Rolex: Safety Precautions in Place for Horses, Riders, and Spectators

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, sponsored by Farnam, is one of the most prestigious events in a potentially dangerous sport. An extensive medical support team for horses and humans works behind the scenes to keep the only four star event in the United States running smoothly and safely.

This support team consists of paramedics for riders and spectators, as well as a cadre of veterinarians.

Lisa Crump, DVM, an associate veterinarian for Rolex, checks the horses before they even start the competition. She offers advice to the judges, who have the final say on whether the horses are physically ready for the competition.

The horses are again checked at the end of the cross country event and the morning of the stadium jumping event. Horses are also randomly drug tested throughout the competition.

The most challenging day of Rolex features the cross country phase, which is when the support teams have to be on their toes. The morning of cross country is filled with preparation for all team members.

Equine Center

Two people working to ensure the safety of all Rolex competitors and attendees are Steven Morris (left), manager of Mediport, LCC, which provides medical care for horsemen and spectators, and Brian O'Connor, chief of control for the Rolex Event.

Radio checks alone take about an hour. Brian O'Connor, chief of control for Rolex, is constantly talking on a variety of radios, making sure the communication equipment for all paramedics and veterinarians is working properly. A dozen human paramedic teams are stationed at the jump sites and several "vet pods" are on the cross country course ready for disbursement in case of trouble.

There are six or seven pods of veterinarians ready to react in case of an emergency on the course, which is divided into sections assigned to each vet pod. Each vet in the pod is connected to O'Connor and Crump via radio in order to delegate resources based on the circumstances on the course.

Crump continually watches television screens covering all the horses and riders on the course. She makes note of the slightest thing, such as a refused jump or a rail clipped by a hoof. Because of this attention to detail, Crump knows what to file in the horses' medical reports at the end of the event.

On the human care side, Steven Morris, a 20-year veteran firefighter and paramedic, is the manager of Mediport LLC, a medical coverage service for special events. He and his team of paramedics and nurses are on the scene for riders and spectators.

Morris has two fire department ambulances available (one for riders and one for spectators), and there is an emergency helicopter ready to provide immediate transportation to a hospital if required. Morris said in the 18 years he has been working the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, he has only needed the helicopter once.

Morris said he "puts extra people at the ‘big bad jumps’ " to make sure some medics can stay behind if an accident were to happen and a rider had to be taken off course.

While most of this work goes unnoticed by the thousands in attendance at the Rolex Ketnucky Three-Day Event, those working behind the scenes ensure a safe time is had by all, whether equine athlete, human competitor, or spectator.

Dana Bouknight is a graduating senior at Midway College completing an Independent Study course in Equine Journalism. Her visit at the main tent at Rolex was made possible through the courtesy of announcer Nigel Casserly of the National Steeplechase Association. Her supervising professor is Kimberly Tumlin, PhD.

About the Author

Dana Bouknight

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