Feeding for Olympic success

  • The Olympics are finally underway, marking the culmination of years of training for riders and horses, and months of preparation by their support teams.

    Providing the 10-12kg of feed the horses require per day as they commence battle for medals has had its own unique challenges, especially in the 40°C heat of a Greek summer.

    The horses are mostly being flown into Athens, but loads on the planes are limited. This has meant that the feed and forage have had to be shipped or rail-freighted into Athens well ahead of the Games, to avoid the congestion as the final infrastructure (computers, food and so on) is installed.

    The feed therefore had to leave in early July, four weeks ahead of the horses. With more than 200 horses on site for the Olympics and Paralympics, for periods of up to 20 days each, significant quantities are required.

    Athens certainly offers dry storage, but in the heat of summer, temperature is a problem. Special manufacturing procedures were essential to prevent the feeds drying out unduly during their stay.

    The Athens organising committee contracted out the feed issues to an American company, Kentucky Equine Research. Forages have been sourced from the US and Canada, and feed and bedding from the UK and US. But the BEF and our team vets have worked closely with Spillers, official suppliers of nutrition to the British teams, to ensure the right supply for our horses.

    The largest part of a horse’s diet is forage and it was conceivable that team members moving from the hay or haylage used at home to that in Athens would be making a significant dietary change in the week before the big competition. Spillers therefore analysed all the forage to ensure the necessary changes were made well in advance and the horses were introduced to their competition diets in July.

    The Athens Feed Store

    The 50 tonnes of feed in Athens include:

    • Forages: timothy hay, alfalfa hay and grass hay; standard and high-fibre haylage
    • Compounds: leading competition brands from the UK and US. Most teams take their own to minimise dietary change
    • Straights: US-sourced bran, sugar beet pulp, oats, maize, barley and linseed
    • Supplements: electrolytes, oil, vitamin E, joint support. Most competitors take their own supplements with them
    • Succulents: carrots, apples, and bananas!
  • This article first appeared in H&H (12 August)

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