Dr. Don Hamilton, professor emeritus of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), is one of four Canadians who have been selected as officials for the 2018 Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games this fall.
The 2018 games will take place in Mill Spring, N.C., from Sept. 11 to 23. Hamilton has been appointed as a Vet Commission (VC) 3 Member, who will be responsible for providing veterinary care and oversight for the endurance portion of the games.
Elizabeth McMullen, John Taylor and Cara Whitham — all from Ontario — were also appointed as 2018 games officials.
Hamilton’s appointment to VC 3 recognizes the excellence of his lengthy veterinary career. He grew up on a small farm in central Saskatchewan before attending the WCVM. There, Hamilton earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1970 and went on to complete master’s and PhD programs at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).
Hamilton has taught at his alma mater for almost four decades. His research, which focuses on equine renal and acid/base physiology and ion channels, is directly applicable to the assessment of competition horses and their health.
It was at the U of S where Hamilton’s colleague, Dr. Patricia Dowling — an avid endurance rider herself — introduced him to the sport. Hamilton was immediately drawn to the biological challenges of endurance, which led to his eventual certifications as a 4* Official Veterinarian in Endurance, a 3* Endurance Veterinary Treatment Official, and an FEI Permitted Treating Veterinarian.
“A sport where horse and rider compete for up to 100 miles in less than 24 hours …” mused Hamilton.
“As a veterinary physiologist, I became immediately interested because of the amazing physiological ability of these horses to run ultra-marathons. Also, as I have said many times, I stayed with the sport as an endurance control vet because of the owners and riders who are, in addition to being wonderful people, very responsible and knowledgeable riders.”
Veterinary responsibilities vary greatly between disciplines, so Hamilton’s specialized background has made him a sought-after veterinary resource in the endurance world.
“We are responsible, with the rider, for the welfare of the horse,” explained Hamilton of the role of VC 3. “Endurance is an aerobic sport and, in addition to lameness, we try to detect the horse that may be exceeding its ability to remain hydrated and not become excessively tired. As an endurance vet, we try to prevent problems by declaring the horse as not fit to continue when we suspect an impending issue which may compromise the welfare of the horse.”
Hamilton will work with the VC 3 president, the foreign veterinary delegate and nine other members to determine if each horse competing at WEG is fit to continue. The collaborative nature of the commission helps to ensure not only that the horses receive the best care, but also that evaluation standards remain consistent across all competitors.
“Selection is an honour and I feel privileged,” concluded Hamilton. “It is a great way to cap a career in veterinary medicine.”
Story by Equestrian Canada