinary Regulations may also be subject to testing. All treatments, except nebulization with authorized substances and fluid therapy following cross-country for eventing horses, must take place within designated treatment areas under supervision of an FEI veterinarian. Injecting a horse without permission of Veterinary Commission or outside the designated treatment areas will attract a fine of up to 1,000 Swiss Francs and face elimination from participation. Such materials/substances will be seized and tested for the presence of prohibited substances.
In case of Modern Pentathlon, the horses will be stabled at a different place though Deodoro stadium is the still the competition venue. A dedicated team of veterinarians, veterinarian assistant and farriers will be available at all times after the arrival of the first horse and throughout the Games. There will also be a veterinarian available on call at night. The Horse Centre Equine Hospital, located 95 kilometres from the venue, will be the referring hospital for horses that require surgery or intensive care. An equine ambulance will be available to transport horses from site to the hospital if needed. Farrier facilities will be available next to Veterinary Clinic for the forge. The forge will contain two individual shoeing stalls, one gas forge, a workbench, various forging and shoeing tools and supplies and a small office.
This information tells us how seriously FEI regards participating horses in Olympic Games. These animals are as important as men and women taking part in the global quadrennial event. It is not that this is being done for the first time but such information is not readily shared in the media. The fact that each horse arrives at the Olympic venue with a valid passport with complete details is not something that everyone may be aware of.
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