July 21, 2008 -- As athletes from around the world prepare for the great athletic challenge of the Olympic Games, preparations are taking place behind the scenes to ensure that they are able to perform to their full potential. B. W. Furlong and Associates Equine Veterinary Practice in Oldwick, N.J., will send a team of four veterinarians to the equestrian competition of the Olympic Games in Hong Kong this summer to make sure that the equine participants are well looked after.
These four vets will be involved in the care of the three-day event team horses for the United States and Canada. Dr. Sarah Gold, a 2004 graduate of Cornell University and an associate in the practice, will travel to the United Kingdom with the U.S. team horses and alternates chosen at the final mandatory outing at The Fork in North Carolina. Dr. Gold will provide care during the flight and quarantine period. She will again travel with the selected horses to Hong Kong, accompany them to the Olympic venue and assist them in settling into their competition environment. Dr. Gold will also fly home with the horses at the completion of the event.
"This will be my first Olympics, and it's an exciting and overwhelming experience," said Dr. Gold, who last year traveled to Thailand with gold-medalist Nina Ligon's horse Pacific Storm for the Asian Games. "Not only is it my first Olympics, but it's across the globe so getting everyone there safely is a bit amplified."
Working with a team of experienced and high-class veterinarians is a reassurance for Dr. Gold. "Everyone associated with the team is a great group of people, so it should be a lot of fun, everyone at the practice is good and experienced."
Dr. Brendan Furlong, a 1976 graduate of Dublin University, Ireland and the owner of the practice, is Team Veterinarian for the U.S. three-day team horses during the competition with assistance from his wife, Dr. Wendy Leich Furlong. Dr. Leich is a 1983 graduate of Cambridge University, England, and as a certified Veterinary Acupuncturist is able to provide alternative therapies to the competition horses.
"About 90 percent of my practice is alternative therapies," she said. "I love to help sport horses perform at their best." Dr. Furlong and Dr. Leich together have taken care of the U.S. Equestrian Federation three-day squad at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and at numerous world championships and Pan-American Games.
"The Olympics are the gut of the sport," said Dr. Furlong, who just returned from England where he evaluated several American horses taking part in a required outing at Barbury Castle horse trials. "Whether you're an athlete or you are involved in another capacity, it is the most exciting thing you can do in your career. I was nervous the first time I worked at an Olympic Games--I'm glad I have more experience now!"
Dr. Furlong also has some firsthand experience in Hong Kong. "We did the test event in Hong Kong last year and I must say it was very impressive. From the airport to the Sha Tin racecourse it took forty minutes, max--they closed down the streets and had a police escort for the horses. They are taking it very seriously. The facilities are superb--I have never seen anything like it at a prior Games. My only concern is the weather; it's very hot, and it is typhoon season. They bet more in a month at that racetrack than we do in a year here, but they close the track for racing in August because of the weather."
Dr. Leich noted that the stables and indoor arenas are air-conditioned, and that officials are considering running cross-country over two mornings so that conditions are cooler for all of the competitors.
The fourth member of Dr. Furlong's practice traveling to Hong Kong will accompany the Canadian three-day event team. Dr. Christiana Ober is a 2000 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. A recent addition to the practice, Dr. Ober has her FEI certification in the discipline of three-day eventing and boasts many top three-day event competitors amongst her clients.
"It is unique for one practice to send four vets," said Dr. Furlong. "I am very proud of them, and I hope our team comes home with some medals."