Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jo and Kevin Part III: Type A's Jumping Over Fixed Obstacles. Raise Your Hand!

Welcome back to Part III of the USEA interview with Kevin Baumgarder and Jo Whitehouse. They wrap things up here with an analysis of what really happened to the long format and what will happen in the future--and what you can do about it!

Q. What do you love so much about eventing?

A. Jo Whitehouse

Well I come from England! When I was growing up in Pony Club we did cross-country, hunter trials, and fox hunting. Galloping cross-country was the only thing that anyone ever wanted to do. I fox hunted in England and we did lots of twenty meter circles but it was that cross-country! I had a childhood to die for. Then I was able to enjoy my daughter’s childhood. People say did you make her do this because you loved it? You don’t understand, nobody could make my daughter do anything. My late husband was a glider pilot and he was keen for her to do that. She went up with him several times but the horses always pulled. She’s not riding now, she’s finished grad school and earning a living now but I’m sure the horses will drag her back.

Q. What happened to the long format?

A. Jo Whitehouse

Below: Sydney Olympic mascots

It was a combination of things. It started after Sydney. We’d been going through this prior with some changes in the ‘90’s. You couldn’t give two medals for one performance. We had to have two types of competition. Barcelona was the last competition that had the rider that won the individual and one for the team that won the gold. At Atlanta we had the first individual and team. Prior you rode as team and an individual and could win gold for yourself and the team with one performance. The sport was competing against lots of sports for place in Olympics. The US has fielded a team for the Olympics every time since 1912. Suddenly there were these rumblings about if it was a sport so they came up with the two types of competitions. One was individual and one was team; they were there in Atlanta and

there in Sydney. That’s why David was so lucky to have two amazing horses in Custom Made and Giltedge (see right: David on Giltedge ponying Custom Made; photo copyright by Nancy Jaffer). Two wonderful horses got an opportunity they wouldn’t have had before. We went to Sydney and there were rumblings about too expensive and too much land and we’ve got to change it. Jimmy [Wofford] and Denny [Emerson] will tell you it was a European push to have the Euro Warmblood breeds be dominant. But mostly I think it was the sheer cost of putting on the full three-day event. A mixture of that and a sport that was more suitable for specialized breeds. No longer could you get the thoroughbred off the track. Those amazing feats of bringing horse from way down in dressage and getting a medal couldn’t happen anymore. You needed the horse that could break into a 30 in dressage and jump clean in the showjumping. It started to be a different breed of horse that was excelling.

Jack LeGoff had developed a format for World Cup. The IOC [International Olympic Committee] and FEI started making manouvers to make sure the sport stayed in the Olympic Games and that’s when they took the CIC type of competition and developed that into something that could be an Olympic sport. And the speed with which it fell was, whoa! We found out that suddenly Athens was running into trouble with space. They had committed to doing a long format, as had Beijing, they were running into problems and if they turned it into short format they could save huge amounts of money. Athens applied to go short, then the next thing we knew Badminton and Burghley were short format. Before we knew it US was only place you could have long format.

Q. What's the benefit to the long format?

A. Jo Whitehouse

It’s two fold: they’re educational and teach the riders horsemanship. For those who want to learn that they are just amazing. The lower level people want that opportunity to develop those skills that the upper level riders have. The wonderful thing that has always been the case with eventing is that it’s given a lot of horses off the track a second career. The event rider tends to have the skills to work with a pretty highly strung horse. The long format allows them a place to shine. They don’t have to be the best mover that will get the 18 in dressage or jump a highly technical or high jumping course so this is the competition for them. That is an important thing: that the horses will have a place to participate as long as that is out here. And it makes it more affordable! It creates a playing field and a job for the off the track horse that’s more affordable and allows more people to enjoy the sport without pricing them out of the market.

Q. The long format no longer takes place at our upper level competitions. Should it?

A. Kevin Baumgardner

Back in 2004, I believe, I was the chair of a task force to deal with the issues that were FEI-driven pushing to get rid of the long format. We pushed back pretty hard back then. The place where we got traction was at the Training level and at the one-star level where the format has stayed in the US only. The FEI, in its wisdom, decided to eliminate from its rule book phases A, B, and C for the one-star which leaves us with no FEI long format events. It’s quite confusing.

There’s some question as to whether or not you can run those phases anyway. There are a significant number of members who want to continue the long format experience. It’s also some of the people who are officials and course designers who are concerned about losing the education in riding forward. We support eventing at all levels but what we want to get is an option for those who want to do the long format and get the education that comes along with it. It’s a great education in horsemanship. You learn so much in getting your horse ready and competing on the day. It’s a pinnacle destination. I’d put it more in that framework than should we have it at Intermediate or Advanced. Jim Wofford would like to see a parallel sport developed. We have a Preliminary long format USEA/ USEF and Training three day competitions which are doing well. Definitely what we’re trying to do at the USEA is help the organizers put on the event and promote the sports. T3D and P3D.

