Riders feel the Athens heat

  • Six riders from the World Class Potential eventing squad are having a taste of the exacting conditions that competitors will face at the Athens Olympics.

    Chris King, Lucy Wiegersma, Terry Boon, Caroline Pratt, Polly Jackson and Oliver Townend exercised in a specially designed heat chamber at the University of Gloucester this week, as part of a UK Sport-funded research programme aimed at providing the best preparation for the horses and riders who will compete in 2004.

    Data has also been taken from eight staff members from Hartpury College, who spent 10hr each in the chamber cycling, running and riding a mechanical horse to see how they adapted to the conditions.

    Senior lecturer and research co-ordinator, Rachel Williams explains: “Using the chamber, we are able to carry out a number of tests, which show how much the heat affects riders’ performance.

    “Dehydration can have a serious effect on performance, and not just in physical terms – concentration deteriorates and the eyeball actually shrinks, which could affect a rider’s judgement of the approach to a fence, for example.”

    The squad riders also underwent a full medical and were given fitness and hydration regimes before their final training to compete in the test event in Athens next month.

    Further experimental work will be carried out at the test event itself, which will provide a useful opportunity for performance manager Yogi Breisner and the team vets to assess how the horses cope and how suitable facilities are.

    The focus of the project will switch to the horses in October, building on the work done before the Atlanta Olympics by working through a regimented exercise and monitoring programme in a heated indoor school.

    Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (24 July), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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