The most significant activity at the urtuus is the vetting of horses who have just been ridden in. Riders cannot continue on in the race until their horse has passed the vet check, and if the vets aren't satisfied, then the rider may incur a penalty. Repeated problems will incur longer time penalties and you will be under scrutiny and risk of disqualification. Here we explain the parameters the vets are looking for in taking care of your noble steeds.
1. Heart rate
Heart rates are taken over a full minute. There are 2 categories to commit to memory.
1. If the horse's heart rate is under 56 beats per minute when it is first presented to the vets, then the rider is free to hand that horse back to one of the herders, take the bridle and pick their next horse.
2. If it is over 56, then the following conditions apply:
After 30 minutes, the heart rate will be taken again (or sooner if the vets are not tied up with other duties). If the heart rate is below 56, they can continue as before.
If, after 30 minutes, the heart rate is still higher than 56, the rider will get a penalty. The penalty starts at the time the horse is deemed to have failed the vet check; i.e. at that 30 minute mark, ot at the time the rider came into the station.
The total time spent in an urtuu without incurring a heart rate penalty could be as much as 30 minutes. This time acts as its own penalty- the faster your horse recovers, the quicker you can ride on.
If you do incur a heart rate penalty, this will be rolled up and served at the next Penalty Urtuu
56bpm is an internationally recognised parameter of recovery in the sport of endurance riding. Before the FEI got its mitts on the rules, there were separate gates for shorter rides, and for a distance of 40kms, the 'pass' pulse was 56bpm, not the current 64bpm.
In prior years horses on the Derby have been given 30, even 45 minutes to recover to a heart rate of 64. However as the Derby has developed and riders have been on fitter and better prepared horses, we decided to narrow this gate for 2015 and beyond. Sympathetically ridden, the horses can trot straight up to the vet with a pulse of 56bpm. Veterinary penalties were at their lowest incidence ever in 2015, this change is set to stay.
Photo- Lawrence Squire 2016
Riders are selected for this adventure on the basis of their riding experience and abilities. If a rider comes in on a horse who is visibly lame, they'll have some explaining to do. If at any point you feel your horse is irregular, get off, walk or jog alongside and re-evaluate. Check for injuries. If it's lame you'll have to walk it forward or back - whichever is closest. Do NOT keep riding a lame horse.
If the horse is lame and there is a visible injury which you have missed, or something wedged in a hoof, you will be held responsible.
3. Other checks
The other veterinary inspections of each horse will include: gut sounds, gait evaluation, hydration, lacerations, wounds and general condition. If a horse fails any aspect of its veterinary check it will be up to the discretion of the vet as to whether the rider gets penalised or not.
The vets can award a penalty on veterinary grounds for anything they feel has compromised the welfare and recovery of the horse. Whilst we have tried to make these rules formulaic and clear, the vets retain discretion to act accordingly.
If your horse requires treatment it is not necessarily a penalty situation. Freak accidents, poorly understood conditions, sudden acute lamenesses; as long as the vets feel you are working in the best interests of every horse you ride, with them, you are unlikely to fall foul of the penalty system.
4. Ongoing monitoring
The vet check is not designed to be tactical, it is designed to protect the horses and encourage good riding. It's possible to have horses pass the vet who have actually been ridden too hard, and then recovered skilfully and scraped through the vet check. If a horse becomes sick having recovered according to our stated parameters, the rider may still be liable for a penalty. All horses are monitored for a period post-run and before they return to their owners and if a problem shows up later that suggests you have cooked the horse, you'll hear about it.
5. Vet penalties from the Event Managers
To reiterate, the vet check is designed to show up abusive or negligent riding. That does not belong on this or any other equestrian event. To the extent that we see it first hand out on the course, we will penalise it in the same way. We can award a veterinary penalty of 2 hours if we see horses being treated inappropriately. If other riders see it out on the course, they are encouraged to report this at the horse stations and help us safeguard the welfare of every horse, and the reputation of the event and its riders.