Plenty to do during international event - Veterinary Practice
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Plenty to do during international event

John Periam takes a peek behind the scenes at Hickstead’s Royal International Horse Show to see the veterinary care provided and the involvement of a practice there and at other venues.

The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead in West Sussex, which was founded by the late Douglas Bunn, becomes one of the world’s top equestrian venues for six days in July, during the Longines Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

Over 3,500 horses make their way to the showground to enter a range of show jumping, showing, dressage and driving classes. Also included is the Nations Cup event which sees international teams who have to transit their horses from overseas, often as far as the USA.

For looking after so many horses on site, a dedicated veterinary office is staffed full-time and a horse ambulance is parked close by from the Oakwood Veterinary Clinic in Burgess Hill, run by Sue St Pierre.

Paperwork is often the name of the game with passports and export papers that are checked along with documentation relating to any incident that occurs, ready to be forwarded to the owner’s local veterinary surgeon. It’s a busy office with phones ringing all the time.

The official practice looking after Hickstead in and out of the season is The Equine Veterinary Hospital at Arundel. There are three directors – Rob Van Pelt, Ed Lyall and Matt Waterhouse – with a total of 17 vets in the practice covering an area from Sussex into Hampshire, Surrey and Kent.

Apart from Hickstead, the practice works for or provides veterinary services at Goodwood, Brighton, Plumpton and Fontwell racecourses as well as many studs and racehorse stables. Your correspondent teamed up with Ed Lyall for the RIHS. The practice provides in-patient care, surgery, scintigraphy and other modern diagnostic services including an in-house laboratory.

It also provides a full range of mobile digital diagnostic services.

An important part of the support is that the practice is able to send a vehicle with diagnostic equipment on board to events such as Goodwood. This will include portable x-ray, ultrasound and endoscopic equipment.

“Any racehorse that gets injured can then be examined on site. Our team will consist of two vets along with a nurse. In the field of racing with such expensive bloodstock, veterinary services are of the utmost importance,” said Ed.

“We provide the veterinary care at Hickstead for the whole show. This is primarily the emergency care which can include anything from horses that escape from stables to horses with colic, or horses that get injured in one of the many rings. With so many different events we have to be prepared for anything that comes our way.

“If a horse gets injured in the international arena we have two vets here at any one time. In jumping classes one of the vets will be situated in the arena along with the course builders, doctor, paramedic and senior judges. The arena vet is looking for any visible sign of injury following a fall or a sudden stop. The horse is initially examined in the ring, then will be walked or horse ambulanced out to where the second vet is stationed.”

The dressage is run separately by Dane Rawlins within the showground and this year there were entries from as far afield as Hong Kong.

Are there situations where horses need to be transported back to the practice for further examination? “The hospital has a full back-up with a dedicated team. At the Derby meeting I sent two horses to Arundel, one with colic and another with a puncture wound into a carpal joint which needed emergency surgery. At this show, so far we have only had to send blood samples to our in- house laboratory.”

Hickstead also has Arena Polo played in the spring and top international show jumper Shane Breen (who married Chloe Bunn) has his stables there which Ed has been attending now for many years.

“With competitions like the Nations Cup the teams bring their own vets to care for their horses. However, there may well be a situation where they need our diagnostic support. I have in my vehicle a full range of digital diagnostic equipment to support them if needed. We all work well together!

“Regarding any arena injuries, it is important a vet attends as soon as possible. We want the sport to be perceived in a good way by the general public and, of course, horse welfare is at the front of all that. We don’t want there to be any compromise in horse welfare in any way.

“If a horse is seen to be lame, bleeding or injured we must be seen to be looking after it. The public always like to see an injured horse get up and walk out of the arena. It is our job to achieve just that whenever possible.”

Not all local events provide veterinary coverage but Arundel encourages the organisers to let the practice know of an event so they can be ready if needed.

“We keep up with the latest technology, and have just purchased a new portable wireless DR x-ray system. Our ultrasound scanners are the best both for practice and field use. There is a pressure to do more work in the field. In my case I have a technician in my vehicle to help me three days a week and another vet two days a week.”

With approximately 50 staff, Arundel Equine Hospital proves to those who use the practice how important they see their many clients and horse welfare, be they a large stable or individual owner. The large team have established themselves in the region to such an extent that plans are now being made for a new purpose-built hospital a few miles away.

“It’s an interesting time for all involved,” said Ed with a broad smile, as he went off to visit another client in the stable area. Must say I liked his new Land Rover!

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