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As head veterinarian for the U.S. equestrian eventing team competing at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, this isn’t Dr. Brendan Furlong’s first rodeo — or Olympics, for that matter.
Dr. Furlong, MVB, MRCVS, began working with the team in 1990 for the World Championships in Austria, and he has since traveled to several Olympic games with the eventing team, including Sydney and Hong Kong.
Vetstreet caught up with the esteemed veterinarian to find out what exactly an Olympic vet does — and how he handles the pressure.
A. Dr. Furlong: "My veterinary practice is located very close to the U.S. team's headquarters in New Jersey. So at the time that I was hired in 1990, a lot of my clients were already serious candidates for the team. But I'd actually been working with some of the team veterinarians as early as 1984, helping to treat the horses for colic and other issues."
A. "I travel extensively with the team, particularly during championship years. The most important part of my job is evaluating the horses before and during events. I look for signs of injury and disease that would preclude a horse from being able to perform at its maximum level. In the middle of a competition, if horses aren't able to continue on, they’re eliminated, and the team is unable to finish. So our primary focus as vets is to advise the selection committee on which horses have a very good chance of finishing each competition."
A. "It does, but I love my job. It’s such a privilege to be able to spend every day of my life around horses."
A. "They’re very happy. The weather in London is much cooler and wetter than the heat wave we’re experiencing at home. They seem to like it. London is much easier for them to adapt to weather-wise than past, hotter Olympic climates, like Atlanta."
A. "I think we have better diagnostics now — ultrasounds and MRIs to help identify the severity of injury, and how it might impact a horse's future. There are also more sophisticated biological therapies, like stem cells, to help treat horses and get them back to their original form."
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