Badminton, Burghley, WEG, Le Lion - my 2018 highlights | An Eventful Life

Badminton, Burghley, WEG, Le Lion - my 2018 highlights


With winter just around the corner here in the Northern Hemisphere, the eventing season has now come to an end for me and I’ve had a fantastic year

I've vetted at three 4* and six 3* events across the UK, Europe and America. I’ve driven over 1,500km to events (which is a massive distance in the UK), helping many of my clients achieve great things this season as a treating vet, and flown over 14,000km to officiate at some of the world’s best eventing competitions.



Badminton and Burghley were again major highlights for me this year.

It’s always a privilege to work at such amazing venues, but even more so when you are able to help riders achieve their personal goals at these prestigious events. As I’ve discussed previously, one of my major motivating factors in equine veterinary medicine is helping my clients to achieve their best. Very few are fortunate enough to be mounted on a horse aimed at winning a 4*, but that doesn’t mean their goals aren’t any less important and achievements shouldn’t be any less celebrated.

Just getting a horse to Badminton and Burghley is an achievement in itself and to finish all three phases in no mean feat. As a veterinarian I am only one of a larger team behind a 4* horse achieving success, but I take great pride and satisfaction in playing my role. For me success and satisfaction can come in many shapes, whether that be helping an established 4* rider achieve her first Badminton completion, or helping a young rider complete his first ever 4* event.

It can come by nursing a beloved 19 year old horse through his aches and pains after a taxing cross country to help him show jump for the very last time before a well-earned retirement. It can come in the shape of a smile and handshake after passing a trot up with the connections telling you “He’s never looked better”, or simply a text that reads “Thanks for getting me here”.

All are equally important. All are the reasons I keep doing what I do.



There probably isn’t really much to say that hasn’t already been said about the overall issues that the World Equestrian Games in Tryon had to contend with leading up to and during the event. Truth be told the coverage was pretty fair, but what I will say is they did their best in very challenging circumstances and it’s just a shame they didn’t have another six months to make everything exactly how it should have been.

Like WEG 2014 in Normandy and the Rio 2016 Olympics, despite the metaphorical (and literal) storms surrounding the event, the Vet Services team stepped up to the plate, was a beacon of calmness and efficiency, and provided a fantastic service to the 68 nations, 702 competitors and approximately 1,000 horses on site.


      The Man. The Legend.

      Dennis Goulding - Australian Team vet at every WEG since 1990


At any major Championships there are hundreds of veterinarians on site at any one time performing a variety of different roles. Below is just some of the many veterinary roles at WEG 2018.

  • Vet Services Manager – Appointed by the Organising Committee (OC) this is the most senior veterinarian in charge of providing and co-ordinating all veterinary services on site. These include the provision of an on-site clinic, pharmacy, lab, diagnostic imaging such as X-ray and Ultrasound as well as off site emergency surgery and specialist referral. They also have to ensure all the Treating Vets are in the right place at the right time (which can often be like herding cats)
  • Treating Vets – Appointed by the OC these vets are responsibly for providing veterinary care alongside all arenas, emergency veterinary treatment out on the Endurance, Cross Country and Driving Marathon course as well as proving veterinary care in the on-site clinic to any horse that either doesn’t have their own team vet or needs more advanced care. Basically, wherever there is a horse, there is a treating vet.
  • Team Vets – Appointed by each nation, Team Vets are responsible for the veterinary care before, during and after the event to help their team achieve optimal performance. During the first few editions of WEG back in the 1990s only the bigger equestrian nations would come with a team vet, now almost team has their own team vet, if not four, team vets. Team vets are by far the most numerous type of vet seen at a modern Championship.
  • FEI Vets – Appointed by FEI head office, the FEI vets are ultimately responsible for the health and welfare of all horses competing and ensure the FEI veterinary Rules and Regulations are adhered to. They liaise closely with both the FEI and OC for many months prior to the event to ensure that the welfare of all horses competing is the number one priority. At major Championships such as WEG there is an FEI Veterinary Commission, comprised of several highly experienced FEI veterinarians, who all work together to ensure everything is kept under control.
  • Government Vets – The international movement of horses always poses a risk of transmitting disease. Government vets play a role in reducing this risk by enforcing very strict quarantine rules to ensure there is no transmission of disease to or from visiting international horses and the local population.
  • Veterinary Students – Through the American Association of Equine Practitioners a select group of 30 Veterinary Students (one from each vet school in America) were onsite acting as veterinary assistants and gaining first-hand experience of all the different veterinary roles. Each student had to undergo a lengthy and rigorous selection process before being chosen to join the WEG vet team.


