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Friday, April 04, 2008

Greetings from Florida: Vets See Happy Hoofprints in the Footing at Winter Equestrian Festival

I should be thinking about the bright blue sky overhead, but this post is about the ground beneath our feet, instead.

The fabulous Winter Equestrian Festival has melted into spring and the newly-renovated arenas at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center have endured thousands upon thousands of hoofprints. The WEF's signature green grass of past years is a memory.

And now it's time for two of the circuit's veterinarians to update us on how the footing worked for the horses this winter.

Dr. Timothy Ober, veterinarian for the U.S. Equestrian Team and a member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Equine Drugs & Medications Committee, said, "We have no statistics as such, but it seems there are fewer injuries. The horses are holding up better."

Dr. Scott Swerdlin, president of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the official veterinary service for WEF, said: "There are fewer catastrophic injuries. Aa result, the veterinary community is excited about the new footing which has been spectacular."

The vets gave their opinions as the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising wound up 12 weeks of competition that began on January 16.

Footing created by Bart Poels, the 2008 Olympic equestrian footing expert, and installed by Poels and Brett Raflowitz of Palm City, Florida, was installed in the two jumping Grand Prix arenas at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

In the centerpiece International Arena alone, more than 7,100 "trips" (not including jumpoffs) were completed by hunters and jumpers during WEF. A four-day dressage competition required that two dressage arenas be installed in the International Arena.

Thousands more horses competed in the Bertelan DeNemethy Arena in which the "Poels" footing was also installed, as well as several other competition and warm up rings, including the Grand Hunter and Rost arenas and Ring 6.

Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, the PBIEC management company, announced that the "Poels" footing will be installed in the Mogavero ring over the summer.

Before the start of WEF, ESP placed the highest priority on improvements in the footing throughout PBIEC to enhance the safety and welfare of horses.

Among the events held in the International Arena was the five Selection Trials for the short list for 2008 Olympic jumping team. And the show grounds were inundated by record rain fall during the course of WEF.

Dr. Ober, who attended the U.S. equine athletes at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the 2006 World Equestrian Games, and dozens of the other international competitions, said: "Horses in the trials were in good order. That is an example of how the footing has been beneficial. Compared to past trials, the attrition rate seemed smaller and that primarily is due to the footing.

"There was a little bit of a learning curve with the new footing. The type of footing requires an adjustment because it does not allow the foot to glide.

"The footing has been a real positive, mostly for the good of the horses that always come first. But without it, because of the weather, there might not have been the competitions we were able to have."

Thanks to Kenneth Braddick of the Winter Equestrian Festival for help with this report.

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