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......

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Inside Line: Derby Cross, Dinner, and Auction at Sharon White's Last Frontier Farm

The Inside Line: Your Inside Scoop in the Eventing World!

Today's Inside Line: TOMORROW, September 7th (Labor Day)
Sharon White hosts a Derby Cross, dinner with live auction at her own Last Frontier Farm.

If you’ve evented in Area II, you’ve seen Sharon’s orange and white rig at a competition. Unfortunately, that colorful truck and trailer are no longer on the road. Both vehicles were totaled in a scary accident on the way to the Cosequin Stuart Horse Trials. Sharon hasn’t ever hesitated to help a friend in need, and this is our opportunity to give back and help her out of a tight situation. Click here for the complete when and where.

Take a look at a few of the exclusive auction items:

  • 1 year subscripton to the Chronicle of the Horse
  • 1 week of vacation house in Maine
  • Dressage Lesson with Lauren Sprieser
  • Custom portrait session at VA Horse Trials with Brant Gamma
  • 2 days of 2 tank scuba dives in Provo
  • Photo Shoot with Josh Walker
  • 1 year subscription to Horse and Hound
  • A seasons pass for schooling at Gordonsdale
  • 2 entries to Surefire 2010 Horse Trials
  • Logo and Farm Sign
  • Breeding to Hanoverian Stallion “Argosy” (not including collection and shipping/fees)
  • Lessons with Boyd and Silva Martin
  • Stubben Saddle
  • Entry to Rubicon Horse Trials
  • Lesson with Jimmy Wofford
  • Hotel rooms for the WEG
That's not even the whole list! Click here for a more complete list.

So, to recap:
  • You on your horse competing in the DerbyCross, think Fall in the air.
  • Enjoying evening cocktails, how civilized!
  • Bidding on a few of your favorite things, so very The Sound of Music, and
  • Hob knobbing with eventing's inside crowd over dinner.

If you could possibly still have any questions about it click here for more details! Or call Kate Byron at (304) 724-7279 or Dawn Haney-West at (540) 454-0208 with any questions about the event, volunteering or ideas for the auction. Or send emails to

Friday, September 4, 2009

Craig Thompson Part II: A Real PRO

In Part II Craig Thompson talks about:
  • Professional Rider's Organization, how it got started and keeping the band marching. At least in the same direction.
  • What Bull Riders and NASCAR have on eventers.
  • How to make eventing an even better sport, and
  • How you can be involved!

Q. What is PRO?

A. A very cool acronym, first and foremost. We got the cool acronym. It’s the Professional Riders Organization. There are five people on the Executive Committee and twenty on the Board. I started to sense from a bunch of us that we could do more. It felt like things had ground to a halt. There was a lot of talk about raising the profile of sport and putting it on par with tennis and golf, also the professional bull riders and NASCAR. I’m happy just getting it on par with show jumping and getting purses. We’ve got great and talented horses and riders but making a living is very hard. To me, when I am said and done I want an eighteen-year-old to say, “I want to event” and their parents don’t say, “Oh my god my kid is going to starve”.

The first step is to organize event riders, which is like herding cats. There are twenty five on the list who have made a financial commitment and a commitment of their time and energy. More spectators and prize money is on the top of everyone’s list. Then there are more mundane things—like benefits for members and retirement and insurance. We want a Pro Tour linking the best events. At the end of the day there’s a gap between the USEA and the USEF. The USEA does an excellent job promoting sports, the USEF does an excellent job of fielding teams and administering rules. But neither has an office of eventing development. Nobody is sitting around trying to raise money or link events in a series or figuring out how to get spectators to come and learn our sport and understand. That’s where most of us fall. There’s a demand for an organization to try to fill that gap.

Riders are great at hacking around the warm-up and talking about what’s wrong. Trying to do something about it is an effort to get people to put their money and time where their mouth is. Complaining is one thing; coming up with an actionable plan is another.

