In a big international event like this, the course is spread over a large area, so we need to have everybody in assigned roles to ensure things work smoothly. The team are from a number of practices across the UK, and have worked together at the event for many years so everything is run cohesively.
Each morning the whole team meets up to discuss who will be where and plan communication. We all have radios with an emergency channel for vets and medics so everyone is kept in the loop.
There are usually three vets out on the course who look at the course for the day and drive it before the event starts, to look for the challenging fences and how they can be accessed easily. Wendy is usually out on-course. It can be hard getting to places through crowds and lots of string if you haven’t planned your route beforehand. The role of these vets is to be at the fences ASAP if there is an injury or a fall to assess the horse and check
it is ok to walk back or if it needs on-course treatment and an ambulance. There are also human medics on the course as well as ambulances, horse ambulances, the fence judges and the fence builders (so the right people are close by if there is an incident).
There is an FEI vet for the event (a head vet who coordinates everything) and vets based at the stables (so any horse that gets sick during the competition can be treated there, and horses can go there once any first aid has been given by the on-course vets). The on-course vets will radio ahead to these vets with their findings and any information on any treatment that has been given. There is also one vet available for the show jumping arena and the arena eventing – this is where Rhiannah has been posted the past couple of years.
Before anything starts for the day and between each section there are radio-checks to ensure everyone definitely has access to information. The team is also stocked up to make sure they have everything they need to deal with wounds, trapped horses, exhausted horses etc. if they are needed.
Huge credit has to go to the course builders and designers. There is an excellent balance to be had between safe and challenging. A lot of work has gone into preventing falls e.g. rotational falls that can be horrific for both horse and rider. If there is an incident on-course they can be adrenaline fuelled at the time, but thankfully a lot of the time is spent in a good position for viewing the fences that has easy access to the roads in an emergency.
Obviously other key elements for the vets are a bacon sandwich to start the day off and access to a good ice-cream on a sunny day!
The Scarsdale Vets Equine team work at a number of events including endurance events, county shows and other events with significant amounts of horses. The days are often very long but very rewarding, as we all enjoy seeing our patients out and about doing what they should be doing.