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A Love For All Things Veterinary

The earliest documentation of veterinary medicine dates back to 3000 BC, suggesting a person called Urlugaledinna, a resident of Mesopotamia, “was an expert in healing animals”. From there the veterinary school of Lyon, founded in 1761 by veterinarian Claude Bourgelat, became the first establishment to provide veterinary education. These initial stages within veterinary medicine led to huge technological advancements and have resulted in gigantic leaps in scientific knowledge, sculpting the veterinary industry as we know it today.    

The replacement of animal power for agricultural and transport uses fueled one of the biggest transformations in the veterinary market. The earliest record of modern dressage was in the days of Xenophon, a classical rider and Greek author who wrote about the training of the military horses. In these days, the horse was regarded similar to a present day car, used until it was worn out and then replaced. Nowadays, horses are bred for athletic purposes and owners invest time and economic resources attempting to maximize athletic potential. This has resulted in an increasing proportion of veterinary work being comprised of preventative measures in order to reduce the risk of injury, and rehabilitation techniques to enable equines to overcome injuries.

My passion for all things veterinary led me to undertake a work experience placement at Europe’s leading Equine hospital in Newmarket. This experience fully opened my eyes to the extent of knowledge, technology and the sheer scope of the equine veterinary industry in Britain today.

The opportunity to speak to veterinarians and witness the running of veterinary establishments has shown me that the majority of veterinary work with Equines is a result of lameness-related problems. The pressure placed on equines to perform elite athletic activities can result in the failure of the equine musculoskeletal system. It is well known the prevalence of musculoskeletal injury drastically increases with over training, inadequate recovery periods and poor husbandry care.

For any horse owner, the words you never want to hear from your veterinarian are “tendon injury”; thoughts of a lengthy box rest, a fractious horse and high levels of re-occurrence all swirl around my head. As someone who has witnessed many horses and owners in this situation, I know how disheartening this diagnosis can be. Research suggests injury of the tendons and ligaments have a high morbidity in the equine, as tissue repair in musculoskeletal injuries are often a slow and sometimes incomplete process.

Traditionally in the nineteenth century, it was thought the most effective way to treat chronic tendon and ligament injuries was by pin firing the injured area. It was a misconception that by burning the tendon and surrounding skin an active healing response would be stimulated and therefore healing the injury quicker. Nowadays, it is well-known that pin firing leaves behind a thin weakened skin, permanently blemishing the horse.

As knowledge and technology has drastically advanced, techniques such as Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy has become a common procedure in the UK to treat tendon injuries. It aims to capture the regenerative nature of mesenchymal stem cells and use these cells to grow new tissues in order to replace the damaged and diseased tissues. Scientific studies demonstrate that this technology drastically reduces the reoccurance, therefore improving equine welfare through a less invasive procedure and an improved prognosis for the horse.

Overall I believe the UK veterinary industry is a truly remarkable industry, from the technology to the skill and dedication of the veterinarians who treat our horses every day (and night!). Without this depth of knowledge, we would not have the ability to maintain the equine athletes that we know today.


Lucy Holden, written for Horsemart

Third year BSc (Hons) Equine Studies and Business Management at Writtle College