If you could reverse the clock, had I been in the position I’m in now, I’d be kicking and screaming.

Above: Kevin showing his stuff

photo courtesy of Kevin Baumgardner

I go to Rolex and it’s a 4 Star, short format, and it’s pretty exciting to watch. I’m not saying that there aren’t great short format events and that they can’t exist side by side. But I have my preferences and others do too. We are kind of a disputatious group. It’s a bunch of type A’s who like to jump over fixed obstacles. It’s good for the sport and sometimes it’s hard on us but we agree to disagree and more forward.

Robert Kellerhouse is a perfect example: the Fall Galway Downs has a **CCI and a *CCI short and Prelim * classic format 3-day and also has a Training 3-day classic format. This is the same guy who is thinking out of the box with the Prelim challenge. What he would tell you is there’s a lot of room to offer different hings to different people in our sport. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Q. How can the rest of us be involved in bringing the long format back?

A. Jo Whitehouse

Well, a number of things. Obviously participate. If you’ve got young horses put one on your agenda. Volunteer. The organizers, Penny and Brian Ross (amazing people), Becky Broussard and her daughter Sara, Robert Kellerhouse, they believe if they have customers that want them they will offer them as long as they can afford them. So they need entires, volunteers, and sponsors. Get involved ith your local long-format organizer. Call around to your local tack shop to give a prize to the long format competition. If you want this it will take an association and family of members to make it happen. If the members want them: enter them, support them. For us we’re promoting them, we can given them as much attention as the Gold Cup. We’ve got video, website, and photo coverage. We would also like to hear from members who would like to cover them for us. It would save us money if they can write them up and take pictures and help build their portfolios.

Q. Anything else to add or wish I’d asked?
A. Kevin Baumgardner
One of the things I think people need to do be aware of is we need to make sure land is kept open for eventing and horses. Get involved in land conservation. This sport is dependant on large open areas. The young people need to be aware of that! The future is positive for this sport; it is a great sport with great horses and great people. I'm honored to be apart of it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jennie Brannigan Part II: One to Follow

I talked with Jennie for only 30 minutes or so but several things became quite clear: She's strong, determined, bright, and grateful. She answered questions directly, didn't waste time, and still managed to be illuminating, engaging, and entirely captivating. It's no wonder she has such a broad fan base. And there's no other time she could need it more than now--after losing Cooper--who was a champion not only in the field but also in her heart.

Q. What’s next on your competition schedule?

A. I’ll go out next Spring; we’ll be going down to Aiken [South Carolina]. Obviously Cooper is not on the list. I’ll do a 2 star with Cambalda in the Spring and then go Advanced. I have a young horse, Walkabout, and we’ll do a 1-star in the Spring and go Intermediate next summer. I have good stuff in the pipeline. I ride for a breeder, Elizabeth Battel (Footlight Farms) and will take a couple of those to Aiken. I’ll ride ones for Phillip [Dutton]. I’ll be out and about at a lot of shows.

Q. You’ve won the gold at the 2008 North American Young Riders Championships, been named to the USEF Developing Riders Team, are a host for Eventing Radio, won the USET Training Grant in 2009. What am I missing there in the list of accolades?

A. I won the young riders and was named to the training list last year on Cooper. I was Young Rider of the year last year and won the Gold Cup Series last year at Intermediate. I’m ranked 8th this year in the top 10 list. I’ve been lucky.

Below: Jennie Brannigan and Kevin Baumgardner, CEO of the USEA

photo courtesy of Josh Walker

Q. What else do you plan on putting under your belt?

A. I really want to ride for our country. Obviously losing Cooper was a pretty big hit but I’m lucky to have some other good horses. I think next year I’d like to do a 3-star on Campalda and have a crack at seeing what happens. I’d like to compete in England again. Do all the things everyone wants to do!

Q. Who are the impressive Young Riders you find yourself up against most often?

A. Tianna Coudray, she’s a very good rider. Lauren Kieffer is another person who I really respect; she’s an up and coming rider at

the O’Conner’s barn. I have a good friend; she rode on my team, Max McManamy.

