For human athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate goal. For equine athletes—and their people—it’s the World Equestrian Games. Like the Olympics, the WEG are held every four years, and hosting them is a great national honor. For the first time, the Games were held in the United States in 2010 and Dr. Mike Foss was a part of them. He was asked to serve as Team Veterinarian, but not for the U.S. Team as in the past. Dr. Foss was the team vet for Japan’s Endurance Team.
“I met some of the Japanese Endurance Team people when I was at a race in Japan, “he said. “They called and asked me to serve as their team veterinarian at the World Equestrian Games.”
With more than 20 years of experience with endurance racing, where horses and riders compete in races from 25 to 100 miles in length, Dr. Foss has served as an official veterinarian at rides around the U.S. and Canada, and worked on developing the first accredited Endurance Veterinary course in the Americas. He has served as a team veterinarian for the United States Equestrian Endurance Team, and earned certification through the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) (also organizer of the World Equestrian Games) which makes him part of an elite group of race officials whom international organizers can choose to invite to work their events. As a race official, or as a U.S. Team Veterinarian, he has traveled to Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Argentina, and Guatemala. Although he didn’t need his passport for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, for the first time he was a member of a foreign team.
The 2010 Games were held from September 25 to October 10 in Lexington, Kentucky, at the incredible Kentucky Horse Park. More than a ½ million spectators attended. National television coverage was on NBC.
Since 1990, World Equestrian Games have been held in Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Germany, and the United States. Competitors in the Games must be nominated by their home countries, and accepted by the FEI. More than 900 human and 1300 equine athletes were nominated in 2010 to compete in the eight disciplines recognized by the FEI: Dressage, Driving, Endurance, Eventing, Jumping, Para Dressage, Reining, and Vaulting.
Japan had five horses and riders competing in the 100-mile Endurance Race. Dr. Foss’ work with the team began long before the late September race. On Sept. 14, he flew to Los Angeles to meet the team as they arrived from Japan.
The five horses were transported from Japan to the U.S. by air in special stall-crates. Just like human international travelers, horses can suffer from dehydration, stiffness, and jet-lag. With quarantine requirements and the need to coordinate transportation, the horses were in transit 6 days from Japan to Kentucky. Dr. Foss helped them recover from the rigors of travel with rehydration, massage, acupuncture and exercise.