Three Olympic Equestrian Disciplines, Three Veterinary Updates

Jack Snyder, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, is a five-time Olympic Games veterinarian. In Hong Kong 2008, he's the chief treating veterinarian, which means the orthopedic specialist has his surgical tools at the ready.

One week into these Olympics, Snyder has already wielded his instruments twice. During a tour of the Olympic veterinary facilities this morning, we spotted Snyder and asked him to update The Horse on the latest veterinary issues. Here's what he had to say.

Keymaster is doing well The Swedish event horse fractured his first phalanx on cross-country, and Snyder operated, inserting four screws to stabilize the hairline break (read more). The 15-year-old gelding's leg is in a cast, and he's remaining in Hong Kong for a few extra days because "we need a week or so to make sure the cast is wearing well before we transport the horse, as he will fly in the cast," Snyder explained. "He is doing well and off almost all medications, including antibiotics."

"He is a family-owned horse," Snyder said of Keymaster. "The son (Magnus Gallerdal) is the rider, and the son's wife is the groom. The horse probably won't go back to the level it's at, but the wife hopes to ride at the one- or two-star level. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I think he can certainly get there."

A younger horse might well come back to the sport's top (four-star) level, said Snyder; but Keymaster's age probably means that these Olympics were his last four-star event.

Dr. Snyder at work

The two surgical procedures have taken place at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's equine hospital.

Brazilian jumper withdrawn, treated with future competitions in mind Sometimes even the Olympics are not a horse's ultimate destination. When Ad Picolien, a Brazilian jumper came up lame a few days before tonight's start of the jumping competition, Snyder examined her and found an inflamed bursa in her rear leg (Snyder couldn't recall which one off the top of his head when we talked with him) "down around the tendons." The injury, which is relatively minor, had the potential to worsen if she were stressed, possibly even leading to an injury of tendons or ligaments themselves, Snyder said.

"The horse has to compete later--to do some big shows in 45 to 60 days," Snyder said. "So the decision was made to withdraw from competition here in order to treat the injury."

The inflamed bursa was flushed and evaluated, and Ad Picolien is receiving medication for inflammation--which, per Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) rules, isn't permitted in a competing horse, thus making withdrawal necessary in any case.

Given the prompt diagnosis and swift treatment, Snyder said he fully expects the mare to be completely sound within 45 days.

Team vet says Brentina not unsound Last night's dressage team competition gave some spectators a fright when Brentina, U.S. 2004 dressage Olympic team bronze medal winner under Debbie McDonald, put in a wildly uncharacteristic test that cost the U.S. team its chances for a medal. The 17-year-old Hanoverian mare, who's known for her harmonious performances, looked unlevel in the trot half-pass work and was erratic during much of the test. Speculation immediately began that Brentina, who had returned to work following an injury, was hurt again.

When we talked with Snyder the morning after Brentina's Grand Prix test, he declined to comment, saying that he himself had not examined the mare and that he had heard only from U.S. team veterinarian Rick Mitchell, DVM, that the veteran competitor was OK. The U.S. Equestrian Federation later corroborated Snyder's words in an Aug. 15 press release.

Brentina's low score means that she will not advance to the individual portion of the dressage competition. Owners Peggy and Parry Thomas had announced prior to the competition that these Games would be Brentina's final competition, and if they hold true to their word, then this remarkable mare's career has come to an abrupt end.

Don't miss the Olympic Equestrian blog by award-winning equestrian journalist Jennifer Bryant. She will be giving us behind-the-scenes looks at what's happening at the Olympic equestrian events.

About the Author

Jennifer O. Bryant

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation's magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site,

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