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Steeplechase Horses: The Veterinarian’s View


Dr. Monty McInturff of Tennessee Equine Hospital, official veterinarians of the Iroquois Steeplechase.
Article & photo by Nancy Brannon

This year’s Iroquois Steeplechase had unusually warm temperatures: in the mid to upper 80s, which can be tough on race horses. Dr. Monty McInturff and his colleagues at Tennessee Equine Hospital – Dr. Matt Povolich, Dr. Matthew DeLisle, Dr. Lilberty Getman, Dr. Kara Pietroski, and Dr. Christine Cocquyt – were on the grounds to monitor the horses and handle any emergencies. Cooling stations were set up at the finish and on the road to and from the barn area. Tennessee Equine has provided the official veterinarians for the Iroquois Steeplechase for 24 years. Dr. McInturff answered several questions about this year’s horses and the racing conditions.

What was the condition of the horses brought to the races?

“They were all excellent athletes with strong race records.”

What measures were taken to help the horses cool off after racing?

“There is always a cooling station at the finish line and a cooling station on the trail back to barn area to help horses cool down and recover quickly without complications.”

What was the average length of recovery time for the horses in the races? 

“The horses were all hand walked and cooled for a minimum of 30 minutes to lower their core body temperature as well as their heart rate.”

What happened to Hardrock Eleven, who fell in the fifth race and didn't get up for a while, but walked back to the barn on his own. What was cause of his distress? Was his recovery full? 

“He got tired at the last fence and stumbled, causing him to fall. He was a smart horse and lay quietly while he caught his breath. When he did, he jumped up sound and not in distress. It appears to me that he simply lost his breath and lay quietly while recovering. He ran a fast race early, but tired at the end. He was taken to the cooling station for some water and walked soundly back to the stables. He will comfortably race another day.”

How did the heat (mid to upper 80s) affect the racing conditions? 

“The horses did well thanks to periodic overcast skies and a breeze. The Iroquois provides excellent race volunteers caring for the horses’ needs. The heat did not seem to bother the horses and the track was watered daily so it was in excellent condition. It was not too firm and not too soft – just right.

“My team and I have been a part of the race since 1991, and this was one of the best race days I can remember. The steeplechase horse is an elite athlete, conditioned for distance and stamina, and this year’s race brought just under 60 of the best steeplechase horses in the USA to Nashville. The final race (the Iroquois) said it all when Mr. Hot Stuff was beaten at the wire by Demonstrative, who then became a second time winner of the race. Mr. Hot Stuff ran as a 3 year old in the Kentucky Derby and he is now 9 still competing at a high level. It was an awesome sight!”

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