EPEF Opening at New Bolton Center
Freezing rain was coming down in sheets, the wind was picking up and the threat of snow loomed. On Wednesday, November 7th the newest building on the New Bolton Center Campus was dedicated and the weather was miserable.
“This kind of weather,” said Elizabeth Davidson, DVM, DACVS in her opening remarks, “is exactly the reason we need this building.” The building is the Ilona English Equine Performance Evaluation Facility (EPEF).
The day was not unlike one in late spring, 2008, when Ilona English, breeder and owner of Summit Sporthorses and Sportponies in Ringoes, NJ, brought one of her horses to New Bolton Center for a lameness evaluation. The atrocious weather inspired her to call on New Bolton Center’s Development Office and raise the question, “Why doesn’t New Bolton Center have a sheltered place for lameness evaluations?” Following those discussions, Ilona spearheaded an initiative to build an indoor arena and the Penn grad provided the initial funding for the project.
The facility is an 80’ x 120’ indoor arena that offers an even, dependable, appropriate riding surface for the evaluation of horses. Shelter from the weather – snow, ice, rain and searing summer sun – provides a much safer and more comfortable environment for patients, clients, clinicians, nurses and students. The building is also capable of supporting mobile technology routinely used by Sports Medicine clinicians in lameness diagnoses.
“This building will be an integral element in our Sports Medicine Program,” explained Dr. Davidson, who was a primary force behind the building and its design. “As we continue to build one of the premier equine sports medicine programs anywhere, this facility will help us to excel in patient care by giving us the ability to evaluate horses, regardless of the weather, in a safe environment.”
Guests to the dedication heard opening remarks by Dr. Davidson and Dean Hendricks. They heard the stories of two very special four-legged guests, Boyd Martin’s Neville Bardos and Caitlin Silliman’s Catch a Star. Both were victims of a local barn fire, and both, following emergency care at the ICU in New Bolton Center’s Widener Hospital, are once again competing successfully at top levels. The scene, however, was stolen by Ms. English’s jet-black Westphalian sport pony stallion, Popeye. Forelock hanging mischievously in his eyes and full of attitude, he and his rider Rebecca Cord performed a dressage musical freestyle to “I’m Too Sexy.”
The EPEF was built by King Construction Company of New Holland, PA. Inside, the wooden elements are blond and polished, the windows big and the ceiling high. The overall impression is bright and airy, even on a gloomy November afternoon.
For the footing, Dr. Davidson chose MC Ecotrack® by Martin Collins, a top-notch blend of wax-coated sand, CLOPF® fibers, and soft rubber that provides an ideal surface for sport horses, whether in hand or under saddle. Favored by those designing international horse competition arenas and some local Olympic-level competitors as well, Dr. Davidson pointed out proudly, “we’re the only veterinary facility in this country to have this footing. Only two other veterinary facilities, both in England, are using it.”
The Sports Medicine team at New Bolton Center offers a wide range of specialty services that address lameness issues as well as those of the heart and airways. State-of-the-art imaging capabilities including MRI, treadmill exam, ultrasound, CT, digital radiology and nuclear scans allow the veterinarians to diagnose and treat performance limiting conditions in horses of all disciplines.
The EPEF is the initial phase of a two-phase project that will culminate in a state-of-the-art Equine Performance Clinic. The proposed complex will include holding stalls, an enclosed hard trot-up track and hard surface lunging area, diagnostic center, procedure room, client services, sophisticated farrier clinic and more. Said Dr. Davidson, “Having a multitude of surfaces allows the clinician to understand the dynamics of an abnormality. Some are more pronounced on soft footing, others on hard surfaces.”
Addressing the 75 or so guests at the reception following the dedication, in the warmth of Alumni Hall, Ilona English implored, “Join me in building phase two of this facility so that we can have the best performance evaluation facility in America.”
Saly Glassman of Blue Bell, PA, the other major donor to the project, said, “This facility represents an example of the work that is done here. It goes beyond competency to genuine caring.” In a humorous reference to a mantra those who rode as children heard constantly, she added, “Heels down, eyes up and kick. Let’s keep it going.”
Top photo courtesy of Aileen Elliott. Bottom photo courtesy of Lisa Thomas/Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services.