Today, Switzerland remembers one of its equine athletes in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Jet Set. After suffering a severe injury, the owners and athlete decided to euthanize him.
Jet Set was a 14-year-old gelding who competed in the Equestrian Event alongside rider Robin Godel. While completing the final jump on Tokyo’s Sea Forest cross country course, Jet Set became lame, limping profusely. Following the race, Gobel’s team a veterinarian came to the fence where the horse was for initial review of the injury. The team then transferred him to a clinic where they could perform an ultrasound on his leg.
Unfortunately, Jet Set sustained “an irreparable ligament rupture in the lower right limb, just above the hoof,” according to the Federation Equestre Internationale. With no treatment options available, Gobel and the horse’s owners decided to humanely euthanize the beloved animal.
In order to meet the FEI’s regulations, the veterinarians also took samples from the horse and will perform a post-mortem autopsy.
The FEI shared its condolences for Jet Set’s team on Twitter.
“Our deepest condolences to Robin, the Swiss team and all those connected to Jet Set. A true loss to the eventing community, Jet Set will always be remembered as the fantastic horse that captured all our hearts,” the Federation wrote.
Likewise, fans of the horse posted their favorite memories of him. One fan shared a photo of the horse showing a toothy grin in his stable.
“He was clearly loved and well taken care of during his 14 years of life,” the user wrote. “Fly high, Jet Set.”
Why the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ Horse Couldn’t Be Saved From Leg Injury
While for most animals, a broken leg is certainly a debilitating injury, for horses, depending on the severity of the break, it can be a matter of life or death. Likely, you’ve never seen a horse with a cast on its leg, and there’s a good reason for that.
The proportion of an equine’s midsection and legs is vastly different. As a result, each leg supports roughly 250 pounds. With the size and shape of the horse’s body, there’s no feasible way for it to stand without putting weight on its lame leg. Likewise, the animal cannot lay on its side without risking further injury and preventing the ability to eat, drink or relieve itself.
Unfortunately, it also goes against the horse’s every instinct to allow the leg to heal. As prey animals, horses are constantly alert and on their feet–ready to run if the circumstance demands it.
Sad as it may be, the most humane option for a horse with an untreatable leg injury is euthanasia. For Jet Set’s team, the logic behind the decision doesn’t make it any easier. Of course, just like any athlete, he was a beloved member of his team and will be greatly missed.