With the Athens Olympics less than a year away, the British eventing team’s preparations were boosted by a successful “test” event at the Markopoulo Equestrian Centre in Greece at the weekend.

Despite temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade at the CIC** event, the six British entrants came through the heat with flying colours.

A spokesman for British Eventing said it felt as if the organisers had laid a green carpet on the cross-country course. All six British horses finished in the top eight, with Terry Boon taking the top prize on Air Cruise.

Britain’s unusually hot summer had likely readied the horses for the high temperatures in Greece. However, the course is situated on the side of a hill and there was a welcome breeze. The heat is also very dry in Athens – an improvement over the debilitating humidity of Atlanta in 1996.

“Although the sun is more intense in Athens, which is closer to the Equator than Atlanta, and the air temperature is hotter, there is a lot more air movement,” said David Marlin, who is in charge of the Animal Health Trust’s research into the effects of heat on horses in preparation for the 2004 Olympics.

“The only problem we might face is if we have a cool summer in Britain next year and then have to move to extreme heat in Greece.”

All the horses were closely monitored for changes to their drinking habits or body weight – both signs of dehydration – but there were no complications.

“Often, hot living conditions – more so than hot competing conditions – can cause problems, as the horses are less inclined to eat or drink, and can lose valuable electrolytes,” explained David.

“But the stables were excellent and it was much cooler inside than out.”

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the British equestrian teams had to face a number of problems caused by the long-haul flights required to get there and by the fact that the local field hospital did not have operating facilities.

By contrast, David was delighted with next year’s Olympic venue, where a brand new veterinary hospital on site will guarantee that horses will be seen to almost immediately.

He told HHO: “The facilities are excellent and the Greeks have done a great job – far beyond what we had ever expected.”

Results

1, AIR CRUISE (Terry Boon) GBR 37.10;
2, KINSEY CONTROL (Caroline Pratt) GBR 42.40;
3 YEOMAN’S POINT (Andrew Hoy) AUS 48.10;
4, TWO FOR JOY (Polly Jackson) GBR 49.00;
5, LADY GUINEVERE (Chris King) GBR 50.20;
6, MASTER EXCHANGE (Dimitris Natsis) GRE 60.00;
7, WESTON JUSTICE (Oliver Townend) GBR 61.40;
8, H2 CAPADUCE (Chris King) GBR 67.70;
9, H2 GOOD ENOUGH (Heidi Antikatzidis) GRE 79.00;
10, BELLEKADIE (Vincenzo Cinelli) ITA 80.40.