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Veterinarians' Input On Olympics Horse Events Has Had Global Impact

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- 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."

Because he had attended veterinary school at the University of Georgia in nearby Athens, Foreman was concerned when Atlanta was picked for the 1996 games. "I knew there would be real safety concerns. A group of us [exercise physiologists] got together and decided to identify the potential problems and seek solid data based on lab and field trials for making informed changes."

With funding from the American Horse Shows Association, veterinarians at Canada's University of Guelph
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Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
b-james3@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2-Jun-1998


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