Four-legged athletes treated like stars

DAVE DORMER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Like any professional athletes, the horses competing at Spruce Meadows this summer have fairly regimented lives.

Compete, travel, compete, travel, compete, travel, compete.

And just as it does for any professional hockey or football player, it takes years of hard work and dedication by teams of trainers to get them to this level.

So with roughly 800 show-jumping horses set to pass through the stables at Spruce Meadows during this year's five-event summer series, Sun Media decided to sit down with horse program manager Maggie Brand to find out what any given day is like for them.

After arriving at Spruce Meadows -- some are trucked in by trailer, others are flown -- the horses are given a once-over by its trainers, most of whom are dedicated to each animal as it travels.

"I'd say the first thing they do when they get on the ground is get their temperature taken," said Brand.

"That's to make sure they made it through the trip OK, they're not spiking a fever, they're healthy and everything is OK.

"Travel is stressful for them, but they get used to it and comfort is key."

From there, the horses fall into a daily routine that would mimic that of any pro athlete.

"They're brought out in the morning to graze, they're warmed up and ridden by their riders," said Brand.

"A usual morning workout is about 45 minutes to an hour.

"It really depends on the animal, how much exercise they need.

"Some are a little bit on the lazy side and don't need much exercise and some are really hyper and don't need a great deal of exercise."

From there, the horses are taken back to their stalls where they are doted on.

"The grooms tend to their grooming and bathing and feeding and putting their corks in so they don't slip in the grass," said Brand.

"Then they're prepared for competition."

That involves a pre-game meal, followed by a warm-up.

"They'll go into some of the sand rings you see around Spruce Meadows and they practice their jumps."

After competing, the horses are once again looked after by its team of trainers and groomers.

"They're cleaned, groomed, bathed, fed and pretty much put to bed for the day to relax in their stalls," said Brand.

Jumping over a series of obstacles can be thirsty work, and each horse will drink up to 100 litres of water in a day.


Videos

Photos