During the Olympics, WoSJ got the opportunity to go on one of the press rounds to the temporary veterinary clinic in Greenwich Park. The Equine Anti Doping-building could also be found next to the clinic, and this was where all the doping tests were taken. This part of the building was not open for visits though, as it was a testing facility with controlled access.
The horse clinic in Greenwich was an equine version of the poly clinic that the human athletes had access to in Stratford. "Permitted treatments can be done here, as an example the horses can get rehydration fluid or some of the joint support products here – they just have to come over here to do that. That's been a development since Hong Kong. So that the horses can have the same level of medical support as human athletes really,"explained Jennifer Hall, the vet service manager at Greenwich.
Any kind of permitted treatment had to be filed on an FEI form from the FEI commission. "In the human sports they don't have to fill out anything or ask for permission, so we [the equestrian sports] are really much more controlled than the human sports".
The FEI Office was in the same building as the clinic, and this was where all the passports were kept. Each time the horses go to bigger shows their passports gets a stamp, and are filled in with information. The passport also keeps a record of the equine influenza vaccines that the horses are given; "The only injection they have to have is a vaccination against the equine influenza, but this can vary from country to country," Hall told us.
The clinic had one room dedicated to medications and everything else the horses could come in need of for minor and bigger injuries. There was also an office where the vets could view x-ray images and a specialist space for first aid. The clinic also had four boxes included for the horses, a room for x-rays, an examination box and a recovery room. The recovery room consisted of a padded box for horses that could be used in extraordinary circumstances if required. "Fortunately we haven't used it. It is all just in case, because we are 25 miles from the nearest specialist equine hospital," explained Hall.
During the cross country competition 28 veterinarians were placed around the course with a first aid bag on their back to be able to help the horses as soon as possible if something where to happen. "There have been no serious injuries so far. Actually these sorts of sports are really safe and I think that's why sometimes when there are bigger accidents they could have been managed a bit quicker, but it is so rare that things happen".
The clinic had a special build horse ambulance for the show in Greenwich. "The horse enters the lorry from behind and then we can turn the horse inside so they can leave on as flat ground as possible. If they have a fracture or something like that we will avoid the turns and go up and down," said Bill Fellowes, the designer of the Ambulance. This is the third one they have produced and Fellowes hopes they will be able to keep this one in the country to use at shows.
"We can travel the horse both facing backwards and forwards. If the horse has a front leg injury it might be better to travel the horse backwards. You can always control how you accelerate smoothly, but you are never sure you don't have to break hard".
Another good thing with the ambulance is that people can travel with the horses: "The horses travel much better if they have someone with them, if they have their groom with them they are much calmer".
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