Therapy: For safety reasons, Dr Aileen Sandosham ensures the mares are in crushes, a type of cushioned restraint.

SINGAPORE - Athletes have regular health check-ups and therapy sessions to ensure their bodies are in tip-top shape.

Racehorses are no different. The steeds need to be in top form to perform to their full potential on the track.

Veterinarian Curry Keoughan, who has been tending to the horses in the Singapore Turf Club for seven years, said two types of scopes are used on his four-legged charges. One is used to check the airways and the other is to check the ureter and internal organs.

Vets check on organ function and look out for obstacles like kidney stones. When examining equine airways, which is done by lowering a scope down the horse's windpipe, medical staff watch for anything that might impede their patient's breathing ability.

Said Dr Keoughan: "It is critical for an athlete to get enough oxygen to be able to perform. If these horses don't get enough oxygen, they will just stop and this might injure both the jockey and the horse."

A typical day at the club's clinic has 10 vets see up to 300 horses for their routine check-ups and treatments.

Should a horse show signs of lameness or trouble in its legs, the vets perform a nerve block.

An equine nerve block works like a nerve block during dental treatments for humans. It numbs a particular part of the animal, allowing vets to isolate the problem and treat it.


Dr Keoughan explained that racehorses are more injury-prone because they go through more intensive exercise than a workhorse.

The track stars also get acupuncture to help keep them in shape. This is performed in a crush - a cushioned restraint.

Dr Aileen Sandosham has been performing acupuncture for horses for almost two years and she said that just like humans, the bodies of horses tend to go "off balance" and they become more disease-prone.

"Acupuncture helps the body to get its balance back. Once it has regained its balance, the body will start healing itself," she said.

Needles used on the horses are the same ones used on humans.

Treating such large animals does come with risks and Dr Keoughan and Dr Sandosham have the battle scars to prove it.

Both have been kicked when they tried to calm a patient down.

Dr Sandosham was thrown against a metal pole and fractured seven ribs while her colleague fractured three rib bones and hurt his elbow.

She said: "I still do have a fear about standing close to metal poles, but animals tend to be unpredictable."

Although the crushes provide enough protection for Dr Sandosham, she still makes sure there are enough helpers around when she visits the stables for treatment.

"(People) are always ready to help out if the horse gets excited or afraid," she said.

This article was first published on August 28, 2014.
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