In Malaysia which includes the states of Sabah and Sarawak, equine veterinarians play a crucial role in ensuring that a variety of horse breeds are well taken care of in their health care and welfare.
The Veterinarian’s Oath, a universal document, requires every veterinarian to declare as such:
‘Being admitted to the profession of Veterinary Medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skill for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.’
Horses need attention for 24 hours as their health status can change at any point of time. No other profession provides such satisfying daily interaction with the horse and the opportunity to care for one of man’s most majestic friends.
The Malaysian equine industry is still short of veterinarians as there are only a handful of them who are fully trained to treat horses. There are some who are into mixed practice. The demand for equine veterinarians is there for prospective candidates who inspire to venture in the equine field. Taking a scenario in the racing fraternity about 10 years down the road. We had 1 vet for about 120 horses but currently it is 1 vet to about 200 horses. Hence the need for more equine veterinarians.
Most of the veterinarians in Malaysia are employed in the companion animal sector. The number of veterinary students opting to go into the equine discipline after their graduation is low as compared to other animal species discipline.
MALAYSIAN EQUINE INDUSTRY SERVICE PROVIDERS
The equine industry in Malaysia comprises of these service providers who in one way or other are involved in horses:
- The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Malaysia is the government authority to implement the various policies in horse health and care, welfare, enforcement and in research.
- Malaysian Animal Quarantine and Inspection Services (MAQIS), a government entity dealing with the quarantine of all species of animals.
- Malaysian Equine Council (MEC) offers training of coaches, farriers, different horse related courses and is involved in the Department of Skills Development, Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia programmes, which are related to horses.
- Malayan Racing Association (MRA) is the Regulatory body for horse racing in Malaysia and Singapore.
- The Turf clubs in Malaysia constantly run races every weekend and ensure integrity in racing.
- Equestrian Association of Malaysia (EAM) deals with horse sports in collaboration with the Olympic Council of Malaysia and is also the National Federation of Malaysia for FEI events.
- Universities like Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM).
- The Malaysian Totalizator Board (LTM) which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Finance Malaysia, gives funds to deserving equine related organisations in order to upkeep the standard and continuity of equine activities.
- Others are Polo, Private Farms, Ponies and Arabian horses especially the racing activities in Kelantan and their breeding process, Hippotherapy, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), Armed Forces horse units and the Riding in Disability Association (RDA).
EQUINE VETERINARY SERVICES OFFERED AS A WHOLE
Equine Veterinarians are involved in different sectors of the equine field as below:
- Ambulatory – as provided by UPM, UMK and others to provide the best and quickest means of horse care.
- Solo Practice – as is carried out by veterinarians of a single practice.
- Group Practice – Service provided by a group of veterinarians on rotation and the Turf Clubs.
- Referral Hospital as provided by UPM, Selangor Turf Club (STC), Perak Turf Club (PRTC), UMK.
- Teaching – Universities giving courses in equine related fields including vet courses.
- Regulatory – as is being done by veterinarians from DVS, MAQIS and the Turf Clubs.
- Research – as is conducted at the VRI in dealing with equine diseases and vaccines.
- Pharmaceuticals – Vets who are involved in the pharmaceutical industry in manufacturing, importing and distribution of equine products.
STATUS OF EQUINE VETERINARY SERVICES
According to reliable sources, both East and West Malaysia combined, has got a substantial number of horses even though the actual figure has not been compiled.
In view of the number of equine veterinarians in Malaysia as compared to the horse population, it is anticipated that in the coming years, we need more, to provide the optimum care that owners desire for their horses and for the advances in equine research.
What we are lacking today is the shortage of equine veterinary services as treating veterinarians. Most of our equine veterinarians are concentrated in the Klang Valley. In the Northern States especially Kedah, Perlis and even parts of Penang, equine veterinary services seem to be lacking. There have been cases of horse deaths reported, as the affected horses could not be attended to, immediately.
With the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2015, it is hoped that there will be better enforcement by the DVS as it encompasses severe penalties and fines which can be carried out by the vets.
As the jurisdiction of equine care in each state in Malaysia is under the purview of DVS Malaysia, I would suggest that in order to equip to train more veterinarians in the equine field, the DVS vets from every state in Malaysia, can be sent for an externship programme for about a month to any of the 3 Turf Clubs in Malaysia, UPM, UMK, MEM or any bonafide equine veterinary practice. This training that they acquire, will give them the confidence to attend to any emergency, as and when required.
DR. EDWARD SAMUEL, SENIOR VETERINARY SURGEON
MALAYSIAN EQUINE COUNCIL / MAJLIS EKUIN MALAYSIA