Below: Jennie's friend, Max McManamy, on her horse Project Runway

photo courtesy of Emily Daily

The Jump-Off Round

These final questions are fast and furious and Jennie answered them as quick as they came. Here's some more insight into one of your favorite riders:

Q. Show jumping or cross-country?

A. Show jumping

photo courtesy of Kat Netzler/ The Chronicle of the Horse

Q. TV or radio?

A. Radio

Q. Indie rock or country music?

A. Indie rock

Q. Dapple grey or bay?

A. Dapple grey

Q. Thoroughbred or Sport Horse?

A. Thoroughbred

Q. Beige competition or white competition britches?

A. White

Q. Extension or half pass?

A. Extension

Q. Ford or Chevy?

A. Ford

Q. Dogs or cats?

A. Dogs

Below: One of Jennie's biggest supporters, Bizzie

photo courtesy of Midatlantic Equestrian Services

Q. Badminton or Rolex?

A. Badminton

Below: Badminton House

photo courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials

Q. Anything else you want to add?

A. I want to thank everyone that’s been supportive of Cooper.

Still want to know more about Jennie and where she'll go from here? Follow her blog at The Chronicle of the Horse. We'll undoubtedly be seeing more of this brave rider.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jennie Brannigan Part I: In Memory of Cooper

Jennie Brannigan, at 22, has rocketed to the top of the eventing world, as demonstrated by her current 8th place ranking in the U.S. Top 10 Riders. Not to mention winning the Young Rider's Championships or piloting one of her horses, Cambalda, to a 5th place ranking for Intermediate horses-in a matter of months. No, it's not hard to imagine, then, that she's got determination and talent, as well as a huge base of support, fans, and mentors. And she doesn't hesitate to look around to be grateful for who has been there for her--person or horse. All of that despite the recent loss of her top horse and partner, Cooper. That kind of loss can't be put into words so there's no need to try. Instead this interview will stand as a testament to Jennie's strength, grace, and gift, and to Cooper's excellence.

Below: Jennie and Cooper
photo courtesy of Emily Daily
Q. What was the town like that you grew up in?

A. I was born in Chicago and moved to a small town called Galena [Illinois] and that’s really where I learned to ride. It was a town of 3,000 people: a historical, small, rural town. But I’ve lived all over the place.

Q. How old are you now?

A. 22.

Q. How has the Young Riders Program influenced you?

A. The Young Riders Championships is the mecca of the young up-and-coming riders. Going to the championship and winning it was great. But the whole program is great and I was representative for the West Coast Program. I enjoyed getting people together; I’m really social. We all cheer each other along and learn a lot. You get to ride with really good people. It’s hard for it to be a big program; it’s really centered around the championships. There’s a movement to get it involved at all levels. It’s a positive step for the sport.

Q. Cooper was injured at Fair Hill and you did everything you could to save him. Sadly, the entire event world lost a champion. How have your fans been supportive?

A. I really appreciate, first of all, Southern California Equestrian Sports who put on a fundraiser to help me pay for the expenses.

Obviously it’s been a huge expense, I appreciate the people who have donated, the emails, cards; hundreds have reached out. I appreciate people being positive and not negative. It’s been amazing and Cooper is a great horse and deserves a whole lot. I’ve been quite blessed to have horses like Cooper and Cambalda.

Q. What did you see in Cooper when you bought him from Kelli McMullen-Temple?

A. Some people can see talent in young horses and some don’t. Kelli has a fantastic eye and I can safely say I would buy something from her without seeing it first. He’s got a great eye; he’s such a sweet horse. It’s not easy to explain it.

Below: Jennie on Cooper

photo credit to Kat Netzler

There was just something about him. I didn’t even know what breed he was. I just sat on him for fifteen minutes and was like, alright, this is the perfect horse.

Q. You say that Ping has a lovely mind. What does that mean?

Cambalda, Ping is his barn name, he’s top notch. He’s really blossomed in the last six months. For a little while I wasn’t sure if he was going to be the right horse for me. He’s got all of the right movement for a top-notch athlete. He’ll go advanced next year. We won the American Eventing Championships at Intermediate. He’s ranked 5th out of all Intermediate horses in the county; and he only moved up in the Fall. I’m thinking he’ll be a really positive horse for the future.

Below: "Cambalda"

photo credit to Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services

He also got named to the developing rider list. He has a lovely mind in that he’s really reliable in the dressage ring, he’s not as high maintenance for a Thoroughbred, and he’s always the same every day you get on him. He’s a pickle around the barn.

Q. You’re currently riding with Phillip Dutton at his True Prospect Farm? What’s life like there? Who all is around day-to-day?

A. Our barn on the whole is a pretty great place. Phillip has a lot of horses; we all have horses in training. I get to do a lot of riding and I’m around Phillip and Boyd. His wife is great. Phillip is an amazing person to get to work around every day. It’s a great job; I’ve been here a year and a half and I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon.

