Spotlight on the Games’ veterinary team with Anne Couroucé-Malblanc
The voluntary vet team for the test event during June 2013
What is your role within the Organising Committee?
In concrete terms, my role is to coordinate the major veterinary aspects of:
- The sanitary measures, to ensure that the horses have no infectious diseases before, during or after the competition
- Illnesses or accidents, by making sure there is always a team on site to care for a horse if there are any problems.
I am currently working almost full time for the Organising Committee. In the last few weeks I have had the help of an intern, and I am already working in close collaboration with the team of vets that will be on duty during the event.
More specifically, what are your missions before and during the event?
Before the event, we have a lot of work to do as we must think about how to set up the temporary clinics on each competition site, manage the medicine orders so that we can treat the horses, train the teams and coordinate them so that they work well, ensure communications with the State and RESPE networks (France’s Epidemic surveillance Network for Equine Diseases) in order to be up to date with and monitor the situation with regard to infectious diseases all over the world, etc.
During the event, we must deal with any emergencies, of course, but above all we must do everything we can to ensure the wellbeing of the 1,000 horses that are competing and the 350 horses used for entertainment purposes: welcome them, care for them, and ensure that they are in good health so that that they can perform top-level sport in the best possible conditions. They are true athletes and they should be treated as such!
How many people will be carrying out these missions during the Games? Has the veterinary team already been recruited?
The team of vets has already been recruited, and there will be a large number of them ensuring the wellbeing of all of the horses during the competition.
There will be 26 official FEI vets dealing with the 8 official disciplines, with 6 vets for the Dressage, Jumping, Reining and Vaulting events, 6 vets for the Eventing, Para-Dressage and Driving, and 14 FEI vets to manage the Endurance!
There will also be around 65 general vets. These vets will check the horses when they arrive in order to ensure that they are in good health. There will be 3 scenarios here. If everything goes well, the horses will be taken directly to the stables. If there are minor problems, the vets will keep the horses separate and will monitor them to make sure their condition does not worsen. If more serious symptoms are detected, the horse will be sent to an exterior clinic.
Scans and x-rays will be carried out by 12 specialist vets from the CIRALE (Centre for Imaging and Research into Locomotive Problems in Equines), one of the three sites of the Alfort national veterinary school, located in Goustranville, Calvados. During the 2 weeks of competition, Professor Jean-Marie Denoix will close the CIRALE in order to make his team available for the Games!
The entire team will be reinforced for 2 key events, as 15 additional vets will be called upon for the cross-country phase of the Eventing (which will take place on Saturday 30 August at Le Pin National Stud), and 11 vets will be on duty during the marathon phase of the Driving on 6 September at Caen’s La Prairie Racecourse.
In addition to the team, 6 vets from the LABEO Frank Duncombe laboratory will carry out more detailed analyses (haematology or biochemistry, for example) using very specialised equipment. These vets will be available during the day and trained students will be on duty during the night, in order to utilise the equipment 24 hours per day.
These vets will work in shifts with 70 students so that there is always at least 1 person on each site 24 hours per day. We will do everything we can to treat the majority of problems on site, without going to an exterior clinic. Nevertheless, if necessary, we will have the assistance of 3 large exterior clinics: 1 for fractures in Deauville (the only clinic in France to have a scanner), 1 clinic specialising in colic-related emergencies in Falaise, and a third clinic for medical problems in Saint-Michel du Livet. Two other clinics will be used as local clinics for Sartilly (Panorama clinic in Dronthon, in the event of hospitalisation on the day after the Endurance race, for example), and Le Pin National Stud (Ecouché clinic, in the event of an accident during the cross-country).
My team will also facilitate the needs of the 26 official FEI veterinarians dealing with the official disciplines: six vets for the Dressage, Jumping, Reining and Vaulting events, six vets for the Eventing, Para-Dressage and Driving, and 14 to manage Endurance. The FEI veterinarians are responsible for anti-doping checks, in order to respect the ethics of the sport, as well as checking vaccinations, the horses' identities, their aptitude for competition, etc.
Will you use any “unusual” services or equipment to ensure the wellbeing of the horses?
Absolutely! We have, for example, weighing scales like those used for boxers! It is very important to weigh the horses on arrival, in particular, because they have often travelled for a long time and can often lose weight. We will also have hay sterilisers to remove the dust from the hay, and even organic natural mosquito traps (in particular at La Prairie Racecourse)… We are dealing with the best horses in the world, so we will do everything we can in order to ensure that they are in tip-top condition on the big day!
*After studying sports medicine related to racehorses, Anne is currently senior lecturer at Oniris (CISCO), the national veterinary school in Nantes, specialising in horse-related internal medicine.