The silver lining to American event horse Courageous Comet's untimely withdrawal from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games eventing competition is that he stands to recover fully, says Brendan Furlong, MVB, MRCVS, US eventing-team veterinarian and a team vet for the US driving team at the WEG.

"He pulled his left front shoe on course and pulled up lame," Furlong said of the fourteen-year-old gray Thoroughbred gelding, ridden by Becky Holder, 41, of Palmetto, Georgia, and owned by Holder and her husband, Tom.

Becky Holder and Courageous Comet on course at the WEG. The horse's missing left front shoe is visible in the photo if you look closely. 

"There was filling in the right front leg," which indicated some degree of overstress to the compensating opposite foreleg, Furlong said. But "there was no pain on palpation, and he was ultrasounded by Dr. [Jean-Marie] Denoix, who is the world's foremost ultrasound specialist. He could find no damage to any structure -- tendons or ligaments," he said.

The edema was determined to be superficial, and Courageous Comet "should make a complete and full recovery," said Furlong. The gelding is receiving "standard treatment" for this type of minor soft-tissue injury: a course of anti-inflammatory medication plus those old horsemen's standbys of cold-hosing, hand-walking, and limited turnout, Furlong said. The objective is to keep the horse somewhat quiet to allow healing to take place while avoiding further stress to the compromised area.

The timing of the injury was especially wretched: Holder and Courageous Comet were in third place individually after cross-country -- the highest-ranked Americans in the eventing competition -- and stood to contend for an individual medal at the WEG. Alas, it was not to be.

The other case of unfortunate timing was the withdrawal of US rider Kim Severson's horse, Tipperary Liadhnan, from the WEG eventing competition just prior to the first eventing horse inspection. The thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Friends of Kim Severson Syndicate, developed a case of cellulitis in his leg before the Games, while "Paddy" was still in Georgia for the 2010 American Eventing Championships in Fairburn, which served as the "mandatory outing" for the WEG short-listed competitors. Veterinarians treated the infection aggressively, with therapies including antibiotics and time in a hyperbaric chamber, according to Furlong. The condition improved steadily but took a turn for the worse at the eleventh hour, forcing Paddy's withdrawal from the US team.

It was another case of rotten luck but an optimistic outlook. Furlong said that Paddy, like Comet, should make a complete recovery and "has another big event left in him." 

Comet will be sixteen in two years, when the 2012 London Olympic Games roll around. Paddy will be fifteen. Several horses in that age range competed at the 2010 WEG, including Belgian rider Karin Donckers' Gazelle de la Brasserie CH (16) and Canadian Selena O'Hanlon's Colombo (16). So it's no pipe dream to hope to see Paddy and Comet in London.

 Photo credit: Peter Nixon/FEI