It is the calmness of vet John Patrick King (JP) that impresses. If I were an owner with a sick or lame horse this would be the man I would want to see coming into the yard.

Born in Ballyward, Co Down, JP studied veterinary in Liverpool, graduated in 2010 and worked for three years in the UK before returning to take up a position with Marcus Swail’s EquiVet Ireland practice at Rathangan, Co Kildare in 2013. He became a partner with Marcus in 2020 and he notes: “There are now four vets in the practice, Tim O’Hagan and Seamus McSorley joined us this year. We service most of Ireland and 60% to 70% of our clients are from the sport horse industry.”

The team of vets service all HSI High Performance teams in dressage, show jumping and eventing, from ponies right through to the seniors. During the past year JP travelled with the Junior/Young Rider show jumping and eventing squads to the European Championships in Portugal and Sweden. The vet team cover all 5* Nations Cups and both JP and Marcus were with the Irish at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

As a profession we have become much better at screening out conditions such as OCD

“COVID made it a very different Olympics but I found it a fantastic experience. The level of facilities and competition were just incredible. While everything didn’t go our way, the Irish horses performed with credit.”

While demand varies with the seasons, JP pin-pointed three key services that the practice annually provides – lameness investigation, loss of performance and pre-purchase examination. On lameness he said: “As a profession we have become much better at screening out conditions such as OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans) in our breeding stock, but many of the horses we look after are working at an elite level and lameness can unfortunately be an occupational hazard of that.”

He noted that the cause of loss of performance can be very subtle, but can have a very significant effect. “Most of our work would be in the orthopaedic end of things but there may be dietary and gastro-intestinal or respiratory factors to be ruled out before they come to us for the orthopaedic assessment.”

As a country we aim to deliver a high-end sport horse product

On pre-purchase examinations JP explains: “There has been an unprecedented demand for horses and they have never been more valuable.

So the purchasers need to know the strength of their investment and that is where the pre-purchase examination becomes imperative. Talent is important, but never underestimate the importance of rideability and a good brain.

“As a country we aim to deliver a high-end sport horse product. The horse’s maintenance throughout their career is a very important aspect of that and therefore so is the service we provide.”