The Trust has set up an air conditioned building so that horses may be exercised on a treadmill under varying conditions. Pico Technology ADC units are being used to measure temperatures, sweat rates, oxygen levels and heartbeat signals. Some typical traces are shown below(click on image to view full size traces)
In the second phase of the project eight horses were flown from Europe to Atlanta to undergo a three week acclimatization period and take part in a simulated competition. Throughout the period Pico Technology ADC devices were used to monitor both the horses and the atmospheric conditions.
During the Olympics Pico Technology ADC units will be used to monitor shade temperature, relative humidity and black global temperature (an estimate of solar radiation). A cut off level will be set above which it is not considered safe for horses to continue. If the index reaches this level the competition will be temporarily halted until it becomes cooler.
However, three years of collaborative research between the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket and Imperial College, London, with technical assistance from Cambridge-based virtual instrument specialists Pico Technology, ensured that the equestrian events passed off without significant injury to horses or riders.
Pico Technology was chosen to monitor the Wet Globe Temperature (WBGT) Index at Atlanta because it is one of the few companies in the world which has the variety of data aquisition products and software required. The WBGT Index takes into account the combined effects of air temperature and humidity as well as wind strength and solar radiation to offer an objective assessment of the heat load experienced by both horse and rider.
Pico Technology installed temperature and humidity measuring equipment at various points around the course for both the Three Day Event competition and show jumping and dressage. For the Three Day Event each of three monitoring sites consisted of a Pico Technology ADC-16 unit reading ambient temperature, ambient humidity and black globe temperature (a measure of the balance between heating by radiation and cooling by air movement). The data was digitally transmitted by radio modem to a central monitoring site where a computer, running PicoLog software, calculated the WBGT and displayed a real time graph.
For the events in the main stadium a single site was used with an EnviroMon stand alone data logger which showed the index on an LCD display. Since the EnviroMon system does not require a computer to display the index it can be set up and operated by unskilled personnel although data from the logger can be downloaded to a computer for later analysis if required.
The success of the Pico Technology based system in Atlanta was such that it is likely to be used in future at all major equine events which take place in hot or humid conditions. Indeed, since the WBGT Index is just as applicable to human competitors, Pico Technology equipment will probably also be increasingly employed to ensure the safety of athletes as well as horses in conditions where weather presents a problem.