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Ten-minute chat
  1. Peter Bowling


Peter Bowling, clinical director of the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital at the University of Liverpool, is an equine vet who since 2009 has been acting as an adviser to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic equestrian competitions. He has been actively involved in organising the onsite veterinary facilities and services.

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How did you come to be appointed by LOCOG?

I was asked to be involved in the preparations by LOCOG's veterinary services manager, Jenny Hall, probably as a consequence of my experience, and the support given to me by the University of Liverpool. I have a strong background in equestrian activities, especially eventing, which I have been involved in for many years, not only as a treating vet and an FEI [Fédération Equestre International] veterinary delegate, but also as an event organiser and event horse owner/breeder. I am sure that my day-to-day job at the university was also a contributing factor, as it is an unusual and diverse role; it ranges from being a first-opinion equine vet to overseeing the clinical services provided by a large referral equine hospital. I am also heavily involved in planning, procurement, finance and project management as part of this role.

There are a few other vets involved in Jenny's advisory team. Josh Slater from the RVC is looking after biosecurity, with Simon Knapp looking after the veterinary cover on the cross country phase. Mark Lucey and Julian Samuelson have also made significant contributions, all in an effort to try to make the veterinary service at London the best ever.

There are 264 volunteers involved in the veterinary services, many of whom are vets and veterinary nurses. I will be one of the technical officials at games time, with responsibility for the field of play veterinary cover.

What has your appointment involved?

Over the past three years, I have been heavily involved in the procurement of equipment, services and consumables for veterinary services. This initially involved a detailed planning phase, with the compilation of lists of what would be required as well as planning the veterinary clinic at Greenwich. As part of the planning phase, I got to see how other high-profile equine competitions – such as the European and world championships – covered veterinary services. This process was then followed by more than 50 interviews with prospective suppliers, demonstrations of equipment and tender review. All a bit dry I know, but very important to get right, hence the length of time involved.

Describe some of the activities that you will be involved in during the Olympics and the Paralympics

During games time, I will be team leader for the field of play vets. However, in practice, I will also be involved in any area that needs support. This could range from supporting the team vets who will be present over the games period, to filling in on the vet roster when gaps occur, to driving the BMW X5 support vehicles (if I am allowed to, after breaking one at the test event last year). I will also oversee the equipment and facilities within the temporary vet clinic, to make sure there are no problems and we are able to provide the best possible service.

What will be the highs?

I am not too sure, but, hopefully, not having any problems will be one, especially any related to the horses. Another obvious high will be going to the opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympics and Paralympics as they will be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Doing the best I can to do a good job will also give me a high.

Are there any lows?

No, not that I can see or have experienced so far. I just hope the weather improves to really show off the Greenwich venue in all its glory.

Why is your job important?

Like most projects of this type, it is a team effort, with everyone being important in fulfilling our goal of providing the best veterinary services ever.

What have been the biggest challenges?

How long have you got? We have faced quite a few challenges: one big one is the fact that everything at Greenwich is temporary and, although we had a test event last year, it is not possible to test everything. The fact that Greenwich park is so special, and is in London, has created problems with getting the horses into the park and providing stabling and facilities for them. It has also been difficult to sort out the volunteer roster due to the numbers involved, and the fact that all volunteers have had to go through the LOCOG workforce system.

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What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?

I always seem to be being given ‘advice’ by people. But the two best bits of advice I can remember are: ‘Think before you speak’ from one of my school teachers, which I try to do all the time. The second bit was from my first boss in practice: ‘Always tell the horse owner something they did not know’ (quite hard nowadays) and ‘make sure you leave them with something to give and do to their horse’. This was a great piece of advice, which I have adopted in other areas of my working career.

What was your proudest moment?

Probably my personal achievement of completing my veterinary degree at Liverpool while also running a business, which supported my wife and two young children. Looking back, I have no idea how I did it. I do remember my tutor in my first year saying I must be mad and that I should give up as there is no way I would do it. I have always enjoyed a challenge, so I am glad I did not take this bit of advice.

Tell us something not many people know about you

I am fascinated by how airports operate and what type of aircraft and destinations airlines use and travel to. I read airport and airline magazines, whenever I can. I think if I had not been a vet, I definitely could have worked in this industry. My family think I am slightly strange, as when I go away on holiday, going to the airport is one of the best bits, and the longer it takes the better! Give me a week and I would sort out the long queues at passport control.

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