Q. How would Phillip describe you?

A. I don’t know. He’s not a man of many words. The words he does say are always pretty important.

Q. Who are some of the people you’ve been amazed to meet during your rise to Advanced competition?

A. There’s always a lot of press around riders. An emphasis should be on the people that help the riders get where they are. I would say I have learned a lot about horsemanship and the way things should be done and how to handle tough situations from Emma Ford. She’s been great and wonderful and supportive. Captain Mark Phillip is wonderful and his wife Sandy; they’ve been supportive and with all the bad things that have happened to Cooper. I look forward to riding with him. Mike Huber, who’s our head selector. He’s been very helpful and supportive; I’ve appreciated getting to know him. Susie Hutchinson, who’s a show jumping rider, has been really supportive and is a good person. I worked for her but I never was a show jumping rider. That was a job I was lucky to receive. She’s been very supportive of event riders. She’s helped a lot of event riders. She’s was probably one of my biggest role modes. She’s a really good person. Not many people could say a bad thing about her; she’s amazing.

Check back soon for Part II of Jennie Brannigan's interview. To read more about Jennie you can also read her blog on The Chronicle of the Horse.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jo Takes Her Life in Her Hands, Kevin Gets Bitten by the Bug

We're back at Three Days Three Ways for Part II of the interview with Jo Whitehouse and Kevin Baumgardner, CEO and President of the USEA (United States Eventing Association). We left off with Kevin talking about how he got involved with the USEA in the first place (volunteer, volunteer, volunteer!). Today Jo starts us off with the flurry that is her typical day and the destiny of the long format. Kevin takes it from there with some of the intriguing, creative, and out-of-the-box ideas eventing organizers are coming up with.

Q. What is your daily life like at the USEA headquarters?

A. Jo Whitehouse: Well, that’s the fun part of it. You come in the morning and you have your schedule and will do this, this, this and the phone starts ringing and the emails start coming and it never turns out that way. It’s one of those jobs that you wake up and say that you will never have to work again. You’ve got to face some ups and face some downs but you meet some wonderful people, and I have to say eventers are the salt of the earth. The board meets three times a year and one is by teleconference, then we have the may meeting and we have a face-to-face meeting here in Leesburg in August and two meetings at the annual meeting (one of old outgoing board and one of the new). The board is on a rotational basis: two, three-year terms. So one third of the board will rotate every three years so you never have an entire board going off and a new one coming on so there’s continuity. As president you can serve thee, one-year terms. There are quite a lot of committees; each staff member is a liaison to one committee or more.

I’ve got to promote the sport and represent the association. We have the legal side of it, making sure legal documents are in place and legal requirements are met on regular basis, tax papers filed and other documents that have to be in place as a natural part of running an organization.

Fundraising is a part of my job. Right now we’re funding for the cardiovascular study and the frangible fence technology study. David O’Connor has been heading that up through University of Kentucky with the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation). The USEA has committed $30,000 this year and next year. We’re raising funds for that. We’re working on developing sponsorships and at the American Eventing Championships (AEC) where we’ll be presenting $50,000 prize money and $100,000 in in-kind prizes. We do a lot of sponsorship development for that.

As far as classic program, according to our members, they want to do it. It’s going to, probably, be an adult-amateur competition in the end. What we hope to do with the classic is to combine the Training level three-day as an educational activity and combine the two levels under the name of the classic series. Jim Wofford hopes it will go all the way up the levels. It will be a bit of a different sport since it won’t be where mainstream international competitors are going. But our 14,000 members, are in support. It will depend on the number of entries these events get. If the entries come, and members want it, we will do everything in our power to make sure it’s there for them to do.

And as far as funding it, as a national organization we can do fundraising along the lines of what we do with the Gold Cup. We have organizers who have agreed to participate in the Gold Cup, our sponsors love the Gold Cup as it gives them multiple chances for exposure. SmartPak is the title sponsor for the Training level and we’re looking for a Preliminary level sponsor. Stackhouse Saddles will put one saddle up and all the winners of the Training three-day will put their name in their hat and draw the winner. We have a website that gets hundreds of thousands of hits, e-newsletters, we can give the organizers the national outlet for their sponsors. And we’re always open to ideas for how we can do more. These are the things that make up my day!

