WEG: A Few Health Incidents at the Start

Full recoveries expected, says a World Equestrian Games veterinarian.


A. Kent Allen, DVM, the chief veterinary-services coordinator for WEG, gave away one of the horse-health-related topics being discussed at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as soon as he answered the phone.

"So you want to discuss the footing for the dressage jog?" asked Allen, of Virginia Equine Imaging in Middleburg, Va., whose 16-day run commenced yesterday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

I hadn't planned on it, actually, having just come from the dressage veterinary inspection (aka "the jog" or "the trot-up"), during which all 66 horses were judged fit to compete by a team of Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) veterinary officials. What of it?

"Nothing, really," said Allen. The nonstory, as it were, is that a few teams had raised concerns about High Hope Inspection Lane and its hard-packed stone dust footing—perhaps hard enough to sting the feet of any horse that might not be 100% sound. But "this is the jog surface dictated by FEI rules" for every FEI discipline except reining and endurance, Allen said, and "it all went well."

Allen was more closed-mouthed about three non-competition-related illnesses or injuries that have occurred thus far, citing the FEI's and the horse owners' reticence to name the names of two of three horses involved. But today he was willing to share some details. Here's what we know:

Reining horse sustains muscle tear during training The lone reining entry from Uruguay, Cracker Jac Whiz, slipped during a pre-competition training session with rider Gabriel Diano and tore a right hind gaskin muscle, Allen said. "It was an accident," he emphasized.

Cracker Jac Whiz "was unable to compete but already is much better. He probably will transport home Wednesday (Sept. 29), and he is expected to make a full recovery and return to soundness within six months.

"Professor (Jean-Marie) Denoix (DVM, PhD, visiting from the Center of Imaging and Research in Equine Locomotor Affections, in France) did the imaging on site," Allen said. After the initial exam in the horse's stall, veterinarians moved Cracker Jac Whiz to the on-site clinic at the Horse Park—which Allen praised as thoroughly outfitted and extensively equipped with portable imaging equipment and other diagnostic devices.

Belgian endurance horse colics in quarantine, undergoes surgery According to Allen, one of the Belgian team endurance mounts colicked while in quarantine at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The horse was transported to an equine surgical facility in Lexington, where he underwent surgery for a small-bowel entrapment."The horse was successfully treated and is recovering and doing well," Allen said. "He is expected to go home with the last of the European shipments."

Although the thought of colic surgery strikes fear into the hearts of most horse owners, Allen said it is no longer the last-ditch battle for life that it once was. "The vast majority do great," he said, adding that the Belgian horse's chances of returning to his endurance career are excellent.

Chilean endurance horse fractures pelvis in stall accident Not that we needed proof that horses will always find new and creative ways to hurt themselves, but one of the three Chilean endurance team mounts managed to hang a leg in his hay net in his stall at the Horse Park. The entrapped horse fell and fractured his pelvis. Thankfully, nighttime security personnel soon discovered the injured horse, cut him out of his hay net, and summoned help.

"He was treated almost immediately" by WEG veterinarians and is doing well, Allen said.

As with a person who breaks a pelvis, there's not a lot veterinarians do to a horse with a similar injury, Allen said. "The main thing is to keep them quiet, and this horse is actually quite happy in his stall. We never moved him to the clinic." However, "he is the one who is probably going to have to go home later, since it takes six to eight weeks to stabilize the pelvis.

"As a rule," Allen said, "pelvic injuries come back (heal) well. Some horses come back to full form; others may be sound but may not quite come back to full form again. But we're optimistic that this horse will make a full recovery and be able to return to competing at his previous level."

One human incident "Cowboy dressage" performer Eitan Beth-Halachmy of Wolf Creek Ranch, Grass Valley, Calif., was exiting the Kentucky Horse Park main stadium after his routine with his Morgan stallion, Santa Fe Renegade, in last night's WEG opening ceremonies when he fell from his horse, apparently as a result of a medical condition that caused him to lose consciousness. Sources close to the performer say Beth-Halachmy fell into a jump pole and ruptured his spleen. He was transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, where he underwent a splenectomy—a surgical procedure that partially or completely removes the spleen. WEG officials reported overnight in a press release that he was in stable condition, however Kentucky.com reported this afternoon that his condition is now listed as critical.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.