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Visit to Shatin Racecourse

Dr Kaiser Chiu

Honorary Secretary, HKSEMS

‘Neigh! Neigh!’

The gates crashed open! 

‘Thud! Thud! Thud!’ 

A thunderous symphony of hooves struck the racetrack as the horses ignited the racecourse with a pounding rhythm. They exploded forward with breathtaking speed. Their manes whipped like flags in the wind. Each stride was a testament to power, grace, and beauty like ballet dancers. In this racecourse, every second was a portrait of unparallelled athleticism, as these noble beasts left nothing behind but the echoes of their majestic run.

This was an eye-opening view which left me in awe when I accompanied Taiwan emergency physician delegates to follow the barrier trial (試閘) on a Hong Kong Jockey Club ambulance in Shatin Racecourse before Scientific Symposium on Emergency Medicine in October, 2023. Horseracing is exciting and poses a pre-hospital emergency care challenge. Serious injuries may occur during horseracing. Horse-related accidents may be due to falls from horse, kicks by horse, impacts with horses and equipment or other track-related accidents. Each Hong Kong Jockey Club ambulance has a nurse and 2 ambulance crew members together with the Chief Medical Officer during the barrier trial. They are professional and poised to follow and monitor the jockeys and the horses in the barrier trial. After proper pre-hospital care, efficient communication and cooperation among Chief Medical Officer, Hong Kong Jockey Club and Hospital Authority is imperative to ensure pertinent management and transfer of patients.

After the barrier trial, we visited Equine Hospital inside Shatin Racecourse. All the facilities and machines were mega-sized compared with human ones. There were various imaging modalities available for these enormous creatures. Racing horses often sustain occult limb injuries during practices or matches. To diagnose various conditions in horses, veterinarians typically rely on a combination of clinical exam and imaging techniques. The size and anatomy of horses present unique challenges during imaging procedures. To diagnose subtle fractures, radioisotope scintigraphy may be employed.

This visit left memorable experiences in the mind of each of us. This place is about the horseracing sports, the culture, the tradition, and the community. Emergency medicine and veterinary medicine play an indispensable role to support its continuing success.

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