Q. What is one of the most memorable emails you’ve received from a USEA member?

A. Kevin Baumgardner

One thing that does stand out, and relates to what we’re talking about, is people really want to see the sport continue as something that is unified and for people at all levels and not just a stratified pursuit where you have a few people at the show and everyone else is treated as clients. Everyone wants to be part of the action. Let me give you an example that got people really excited:

This Spring at Woodside Horse Trials at the beautiful Horse Park at Woodside on a hill looking over San Francisco Bay, Robert Kellerhouse and Christina Grey put on a competition so out of the box. Their event went through Advanced but what they decided to do was feature Preliminary. They called it the Preliminary Challenge, and put prize money on it. What they did that was so neat. Saturday night they had a big catered dinner in the main arena and invited everyone from the event and community. So you have all these people several tables deep and then watching the finals of the preliminary showjumping. The tension: it was like watching Rolex. It was so exciting. People were going wild. It really revved people up. I got tons of email about that. We’re focusing on the fun at every level. I think that’s want they want-fun and challenge at every level. It’s a sport that’s leveling and you won’t always come out on top.

Kevin Baumgardner and wife, Gretchen

photo courtesy of Kevin Baumgardger

One thing that distinguished our sport is we ride all the time against top riders like Amy Tryon or Karen O’Connor. I think it would be interesting if you showed up at Hunter-Jumper competition and said, “I’d like to ride against Beezie Madden.” That egalitarian quality is something people love. I think it draws us together.

Q. What is your history with horses?

A. Jo Whitehouse

Oh, well, you don’t want to tell anyone this: The gypsies would tether their horses on the open land. I disappeared and my parents found me sitting under this big Gypsy Vanner stroking its long feathers.

That's all I ever wanted. I would stand at the gate all day and one day they said to come in. I was like a barn rat. Allen Taylor was the owner of this riding stable in edge of the Yorkshiredales. I did Pony Club and Prince Phillip Pony Club Games and took my Pony Club B and all of those good fun things. I was involved with horses pretty much all my life. Then of course finished school, got married started a family and my daughter got involved with ponies and pony club and I became the D.C. of a Pony Club in New England and that’s when I started with the USEA. Then my daughter's eventing career took hold; she’s also a graduate A. Having to sit and listen to all the questions and those things that parents do. And then I was her groom. I can screw in studs and I’m very good at trot sets!

Q. Describe your first meeting with a horse. How old were you?

A. Kevin Baumgardner

Other than I may have ridden a pony in a circle at a fair, the first time I rode a horse I was 30. That was 1989. I’m 50 now. I was into mountain climbing, as was my wife. She (Gretchen) suggested we take a riding lesson, so we did. That was 20 years ago. I think a lot of people recognize this story. Slowly we got more and more into riding and then we discovered eventing. Remember in 1992 there was the thing called the triple cast, you could watch everything with the red, blue and white channel. It was ahead of its time. We watched all 8 hours of the eventing cross-country and I said I’d like to do that. So we did. We got involved and were lucky to meet some really good people and trainers and just like anyone else: you get bitten by the bug.

We have three horses right now; one is retired. He’s 20 now. He was a wonderful horse for me. He’s a member of the family. Then we’ve got two horses I’ve been eventing with, one had a suspensory last year. The other one, last weekend, we went Intermediate at John Camlin’s Caber Farm.

Rebecca Farm is nine hours away, in Montana, it’s an unbelievable place. We have Jonathan Elliot at Aspen Farm in Yelm, WA. Inavale Farm in Oregon near Corvallis, that’s a wonderful event. Whidbey Island, which has been run for over 30 years now, that’s an event that all of us have done many times and then North West Equestrian Center has traditionally had a Spring and Fall Event. The thing that we’ve got too is more and more interaction with the Californians. They have several wonderful events like Twin Rivers, Galway, Ram Tap in its 51st or 52nd year. Bill Burton: he’s a legend out here. There’s a lot of back and forth. Derek De Grazia is out here as is Malcom Hook. It’s a really good community out here on the West Coast.

Check Back to Three Days Three Ways for the wrap up to the interview with Jo Whitehouse and Kevin Baumgardern of the USEA and to find out what happened to the long format, and what you can do about it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jo and Kevin: The Man (and Woman!) Behind the USEA Curtain

The United States Eventing Association's (USEA) Annual Convention takes place this weekend (now, actually!) in Reston, Virginia. That makes for perfect timing to get a word or two from the USEA CEO, Jo Whitehouse, and her partner in crime, USEA President Kevin Baumgardner. So if you can’t make the trek to horse country just now have a look see here and find out what they have to say about sitting under Gypsy Banners as a child, getting bitten by the bug, and thoughts on the loss of the long format. Jo is charming, incredibly clever, and has a killer Bristish accent. Kevin is warm, knowledgeable, and passionate; they're both wholly dedicated to eventing and totally have our backs. The interview itself is a combination of two so is a bit of an experiment. It's broken into several parts so make sure to check back in for Part II. Here goes!

