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Nina Lamsan Ligon of Thailand comforts her horse Butts Leon during the equestrian Eventing Individual Dressage Day 2 in the Greenwich Park during the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 29, 2012. (Mike Hutchings/REUTERS)

Nina Lamsan Ligon of Thailand comforts her horse Butts Leon during the equestrian Eventing Individual Dressage Day 2 in the Greenwich Park during the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 29, 2012.

(Mike Hutchings/REUTERS)

James Christie

Why equine athletes enjoy superior medical care at London 2012 Add to ...

Equine athletes competing at the Olympics and Paralympics at Greenwich Park will undergo pre-event fitness checks and have their cuts, scrapes and sprains dealt with at an on-site temporary clinic constructed specially for the London 2012 Games, says the governing FEI (International Equine Federation).

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The state-of-the-art facility, built to stringent specifications in only three weeks, provides 24-hour veterinary care for the animals – and medical checks not even human athletes get, says veterinary services manager Jenny Hall.

“We take it for granted, but no-one inspects the human athletes before their competition, no-one ensures their fitness to compete, but that is standard protocol for all equestrian events,” she said in an FEI statement.

Not only is specialist care available on-site, but clinic staff also has access to a team of experts and there are also three specialist equine hospitals on call throughout the Games.

 “We are very lucky [in Britain] to have the best of the best veterinary experts on tap,” Jenny Hall said. “We know the Olympic veterinary clinic facilities will be used a lot for routine supportive veterinary care. We hope they won't be used for any emergency first-aid, but if anything should happen, we are prepared to cope.”

The diagnostic laboratory will provide clinical pathology services throughout both Games. Endoscopy, radiography and ultrasonography services are also available. Any team that does not have its own equine physiotherapist can take advantage of the physiotherapy treatments at the clinic.

There are four supervised treatment boxes, which are overseen by the FEI commission to ensure full compliance with the FEI veterinary regulations.

 “The FEI sets the standards for accommodation for the horses, health and welfare, care and management, with health checks, an initial examination and the horse inspections.” Hall said.

 The vet services also include horse ambulance drivers, administrators and veterinary technicians. The team is supported by equine ambulance trailers, plus a purpose-built motorized vehicle. The organization World Horse Welfare has worked closely with the FEI over the last 30 years and oversees horse welfare protocols in place at all FEI events.