Eight F&I members took the opportunity to stay the night in rural Suffolk due to the generosity of Simon Somers who arranged a fabulous evening and Iris Gregson who lives at Bears Farm. We had a super supper and the Pimms, wine and port slipped down easily in great story-telling fashion. By 1am we all thought we had better be sensible and retired to bed. An early breakfast set us up for our first visit to Ed Dunlop ’ s racing yard.
Gainsborough stables had 125 horses in training, split into various barns. Colts and fillies are housed and grazed separately and the facilities available just showed us what is available if money is no object. Swimming pool, water therapy unit, treadmill, indoor school, covered horse walkers, round pens, wash boxes, solariums, individual tack lockers. 47 members of staff ensure that the horses have the time and necessary attention to detail to make them a Group 1 flat race champion. The horses hack to the “Heath” along railed horse walks and with 3,500 horses in Newmarket using the gallops, horses seem to rule in this town with cars stopping to give way at all times. Toby, the assistant trainer was very informative although most of us thought he looked so young! (No, we are not getting old!!). He was extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the sport, predicting sponsors in most yards and gaining valuable experience about the racing industry before becoming a trainer himself.
Coffee was in order by 10.00 before heading off to the National Stud. Two of the many studs in Newmarket each have over 1,000 head of horses and there are approximately 25,000 horses in a 10 mile radius. Small studs make up a huge percentage of these figures with the National Stud ’ s aim to help small breeders produce top quality young stock. The majority of owners who bring mares to the National Stud have successfully raced them and want to continue the line. Six stallions stand at the stud. Bohamain Bounty ’ s stud fee is £10,000 N.F.N.F and Val Royal has just sired a Group 1 Winner so his rates are due to rise. I was surprised to see how much knee action they had but did look powerful and very short coupled. They cover 3 or 4 times a day and turned out daily. An unexpected hero was in one paddock, the Grand National winner Amberleigh House. The 16hh Buckskin bred gelding looked like an event horse and at 14 had fantastically clean limbs. We were driven round most of the Stud as it covers 500 acres and boasts 60 miles of post and rail fencing. Mares are grouped in expectant due dates and stay together with new foals at foot. Again we saw another enterprise that worked at the highest standard with students training between 2 and 5 years to achieve their qualifications. The commercial side was evident with shop, tours and café but Sarah ensured we didn ’ t lose track of time organising some of us to buy sandwiches from waitrose and others to make our way to the Animal Health Trust to set up a picnic area.
The Animal Health Trust ’ s research budget last year was £4.3 million and covered 42 projects. We had the opportunity to listen to two vets.
Rachel Murray was an orthopaedic specialist. She took us into the standing MRI,(magnetic resonance imaging) unit and the flat MRI unit. It was fascinating to hear how new technology has made a real difference to vets by validating the information and advancing understanding. The scanners provide information and record details that x ray, scintigraphy and C.T could not. With accurate pictures of problems, the correct treatment and accurate prognosis of lameness and injury is greatly improved. The scanners are used for equine and small animals, the quiet battle between the vets to use this equipment is discussed as such valuable equipment is much sought after in the efforts to find solutions to problems. Predominately lameness cases are referred to the A.H.T, particularly looking at the distal tarsal joint causing chronic lameness. We had to remove all watches, money from pockets and bank cards as the high magnetic charge can wipe information of cards and metal can pull you towards the equipment with force. The room is sealed to maintain a constant temperature and although we only went in the standing MRI room we watched the other in use through a viewing window. The prep room was padded and the horse is laid on a trolley with use of pulleys before going into the scanner room.
Our final lecture was the most formal, in a classroom with a power point presentation by Andrew Walker who is head of Bacteriology . The AHT have studied strangles in depth to try and eradicate the bacteria through vaccine, screening, identifying carriers and management.
Their studies identified several types of strangles worldwide, 96% of the genes were in both S. Equine and S. Zooepidemicus and it needs iron to survive. It was explained that to obtain the iron they used receptors, pumps or siderophones. If it is going over your head I apologize – it did mine at this point!! (Half the battle was to stay looking interested in a warm, quiet room after a long and packed morning and a super lunch.)
Again the vets were giving us another reason for feeding off the ground, as those horses infected with strangles were more likely to get condrodes, pockets of strangle infected serum, in the guttural pouches if the head was not low when feeding. Blood testing is becoming available to identify carriers, this information could become part of the vetting in the future. Endoscopy, surgery or laser treatment is part of the treatment to remove infected areas within the gutteral pouch, this was extremely important in pregnant mares who could pass the disease on to the unborn foal. Live vaccine is becoming more effective and easier to administer e.g. intramuscularly which is also a safety issue. The lecture concluded we are in an Genomic era where new vaccines and diagnostics could in the future prevent all horses becoming infected and with the support of the B.H.S, The European Breeders Fund, Home of Rest for Horses and many other funding bodies it ensures that this vital research increases understanding which is then passed on to our national vets.
A huge thankyou goes to Sarah MacDonald for organising such a fantastic day out, again to Simon and Iris for a great evening and for my long suffering husband, who despite not knowing what a deep digital flexor tendon is, drove me to Suffolk on the 15 th in the driving rain. He listened to 13 ladies and specialists talk about horses all the following day and still managed to keep a smile on his face. However when asked if he would like to come to Talland on Monday he thought he might be busy! I hope you enjoy the report and promise that this is the longest one you will ever get from me because due to a fractured pelvis I have a lot of time on my hands.
By Victoria Thirlby