Q. What is your role at the USEA?

A. Jo Whitehouse: Well I’m CEO at the USEA. I was put into that position about two years ago. I should back up saying I joined the USEA in November 1987 as a volunteer. My daughter went to a private school in Beverly, MA and it was a long drive. How could I spend a few hours a day? The USEA was right around the corner.

I started as a volunteer which developed into something part time and was full time within a matter of weeks. I worked in every department for the USEA through the years. Specifically I was editor and communications manager and then also, in December 1988, I was made the Executive Director until, I think, about the end 2006 when I was appointed CEO.

We’ve seen quite a few changes over the years of staff gradually taking on more and more of what was done by volunteers. Volunteering seems to have changed in last 5-7 years. Baby boomers are all raised to volunteer so it will be a concern for the future. This sport is so reliant on volunteers; I’m not sure the culture will still be there. That’s tough for eventing. I do have a lot of hope and belief in people who love this sport. It’s such a passion, it brings that side out in people. If people want this sport it’s going to be volunteering. It’s such an expensive sport, it requires such a lot of positions, it would be too expensive to hire the people for jobs that volunteers do.

Q. What is your role as USEA president?

A. Kevin Baumgardner: There are a few things. It’s first to be chair of the executive committee and chairman of board of governors. That’s the ultimate governing body of our organization. When policy issues come to board or executive committee they come through me and I work with Jo Whitehouse, the USEA CEO. As a practical matter what that means is that Jo and I are almost in constant contact; we talk nine out of ten days on the phone. I have a lot of interplay with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and Malcolm Hook conveniently chairs the eventing committee at the USEF and is a member board of the board of governors and executive committee. The USEA has an eight-member sub group board that governs the week-to-week policy of the organization. So that’s one role.

Kevin and his lovely wife, Gretchen, at the Place de Vosges, France

photo courtesy of Kevin Baumgardner

The second role of the president is to make use of the platform that the position gives you to air issues of importance and views of the association. I’ve tried to take advantage of that. One thing that’s been very important for me is what we’ve been talking about: the community and culture of the sport. Once in a while I hear “We’re your customers and you need to treat us like we’re customers.” And I push back on that. The USEA is second to none in customer service. But I don’t think our culture is a culture of leadership up here and customers down here. I think our culture is one of a community where we owe something back to the sport. I’m a volunteer and have put 100’s of hours into the sport, and I’m lucky to do it. I know hundreds who have done the same thing.

We’re standing on the shoulders of those who built the sport. I don’t think you can be a customer, I think you have to be part of a living, breathing sport that’s moving forward. The economics are such that it’s a challenge and we need to pull together to make sure that we keep it doable and affordable for everyone. Most people are receptive. They’re self-starters who want to make a difference. I’ve been trying to communicate how much the sport is just a miracle. I think out of that epiphany is that we all have a responsibility to shepherd the sport forward.

Q. How did you first get involved with the USEA?

A. Kevin Baumgardner

I started showing up at area and annual meetings. I started doing that when we began eventing in the early ‘90s and I ended up, around 1996, on the area council. It’s just an example of people who want to get involved and show up at enough meetings get put on something. We’re victims of our own attendance. So in 1999 I was the Area 7 Chair. I was in that position for three years. After a one-year hiatus I went on the board in 2002 or 2003. It’s been a really good experience. It’s been a lot of fun to meet and expand my horizons and to meet folks from around the country who event. To realize that when you deal with national issues and that there are 14,000 of us and that we’re a small organization of extremely committed people who are scattered over various areas of a huge country. It’s given me a sense of how important it is to maintain a sense of culture and community. This came from people who gave back and were part of the solution not the problem. Every time I got to an event I think, “this sport is a miracle.” Think how much goes on on the ground and how much work has gone in to creating what we see. How much of that work has been compensated at market value? A lot of them are doing it as a labor of love. They’re contributing to the culture of the sport. It’s volunteers who jump judge, build the courses, act as officials, and it’s the riders who give back. It’s something I like in the eventing world that you go to an event and you see someone is having problem and a trainer who knows them casually will go over and help out. That’s unique and we’ve got to maintain that.

I hope we maintain that atmosphere of community as opposed to being cutthroat. Our sport is more about the journey than the destination.

Check back soon for Part II where Jo dishes on the ins and outs of her job and Kevin gives up some exciting developments on the competition front!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Finest Care and the Best Horses: Dr. Schramme on the 2008 Olympics Part II

Welcome back to Dr. Schramme's interview for Three Days Three Ways. Read on for vet issues at the 2008 Olympics, those specific to eventers, and how event horses are so special.

