Endurance vet Nick Page lives in hope that the sport he loves so much will one day be part of the Olympic Games . . . but in the meantime, he’s looking forward to his third WEG.
“When one compares the popularity of endurance throughout the world to other disciplines, you would have to think that it deserves to be an Olympic sport,” he says. “If that were ever to happen, I’d be champing at the bit to be involved.”
Nick has previously been on the New Zealand WEG endurance team at Kentucky in 2010 and Normandy in 2014. He also attended the test event in France as part of the build-up, been to one World Championships, a Junior World Champs, and an invitational in South Africa.
“I have worked with a lot of different chefs and teams, all with a myriad of differing approaches.”
He embraces them all and says it underlines for him just how difficult it is to get everything together on the day to get the results.
“You need rider health, horse health, rider fitness, horse fitness, good management, psychology, team cohesion and a fair bit of a good luck too. I’m still a firm believer that with the right combination of all of that, we can accomplish a podium finish.”
And he feels Tryon 2018 will be a special WEG, despite not having a team there.
“There are some really solid relationships and friendships that have been built over the years with the group who are going,” says Nick. “They’ll be racing in an environment and on a technical track that I believe may well suit our horses and riders. We have good solid horses in these two and it’s all backed by a high performance programme that is finally starting to show real proactive planning, rather than being forced to be reactionary.”
His job starts well before the event. “The biggest challenges are dependent on the situation, but firstly ensuring all the veterinary formalities are correct to enable travel and entry of the horses. Secondly there are certainly challenges faced in travelling with the horses on such a gruelling journey and ensuring they arrive in on piece, happy and well, having been entrusted to look after them by their owners and teams.”
Next was ensuring maintenance of good health and soundness in a foreign environment with different hazards and disease risks. Nick works closely with the horses and riders to ensure a good transition back into work and fitness so they are ready for race day.
And then it all begins . . . race day itself, where he is a key part of the team that helps to manage the horses through the event.
“Each horse and team is involved in setting individual training plans with the management team, including myself,” he says. “Each horse has an exceptionally thorough and comprehensive examination by myself at least annually and individual issues or concerns are followed up in detail, sometimes involving the local veterinarians or on occasion, specialist veterinarians and farriers. I also work with the team farrier to ensure a plan that is tailored and precise for each individual horse. Of course general health recommendations and preventative health advice is applied on a more generic basis.”
So much of his job is about relationships, trust and mutual respect. “These relationships have been built over many years, which makes it easier.”
Once all of that is in place, Nick loves to get meet the many people with similar interests, who come with an international endurance event like WEG.
“I like the time pre-ride after seeing the horses and teams are all ready to go and everything is primed. Of course, nothing can beat the excitement and adrenaline and hopes and dreams experienced during the ride itself.”
Nick has a veterinary practice in Rolleston, on the outskirts of Christchurch, but says his involvement in endurance has helped him maintain his work expertise and enjoyment in the equine side of things. He is also heavily involved in the management of the sport and is an FEI4* rated endurance veterinary official, a 4* rated endurance treatment vet, and an FEI course director for both. He has previously been on the ESNZ Endurance Board and regularly officiated in both FEI and non-FEI events abroad.
“I have never competed in endurance and am unlikely to now, especially given it is some years since my backside has felt a saddle against it,” he says. “However, that by no means detracts from my passion and interest in equine sports.”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison