Lisa Lidbeck

FEI vet Lisa Lidbeck calls for increased transparency

“The sport must become much more transparent if we want it to survive in the long-term”, says Lisa Lidbeck, equine vet and recently appointed FEI vet level 4. “Sleip is a great tool that can help you in your capacity as a vet with objective documentation and to prove your point about any irregularities that should to prevent a horse that is not fit to compete – a little bit like the video replay used in ice hockey or football,” she continues.

Swedish equine vet and lameness specialist Lisa Lidbeck is on mission to improve horse welfare. Many years of running an equine clinic in Löberöd in the South of Sweden, along with serving as national eventing team vet for Sweden in top international competitions - including two Olympic games – means she is deeply knowledgeable about both movement disorders and the sport. In her new capacity as approved FEI vet level 4, Lisa Lidbeck will be inspecting horses taking part in major, international championships. Next on her agenda is the 2023 European Championships in eventing in Normandie.

During inspections, we pay a lot of attention to how the horse moves, as this is a good indicator of the horse’s general health and if it’s in any kind of pain, she says. 

Vets in a vulnerable position

Regardless of discipline, equestrian sports must increase its transparency to survive in the long-term - and to remain in the Olympic program, says Lisa Lidbeck. As a result of a case of misconduct in the modern pentathlon at the Olympics, the equestrian component there has been officially dropped. Animal rights organisations have taken advantage of this decision to urge the IOC to remove all sports with horses from the program, including jumping, dressage and eventing. 

Every aspect of how we treat horses must bear scrutiny. In general, horse welfare is much more debated today and, for instance, control of illegal substances in horses is now routine at competitions. This is a step in the right direction, but we must do more. Every potential danger to the horse must be identified and remedied – and assessing movement irregularities is an important part of this, says Lisa Lidbeck.

As a vet inspecting horses at major competitions, you are in a vulnerable position. There are such huge efforts, expectations and investments that go into each competing horse. This means that it takes a lot of integrity to stand up and say that a horse is not fit to compete – for instance after a tough cross-country course at an eventing event with just the show jumping remaining.

It’s great to have a tool like Sleip to back up your opinion and to be able to show precise metrics of any movement irregularity. It can work a bit like the cameras used for replay in ice hockey or football to prove your point, Lisa Lidbeck says.

She adds that Sleip could also be useful for educational purposes – and to collect and synchronise information. 

As an experienced vet, you can see irregularities in the movement of the horse just by watching it move – but now you can also get objective data to back it up and document it. 

Wants to make eventing safer

With her considerable experience of eventing, Lisa Lidbeck has strong views about how the sport should be developed in the future.

I want to make the sport safer for both horse and rider. I don’t want to see horses with broken legs or bleeding noses, she says.

In my opinion, eventing needs to develop into a less dangerous and more technical discipline. Ideas originating from eventing being a military discipline are simply outdated. One way is to shorten the cross-country test, where most of the accidents occur as the horse begins to get tired. Both the test itself and the hard training required for the horse to manage it put the horse at risk. But anything that could make it more technical should be evaluated and tested, Lisa Lidbeck continues.

A passion for horse welfare

Lisa Lidbeck’s passion for horses and horse welfare began at an early age with frequent visits to a grandfather with a cold blood. After many years at a riding school – where she claims that she practically lived - she got her first pony. In her teens - a horse and a few years later - she decided to aim for a career as a vet, overcoming the hurdles of securing the top grades needed to be accepted. A few years later she married top eventing rider and vet Staffan Lidbeck and they started a horse clinic together. Now divorced, they still run the clinic – and three children – together.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of horses with, and without, lameness problems, not least at the riding school. I think that this has really helped me to be able to spot movement irregularities. But my interest is really linked to my general passion for horses – and for horse welfare, she says.


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