Heard the term ‘endurance vet gate’ but always wondered what it was? We caught up with endurance Chef d’Equipe for WEG, Liz Finney, to find out more, and to understand just how important an element they are for the endurance competition.
The endurance competition is a race which takes place over 160km track, but obviously for the welfare of the horse, it has to be split up into different loops. At the end of each loop the horses have to come off the course and go into what we call ‘Vet Gates’.
Each athlete has a chip which tracks their progress out on course, and also tracks their time. When the endurance race begins the clock is started, and the clock continues to run as each horse enters the vet gate, until they are ready to present to the vet.
The criteria for a horse to pass the vet gate is that the horses heart rate must have dropped to a minimum of 64 beats per minute within 20 minutes of arrival; the horse is also checked for all other vital signs, metabollics and for soundness. If a horse fails the vetting for any reason, the clock is restarted and they have to represent.
Once the horse has passed the vetting, the horse and rider go into a timed hold – this can range from between 40-50 minutes, before they go back out onto the course. There has to be at least one timed hold within a championship track. At some of the later vet gates on the race, the horses have to be re-examined after the time hold before they are allowed go back out on course; this is to ensure that no issues have arisen with the horses during the hold time. It is a very important time of the whole process.
At WEG there are 6 loops, so there will be 5 vet gates, but you also have to think that the horses have to pass a preliminary vetting before they even start, and once they’ve finished the circuit, they still have to pass a final vetting. If they fail the final vetting, even if they have completed the 160km course, then they would be eliminated.
If you’re still keen to find out more about the sport of endurance the FEI have put together a great little guide to take you through all the important bits of the competition.