Q. What’s the story behind PRO? How did it get started?

A. I am a member of the Professional Horseman’s Council at the USEA, which tries to provide an organize and unified voice for riders. I got frustrated quickly. It’s very clunky in decision making and slow to react to events as they unfold. I didn’t feel like that was the answer. Several of us talked shop and had a few drinks and talked about what we should do. It’s easy to get people talking and thinking together in Ocala or Aiken in the winter. You’ll see the bull riders on TV and that came from twenty guys sitting around talking about it. Now the PBR has a pro tour and minimum prize money.

In 2007 I wrote an article for The Chronicle [of the Horse] laying out ideas, one of them being to create an independent think tank to develop and promote good ideas. PRO is a little of that—to incubate ideas and foster plans. Then, more specifically, I remember being in a local bar talking with Phillip Dutton and Mara Dean. We’re 3 very different people but we left thinking, yeah, we can do this. In 2008, when Darren fell on his head, a lot went wrong. As professionals we didn’t have the opportunity to say what did happen, what went wrong. We saw public and media finger pointing and didn’t have a way to respond to that. Mara, Laura, Boyd, Will Coleman, and I sat down and tried to answer questions on the Chronicle chat room--which was a disaster. We were shocked by level of anger and lack education on behalf those who were asking questions. There’s a big disconnect between public opinion and what we as riders know to be true. At the Fork Horse Trials last year we had a riders meeting. Fifty or 60 riders showed up, and we sat around and talked. I asked, “Do we need a professional riders organization to represent our interest?” The answer was unanimous—Yes.

photo by Emily Daily

We spent the summer game planning how to get this thing off the ground. I pitched it first at a hotel bar in New Orleans during the USEA Annual Meeting. People kept coming and by time I did the pitch in a big conference room in front of a couple hundred people, we walked away with an organization. There is the executive committee, a board, and members (anyone riding at preliminary and above) and also a participating membership (any fan). Monday night football has taught everyone about football. We need to do a better job of bringing fans to the sport, a better job of getting fans to know that it’s not just Kentucky. No other organization is trying to do that. That’s where we’re at now. That’s how it started.

Q. What is your role?

A. I guess my official title is president. That’s because at one of our very early meetings Phillip and Buck were going to the Olympics, Allison was headed to Europe, and Laura was stuck in traffic. My role is to be the public face and spokesman. Doing things like this interview, press conferences. Conduct the orchestra a little bit. That’s how I think of it. I keep everyone marching, if not in a straight line then in some formation.

Q. How do you know when you’re successful?

A. The British Professional Event Riders Organization was successful in the 1990’s. When funding withdrew it collapsed. PRO has to be self-supporting. Simply sustaining is a huge first step.

We are working with very closely with the Plantation Field CIC ** and *** in September. We wanted an event we could use as lab to see what PRO could do well. We want to work with the best events and make them better events. At Plantation we are trying to do things better. Better commentary: the NFL's John Madden idea; a concierge where owners and riders can hang out with good food and have a good time. We’re holding a silent auction leading up to Plantation with prizes from inexpensive riding lessons and course walks to a beach house in on the Gulf of Mexico and a tour of the Muppet factory in Manhatten. There’s also the $15,000 in prize money, which is huge. Next year we’d like to see a tour and give spectators and fans a reason to follow us from one event to the next. If we can pull all that off I’d say we were successful.

photo by Emily Daily

Q. How can amateur riders or eventing enthusiasts provide support or be involved?

A. The Participating Membership is a $35.00 and includes a quarterly newsletter. You can do things fans wouldn’t be able to do—get behind scenes tours and course walks. Fans need to feel like they’re part of the action. Need to know the horses and riders. Need to figure out which ones they like. Fans can be cheering at the water jump or a minority owner in syndicate, that’s great too.

Q. Anything you want to add or wish that I’d asked?

A. Come to Plantation Field and watch!

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