Q. What kinds of issues did you see while there?

A. The first issue was about climatological conditions. The heat and humidity. There was enormous attention paid to making sure horses were hydrated and cooled. Every stable had air conditioning and misting fans attached to cooling tanks. That was the first big issue. On the whole we were lucky with the weather. For instance, with cross-country, there was a light drizzle. The sun never really came through very harshly and it rained slightly throughout. So it was the perfect climate for horses. Even for the finals of showjumping there was a typhoon announced. Since it was windy it cooled a bit and the typhoon didn’t come till then next morning. But that was a bit of chaos since the airport closed--but for the horses it cooled things a bit for the evening of the showjumping final.

The other thing you come across with competition horses, from my point of view, is mainly tendon and ligament concerns. We did more ultrasound examinations than radiographs. Horses would come up inexplicably lame the day before the competition and that kind of stuff. Tendon and ligaments are the main issue at that level.

Another problem if you travel these long distances is called “shipping fever”. It’s basically pneumonia. We want to make sure they don’t contract something like that.

Then there was the odd sick horse or horses not doing quite right.

Q. What was the most serious injury that you dealt with?

A. One of the eventing horses finished a course but had fracture a proximal phalanx. So that horse had to be transported back to the clinic with a splint. I think it had four screws put in then it was recovered in a cast and went home to Sweden.

Q. Was the smog a problem or concern or was it just a story?

A. No, not nearly as bad as in Beijing.

Q. Did you have a good time?

A. Absolutely, fantastic. I made some good friends from the vet team. I met some people from different countries that you usually don’t meet. There’s a lot of bonding that goes on. We were working towards a common goal and all the eating and sleeping is all pretty much done together. It was a good experience.

Q. What did you and the other vets do when you weren’t working?

A. I left this out conveniently! There were provisions for some time off. So we’d go shopping in Hong Kong. What else do you do in Hong Kong? We went shopping. You explore, go visit things. My family was out there too so we visited some sights and saw some places. We didn’t quite go to Disney Land with the kids but we saw some other things.

Q. Are there specific veterinary issues that you find specific to eventers?

Ligaments, tendons and heat stress since those [eventers] are the ones that go the hardest. Showjumpers and dressage horses don’t perform at the maximum level of exertion. But eventers have to be concerned about heat stress and that’s where climate comes in again. And since they go at top speed they get more tendon and ligament issues.

Q. What can eventers do to keep their horses sound and healthy?

A. One of the things these teams do is that they have very regular vet check ups. There’s no way of predicting when a horse will injure itself. But one of the advantages to this close monitoring is early intervention. That’s often the key. Not just from a fitness point of view but also from an injury point of view.

One thing I noticed it’s a different type [of horse]-- a different group of horses. These horses are better able to deal with chronic, low-grade, niggling injuries. You wonder why these horses aren’t more lame with the injury? Whether it’s a mental ability to discard pain or a love for the job. But you kind of have to throw out the rulebook in assessing injuries and whether a horse can perform with that injury. You think the average day-to-day patients will need two months off. But a lot of these [event] horses will keep going--and keep going well. The term the riders use is that the horses have a big heart. There’s a huge mental part of it. It’s not just physical. It’s how do they deal with an injury or niggling pain that would put another horse out of action. It’s not just a question of keeping a champion healthy. It’s how big is the horse’s heart as far as wanting to perform and enjoying the job? That’s a big difference from every-day vet practice that you have to get used to.

Even though sometimes have to protect horses against themselves you can’t just always stay on the safe side of the fence and say there’s a risk that this may effect the horses performance when the horse is able to continue to. Also, there are things the riders know better than you do as a specialist. You can’t just come in and make decisions. To be honest, the rider and the vet know more about the horse and how best to deal with it. So you give advice and you try and help them with things like should the horse continue or does it need to go for long-term rest? You can’t just make those decisions on a strictly textbook basis.

Q. Is there anything else you want to add?

A. One thing that was really outstanding was the organization provided by The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Their logistics team was outstanding. Nothing was left to chance. There was a contingency plan for everything from bad weather to terrorism. Sometimes it was hard on us have to be there so early! It was remarkable and very well prepared. I’m sure Olympic horses have never had this kind of care and attention that they received there. Everything was purpose built. Everything was brand new. It was a privilege to be a part of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From "All Creatures Great and Small" to the 2008 Olympics: Dr. Michael Schramme

Dr. Michael Schramme, DrMedVet, CertEO, PhD, Dip ECVS, went to the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong as part of an international team of veterinarians. He is currently the Director of Equine Surgery and an Associate Professor of Equine Surgery at the North Carolina State Veterinary School. He received his PhD in Equine Osteoarthritis in 2000 at the University of London, United Kingdom. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1985 at the University of Gent, Belgium. Dr. Schramme specializes in equine orthopedic surgery and lameness as well as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). He gives you the behind-the-scenes look at the equestrian Olympics.

