Vets Report Improved Footing Leads to Fewer Horse Injuries at 2008 WEF


Veterinarians report fewer injuries to horses at the 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival giving credit to significantly improved footing.

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 that is the official veterinary service for WEF, said: "There are fewer catastrophic injuries. A 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 Jan. 16.

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

In the centerpiece International Arena, there were more than 7,100 "trips" by hunters and jumpers during WEF, excluding jumpoffs which would add hundreds more "trips." Also not included was a four-day dressage competition in which two dressage arenas were installed in the International Arena, several special events such as match races and Gladiator Polo matches.

Thousands more horses competed in the Bertelan DeNemethy Arena in which the "Poels" footing was installed.

New footing was also installed in 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 to be ready for December's "Celebration of the Horse" Christmas show and the 2009 WEF.

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."

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's International Arena during a recent night class
Photo: Ken Braddick-HorseSport USA


The 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival attracts the best horses and riders from around the world to Wellington and offers more than $5 million in prize money. For more information, visit


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