From the moment I set foot in the USA I was treated extremely well by the organising committee; I was given a nice car to drive, provided with excellent accommodation in a fully equipped motor home about  five minutes drive from the venue, I was fed well, clothed generously with a very smart uniform and was showered with veterinary drug company promotions, food and drink (gotta love a freebie).



My role at WEG 2018 was as a treating vet for eventing during the first week. Prior to the dressage phase I and the two other eventing treating vets would rotate between the flat work arena, jump training arena and the gallops/XC school area. The days were long and a little dull at times because thankfully nothing much really happened, but it’s very cool to be able to have a ring side seat watching all the best event horses in the world going through their pre-competition training regimes. On dressage days, one of us would be stationed in the main arena, one would be in the final warm up arena and the other would cover the gallops and XC schooling.

Cross Country day proved a god-send with the weather providing perfect conditions. We had far fewer veterinary issues than we were initially expecting, considering the heat and humidity seen during the preceding several days. There were over 50 treating vets spread across the cross country course and I was located at fence 11 and 12 which were highly uneventful.

Apart from cheering all the Aussie riders as they galloped past me the only thing I did all day was check one horse after he and his rider had a parting of ways.


    Watching trot-up in the pouring rain of a hurricane. No place I’d rather be…...


After the eventing I stayed on at Tryon mainly as a treating vet for the show jumping but I did find myself allocated to Vaulting for a few nights. I’m still not quite sure what to make of Vaulting – everyone was very nice and super friendly but I must have stood out like a sore thumb. Kinda cool but pretty weird is probably the best way to describe vaulting.



My next big appointment was at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France – commonly know and ‘Le Lion’ or ‘Mondial du Lion’. It wasn’t really an event I was familiar with prior to moving to the UK but it has become an event that I follow quite closely now. It’s essentially an eventing championships for 6 and 7 year old horses with the 6 year olds competing at CCI* level and the 7 year olds at CCI** level.

The venue is one of the most spectacular places I have ever worked at. The location is stunning and the cross country jumps are all works of art - check out the photos here. Being a championship of 6 and 7 year olds, these horses are the future stars of our sport. It’s well worth taking the time to go back through the previous Le Lion graduates and see just how many amazing horses have jumped round the track.

My time at Le Lion was fantastic. I was appointed by the FEI head office back in March and all year everyone I spoke to told me how special the venue and whole competition is – and it didn’t disappoint. The most challenging part of my time at Le Lion was the language barrier but, thanks to my high school French and the fact that I have been to dozens of eventing meetings before, I managed to survive the fully French language cross country and crisis management meetings.

Several of the treating vets onsite were at WEG 2014 in Normandy so that made my life a lot easier as I had worked with them before and all of the rest of the vet team spoke excellent English. And to top it all off, one of my clients won the 6 Year Old championship! It’s not every day that one can say they have treated a world champion horse.



So that brings me to the end of another busy northern hemisphere eventing season. As I write this looking out the window I see nothing but grey skies and rain drops pouring down the window pane, and I’m wearing two coats indoors - so don’t envy me too much.

Until next time,

Stay safe out there. Bring you and you horse home safe and sound.

See you in 2019 when the world of eventing will be all about 5*