Kelly Layne Pulls Out of Aussie WEG Selection, Udon P Has Heart Arrhythmia

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Kelly Layne of Australia on Udon P celebrating their victory in the CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle at Florida's Global Dressage Festival. © 2014 Ken Bradick/dressage-news.ccom
Kelly Layne of Australia on Udon P celebrating their victory in the CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle at Florida’s Global Dressage Festival. © 2014 Ken Bradick/dressage-news.ccom


WELLINGTON, Florida, May 10, 2014–Kelly Layne has pulled out of Australian World Equestrian Games selection competitions just days before leaving for Europe after Udon P, her top prospect, was diagnosed with an irregular heart beat known as arrhythmia, a condition identical to that suffered by Jerich Parzival.

Kelly and Udon are the Australian combination third on world rankings and had posted the third highest Grand Prix score this year, behind Lyndal Oatley on Sandro Boy and Kristy Oatley on Ronan 2, cousins who are both based in Germany.

If Kelly and the 13-year-old KWPN gelding hade made the team for WEG in Normandy, France at the end of August if would have been her second world championship as she and Amoucher were on the squad at the Games in Aachen, Germany in 2006

“I’m very disappointed,” Kelly, who will be 39 years old next week, told on Saturday.

“The horse was so reliable in the competition ring, that was the part that impressed me the most… and the judges’ comments about the harmony.

“It would have been nice for Australia to have a horse of this caliber.”

The diagnosis was confirmed during three days of tests this week at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, one of the United States’ top equine medical centers located in Gainesville, 300 miles (480km) north of Wellington where Kelly has been based in recent years after moving to the United States with her American husband, Steve, after the 2006 WEG.

Kelly and Udon P (Hierarch x Uniform), owned by Whistlejacket Farm of Koxville, Tennessee had been impressive since beginning their CDI Grand Prix career last summer at the World Cup events in Saugerties, New York and Devon, Pennsylvania.

Kelly Layne and Udon P. © 2014 Ken Braddick/
Kelly Layne and Udon P. © 2014 Ken Braddick/

During the intense Global Dressage Festival of eight CDIs this winter, the pair posted a Grand Prix score of 69.240 per cent and won a CDI3* Freestyle with a personal best ever score on any horse of 73.265 per cent.

Toward the end of the circuit, she said, problems were developing with Udon’s canter and at one occasion bled from the nose and coughed as if he was choking. Kelly and Steve thought it might be caused by pollution from heavier than usual burning in nearby sugar cane fields, so bought a nebulizer developed specially for horses to help with breathing issues.

Udon was fit and could be “pretty wild,” but when he became a lot calmer they attributed it to settling down and becoming used to the busy equestrian center and the Global show grounds across the road.

In the belief that cooler temperatures in Europe might help and to continue their campaign for a place on the Australian team that will be decided by results from competitions in Europe, they went ahead with preparations including selling horses that could be sold, arranging for training to be maintained for customers while other clients opted to accompany them with their horses to Europe.

Udon’s condition did not improve.

“When we cantered for five minutes or so,” Kelly said, “it was like we hit a wall and couldn’t get through it.”

They called in Dr. Meg Miller, a specialist in veterinary internal medicine, and she quickly determined it was not a breathing problem and recommended taking Udon to Gainesville to treat heart arrhythmia. The heart was found to be beating so irregularly–for example, three rhythmic beats, then a long pause followed by two quick beats–that when Udon was owrking hard such as in the canter the blood was getting to organs vital to life but not to the extremities such as the hind legs. The result was that the horse would stumble and tire quickly.

There, a wire was inserted into the horse’s heart and increasingly higher electrical shocks applied until the heart achieved a regular rhythm at 185 joules (a measure of electrical energy).

“We caught it early enough that there was no damage to the heart,” Kelly said.

The outlook is good that Udon will fully recover–as occurred with Parzival whose return to competition was managed successfully by his rider, Adelinde Cornelissen–and will be walked and trotted for the next four weeks. If all is fine, Udon can begin cantering again.

“We’re not out of the woods,” Kely said. “It’s still going to be nerve-wracking for a while.

“I don’t think we realized how stressed out we were. Not knowing what was going on was hard. The last few days it’s been like a huge weight has been lifted.

“We’re very hopeful, especially when you hear about Parzival and his successful comeback to medal at the Europeans.”

Tentative plans are for Udon to return to competition fitness over the summer and to compete at Saugerties and Devon in September.

Kelly and Lyndal and Kristy Oatley are the only Australians to have scored better than 69 per cent at CDI Grand Prix in 2014.

The next group of riders to have 68 per cent results includes Mary Hanna on Sancette, Hayley Beresford on Jaybee Alabaster, Brianna Burgess on La Scala, Caroline Wagner on Tango V and Marie Tomkinson on Diamante.