Technology and traditions merge at new horse hospital in Education City
No animal is perhaps so closely intertwined with the history, traditions and heritage of a geographical area as horses are to the Arabian peninsula. Across facts and folklore, the horse has always had as prominent a place in the history of the region as the people who have lived there.
While there is sufficient archeological evidence to support the theory that the relationship is one that predates Islam, it is only after the advent of the religion that clear documentation about the care of horses emerged. In fact, an entire range of research and writing on horse health care were produced across what is now the MENA region.
Ibn Akhi Hizam Al-Huttuli, Abu Beker Ibn Al Badr Al Mundir, Ibn Al Ahnaf, and Al Ashraf were some of the experts on hippology who wrote extensively on equine health, care, and treatment in the medieval Islamic civilization. These equine healthcare specialists were adept in the treatment of infectious and non-infectious diseases, surgeries, equine reproduction, and general care.
The books – some of which are still viewed as treatises – reveal the depth of knowledge that Arab hippiatrists possessed; Akhi Hizam’s Kitab al-furusiyya wa-l-baytara1,2written around 900 AD, is an example of the writing on specialized horsecare in the region. As an example, in this book Akhi Hizam writes ‘If you are just on the way (traveling), and you have to fix the ‘intisar’ without bandage, take old linseed and fill it in an iron dipper and mix it with hackled borax . Boil it thoroughly and apply it on the tendon of the mount.’
The treatment described by these ancient specialists is the foundation of the treatment plans we use today.
Today, a multi-specialty team situated at the Equine Veterinary Medicine Center (EVMC) – a Qatar Foundation member – is, in a sense, continuing the traditions begun by these elite group of equine experts centuries ago. Here, a dedicated group of veterinarians, researchers, nurses, technicians, and other support staff man the hospitalsituated near the Al Shaqab equestrian arena.
“The treatment described by these ancient specialists is the foundation of the treatment plans we use today, says Dr. Tatiana Vinardell, Head of Research and Education at EVMC. “For instance, as written by Akhi Hizam, tendonitis is still a serious injury in horses. And this kind of treatment – using a poultice – is, though rare today, still used by some people.
“The 21st Century approach to treating tendonitis includes regenerative medicine such as stem cells and other healing enhancers to treat the condition. Additionally, technology such as MRIs and ultrasonography have been developed to give clinicians a clearer understanding of the severity of the disease.”
She notes how Qatar Foundation recognized the need to continue this legacy, which is also an inextricable part of Qatar’s history, as it invested in education, healthcare and research-focused resources to set up the EVMC.
Those residing and moving around in the deserts loved horses as they loved themselves – especially the Arabian steed.
Dr. Stefania Bucca, Senior Reproduction Clinician at EVMC, adds that the center, which is the only one of its kind in the region, offers comprehensive and specialized care for all matters related to equine health – much like the hippiatrists centuries ago.
“Those residing and moving around in the deserts loved horses as they loved themselves – especially the Arabian steed,” she says.
“The physique and temperament of these horses helped; denser bone structures, physical stamina, and exceptionally friendly dispositions made these animals ideal for human interaction and endurance riding – both of which were indispensable for the Bedouin’s rugged life in the desert.”
They were the perfect choice for ceremonies and pageantry as well; endowed with large eyes and comparatively slender necks and muzzles, the breed was, and still is, prized for appearance as much as for performance.
As it addresses the equine health needs of the wider community in Qatar, the EVMC represents a natural progression of an Arab legacy. While technology has modernized its approach and work, the underlying essence is still the same – taking care of a group of animals who helped to shape the course of the region’s history.