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Pagosa veterinarian serves with U.S. endurance riding team

Pagosa veterinarian Dr. Dwight Hooton of Elk Park Animal Hospital flew to the United Kingdom Wednesday, Aug. 15, where he will serve as team vet for the USA team at the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships at Euston Park, near Newmarket, Suffolk, UK, beginning today.

The main event, which takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, is a 100-mile race that must be completed within 18 hours. It is the closest competition to the Olympics in endurance horse riding. If and, as Hooton says, when, endurance riding becomes an Olympic sport, the World Endurance Championships would be the qualifying race.

Hooton, who has been practicing in Pagosa Springs for the last four years, will be responsible for the medical care of the U.S. team’s seven horses, six of which will compete among 160 horses from all seven continents.

Hooton, who is also the team’s acupuncturist, will begin daily evaluations of the team’s horses as soon as he arrives and will continue to do so up to the day of the race. Seven and one-half to eight hours later, when the top horse/rider teams begin to cross the finish line, Hooton will resume evaluations and apply recovery treatment to the horses before they return to the United States.

This year, Hooton’s role is especially important as this is the first time in 14 years that the United States team is in a position to bring home a team medal.

“This year, our biggest competitors — France, Germany, the UAE and Australia — expect us to be serious competition and we expect to be on the podium,” explained Hooton.

The coach of the U.S. team called on Hooton to serve because of his experience as a vet, acupuncturist, chiropractor (although he will not be serving as the team chiropractor) and former endurance riding judge.

Hooton was also considered an ideal candidate for team vet because of his experience in lameness diagnosis and treatment. Lameness is the most common cause for a horse’s failure to complete an endurance race.

Hooton has been a vet since 1987. He received his degree from Colorado State University. He became certified in and began practicing acupuncture in 1992.

Though Hooton may be an experienced and sought-after endurance vet, his experience as an endurance rider is less impressive. “I did one endurance ride and realized that it was way too much work for me,” he said. “Also, I happen to be six feet six inches tall and weigh two hundred pounds. I’m not exactly built to be a competitive rider, I’m just too big. So, I just stick to trail riding.”

That, and helping World Endurance Championship riders bring home the world title.

For updates on the championships and the U.S. team, check out ridecamp.com or endurance.net.

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