Q. What made you want to become a vet?

A. So many things involved. The main thing was a love for animals and nature in general. We always had animals at home in Belgium. I preferred the animal side to the human side. Something incredibly popular when I was teenager were the books by James Harriot, All Creatures Great and Small. My generation was influenced by those books and the wonderful BBC series. It certainly provided a strong background to persevere with one’s choice if one was so inclined. The other thing was how did you end up working with horses and that in itself was almost process of elimination. Once you get into vet school, in my time, it becomes clear that my female colleagues aspired to the small animal side and my male colleagues were more inclined towards the large animal side. I was always interested in surgery and though surgery for cattle is well developed, economically it’s less and less viable and

realistic. Surgery in horses is much more advanced and sophisticated. So you kind of drift into horses if you’re interested in surgery. Small animal surgery is a lot more sophisticated and advanced but horses are defining species for large animal procedures.

Q. Why did you decide to specialize in Equine Orthopedics?

A. That probably had to do with mentorship. My mentor was one of the pioneers of equine radiology at vet school in Europe. It’s something I hold dear. I was doing a lot of colic surgery and soft tissue surgery. As you move through your career it’s about finding a niche without even looking for it. When you work with competition horses the problem you will find is lameness. Inevitably you’re spending your time doing that and you want to get better at it.

Q. How did it come about that you went to Hong Kong in 2008?

A. When I was a resident at the Royal Veterinarian College in London a friend of mine was doing his PhD in fractures, etc. He became the Veterinary Services Manager for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. That was Dr. Riggs. [Before the Olympics ] it became clear it would not be practical to bring horses into China. Until Hong Kong stepped up they almost gave up on the Equine Olympics. Then Hong Kong stepped up with ability to deal with importing and quarantine and deal with infectious diseases. They held the Equine Olympics there because of the association with international racing for hundreds of years. The Hong Kong Jockey Club used to be British. Because of the British tradition in racing they are well equipped to deal with imports and exports of high performance horses. Dr. Riggs was approached to be the Veterinary Service Manager for the Olympics. He put together a team of international experts to provide on-site vet care. So that team was not associated with any national teams but with the FEI Team of Treating Veterinarians. Australia, USA, UK, Germany, China were all involved. There were about fifteen of us. I was invited as one of those fifteen. Three were board certified surgeons, of which I was one as well. There were also three board certified internal medicine specialists. There was also a whole team of vets dealing with doping control, quarantine and those kinds of things. They were separate from us.

Hong Kong Billboard for the Olympics

photo by Bibash Chaudhuri

Q. How long were you there?

A. For somewhere between 5 and 6 weeks. We had to be there before the first horse arrived by air convoy. And because we had to be there when the horses arrived and accompany them by convoy to the venue. We stayed until the last horse went home. With the exception of a few horses from Australia that had additional quarantine regulations.

Q. Where did you live while you were there?

A. We lived in an FEI hotel by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sha Tin Race Course. They had built the venue there for dressage and show jumping and there were two hotels close by for competitors and stewards. There was another venue at Beas River Country Club for cross-country. All the event horses had to travel there in convoy and back. There were complicated logistics involved with that. All the horses had to be there at the same time and then come back after cross-country. The convoy consisted of, if I remember correctly, 12 transport vans, which was enough to take 2/3 of the horses. So it had to go twice to take them out there and bring them back.

Q. What did your days look like while you were there?

A. They had a pretty organized system. Dr. Riggs was the Service Manager and had a roster together for us. At any given time there were four different slots to fill. So there was one team of two for flight duty. They would travel to the airport and back with the horses. One vet was on emergency clinical cover 24 hours around the clock. Then there was the routine clinic cover and the clinic reception and office as well as being available for specific team veterinarians. Then there was the surgery and medical cover from 7am to 8pm. There were two surgery vets and two internal vets. So there were five slots to fill with one or two people in each. There was a rotation drawn up between those different things.

In addition to that, whenever competition necessitated, we had two vets ringside and one vet with the ambulance. During cross-country we all went to the venue. We arrived at 4am and manned all the stations and made sure radio contact was provided. There were different stations out on course, in the stables, the ten-minute box and the finish lines. You know how it goes. We stayed out there and the first half came back with the first convoy and the second came back with second convoy.

Q. What kinds of issues did you see while there?

Find out what kinds of veterinary issues Dr. Schramme saw while at the 2008 Olympics in the next post......

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