Jackie Guezille is a second-year veterinary medicine student at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (Massachusetts) and an avid dressage rider who plans to become an equine sports medicine veterinarian. She was one of approximately 40 students from veterinary schools across the country who attended the three-day Land Rover Kentucky event at the invitation of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to observe and assist the veterinary team there. Here, she shares her experience watching the nation’s biggest event through the eyes of a vet.
I received an email two weeks before the start of the three day Land Rover Kentucky event informing me that I was part of a group of veterinary students accepted to shadow veterinarians working in one of the most prestigious equestrian championships in the United States. It became a frantic race to book flights, hotels and rental cars to get to Lexington, Kentucky from my home in North Grafton, Massachusetts, but I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. .
Arriving Friday afternoon, us vet students gathered inside the Zoetis tent at Kentucky Horse Park to meet the show vets. The vets gave us the game plan for how Saturday’s cross-country phase would go, where the vets would be stationed and how box D (the area where horses are inspected by vets after completing the course ) would work. One of the vets offered to take the students in his truck, so I immediately showed up and got a spot to work on the course for the cross-country day.
On Saturday morning, we set up between our assigned barriers, the first and last jump of the course, an hour before the start of the four-star. The vet I worked with, Dr. John Nenni of the Hyde Park Veterinary Clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio, shared what he was looking for as horses descended to jumps.
Every jump on the course is monitored by a veterinarian, with some vets monitoring multiple jumps that can easily be seen from a vantage point, noting if the horse taps or kicks the jump, if the horse looks tired, has cuts or visible scratches that need to be checked in Box D, and if the horse is breathing too hard when galloping the course. Each veterinarian has a radio to relay this information, so that the other veterinarians on the course and the ground jury are aware of the progress of each competitor. If a horse raps several jumps in a row, the veterinarians on the course are alerted and monitor whether the horse remains healthy, continues to jump, or struggles to clear the jumps. Jump veterinarians cannot shoot a horse, but they can alert the Ground Jury if a horse appears unhealthy or has difficulty on the course.
There wasn’t a second during four- and five-star cross-country hours that running vets weren’t on high alert and in constant contact with each other. When two horses encountered problems requiring assistance, the horse ambulance was quickly called and screens were installed to give horse and rider privacy while vets worked there. In situations like this, no further details are given on x-rays other than which vets are needed, where and if standing transport or a horse-drawn ambulance is needed. This ensures that the status of the horse and rider remains confidential until the rider and event veterinary delegate make a statement about the incident.
Several spectators have asked about the status of certain horses, but the only thing veterinarians on the course are allowed to say is that the horse is receiving veterinary care. Fortunately, the equestrian park is right across from the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, a leading veterinary hospital. Transport was therefore short for the horses that needed it.
Like the horse-drawn ambulance (which comes from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and is driven all the way to Kentucky to be available for the event), most vets bring their own vehicles and supplies.
The vet who allowed me to follow – and ask him about a million questions about the event – had his vet box in the back of his truck, so he was carrying what he usually has on a daily basis. Before the cross country started, he prepared a smaller bag with a sedative, a few rolls of Vetrap, threaded a needle with suture material in case a catheter needed to be inserted so he wouldn’t waste precious time if needed. was felt, a tracheal tube for intubation and a Kimzey splint. Kimzey splints align the pastern, coffin and navicular bones for stabilization and immediate pressure relief on an injured area, so the horse stands on tiptoe but can walk, even in cases where a tendon or ligament is injured. The splint allows a horse to be walked on a trailer and taken for further evaluation instead of being placed on a glider, which is more difficult to place on the horse and requires the horse to be sedated .
After the four-star and five-star riders completed the cross, the vets and vet students converged on Box D at the end of the course for a debriefing session. Each vet explained how their respective jumps went, what needed improvement, and what went well. For example, there was a problem with cell phone service at Kentucky Horse Park due to the large number of people there. Ironically, in this modern age, radios have become the only means of communication for vets and officials.
Several of the vets had worked on the event for several years, and they all agreed that the frangible technology helped prevent injury, especially on fence 6 of the four-star course, the Park Question Coffin. It was great to see seasoned vets agree that course safety is definitely improving and keeping horses and riders safe.
The next morning’s jog confirmed that vets had properly tracked the horses who were having trouble doing cross country. These horses generally seemed a little stiff or off while jogging, and a few were held back for re-inspection.
The veterinary delegate held another debriefing for the veterinary students after the jog to explain that they were looking for a “competition sound”, which may differ from what one would expect to see from a fully rested horse that does not hadn’t just run several thousand meters across hills. terrain and over massive jumps the day before.
There was another discussion during this debriefing about what could be improved in the overall event, what went well and questions answered by an FEI team vet before the veterinary students don’t get up for the day. Thereafter, the students became regular spectators of the show jumping portion, free to shop, watch, and soak up the rest of the weekend atmosphere.
Attending Kentucky was truly one of the best weekends of my life and confirmed that vet school was the right decision. I loved being surrounded by horse companions. The atmosphere was electric, everyone was nice, and we all came together for one thing: the love of horses. Watching the amazing vets who made sure these top athletes got home safe and sound made me think, “Yeah, that’s it. This is where I’m supposed to be.