Veterinarian’s Input On Olympics Horse Events Has Had Global Impact

The 1996 Summer Olympics may be over, but a success story involving veterinary medicine and horses that went virtually unnoticed then has had a lasting impact.

Despite the heat and humidity

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The 1996 Summer Olympics may be over, but a success story involving veterinary medicine and horses that went virtually unnoticed then has had a lasting impact.


Despite the heat and humidity of Atlanta, only two of 99 horses were pulled from three-day competitions because of excessive fatigue. That success was fueled by a team of volunteer veterinarians, who four years earlier went into their laboratories and into the field to study the potential impact of Atlanta weather on the metabolic health of horses, specifically dehydration and heat stroke resulting from excess muscle heat built up during intensive competition.


Their findings led to a shorter steeplechase course, closer monitoring of the horses and more authority for veterinarians on site. The research was summarized by Jonathan H. Foreman, a University of Illinois veterinarian and exercise physiologist, in “The Exhausted Horse Syndrome,” a chapter written for “Fluids and Electrolytes in Athletic Horses,” published in April by W.B. Saunders in a recurring series called “Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice.”


“It’s very gratifying for a veterinarian on the clinic floor to save the life of a sick foal, but in a much shorter time span we’ve probably affected more horses around the world with this work than I’ll ever be able to do on a case-by-case basis, ” he said. “Case by case is still very important, but this work essentially changed the sport for the better

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