“Looking Back, Looking Forward”

Featured Image: The late Murray Bain with ‘Birthday Card’ in 1964. The latter won the Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill in 1962.

Murray was great advocate of Continuing Veterinary Education (CVE) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It’s an inherited mantra I’ve also tried to pursue. This is my story of it’s rapid ‘evolution’ in Australia over the last 50 years. Please fofgive the purple prose!

“Looking Back, Looking Forward”

Retrospective Ruminations of the Australian Equine Veterinary Association (AEVA)

Prospective Dyspeptic Rumblings of Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA)

Preamble

Prior to the 1960’s many equine veterinarians had languished for many decades in the arcane world of whimsical ephemora! There was a practiced mystery about matters equine partly designed to protect the assumed ‘special knowledge’ of its major proponents. They were ‘expert emissaries of elliptical communication’! A thinly disguised and rather calculated mystique prevailed. During the enlightened ‘60’s a few real scientists began to fully examine ‘what makes a horse good’ and what ‘makes a good horse’? This process involved the unraveling of esoteric paradigms and elucidation of the first principles of equine diseases and degrees of health. This period also coincided with the greatest ever exponential population growth in thoroughbreds in Australia probably associated with the introduction of TAB betting and its ‘flow on’ effects. Horse or equine practice emerged as the ‘flavour of the decade’ during the ‘70’s.

My earliest recollection of an elite congregation of expert equine exponents was the Post Graduate Committee in Veterinary Science J. D. Stewart Course on ‘Equine Diseases’ in 1970. Driven by the icon Dr. T. G. Hungerford this was held at the old Wallace Lecture Theatre on Science Road at Sydney University. The keynote speaker was Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania Dr. Jim Rooney DVM. Dr. Rooney had autopsied over 900 horses and was a revelation! He was very ably supported by A. M. Bain, P. E. Sykes, D. R. Hutchins, T. K. Bell, Hugh McL. Gordon, R. R. R. Pascoe, J. D. Steel, M. Robinson, R. H. C. Penney, L. H. Larsen, P. Fallon and J. G. McLean. Even today this would be judged an eclectic coterie! We were ‘swinging from the rafters’ or at least standing in the isles! This truly was enlightenment, enrichment, encouragement, embellishment and enlargement! The seed was sewn!

Warmed by the success of this venture Tom (Hungerford) was not slow to tap into the potentially lucrative equine veterinary continuing education market. It was an almost impossible task to assuage the genuine thirst for knowledge. Equine Reproduction was high on everyone’s agenda and Tom brought Peter Rossdale to Australia on no fewer than three occasions. Each was a sure fire winner!

Association of Official Racing Veterinarians (AORV)

The AORV had been formed at the promulgation of the Conference of Principal Race Clubs to meet collaboratively on an annual basis with the Racing Analysts and discuss matters of mutual interest. Initially this was a closed ‘elite’ club restricted to veterinarians representing the Principal Clubs. Later it was expanded to include veterinarians who delivered services to almost any registered race club. I think it would be true to say that the AORV was the forerunner of the Australian Equine Veterinary Association (AEVA).

Conception & Genesis

On the other side of the world both the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) had sprung into existence. Armed with prior knowledge of established role models a group of visionary veterinarians convened a meeting at the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Conference in Canberra in 1971. Among those present were Dr. John Bourke, Dr. Reg Pascoe, Dr. Les McManamny, Dr. Virginia Osborne and Dr. Peter Irwin. The AEVA was conceived! Use your imagination! The same group agreed to meet the following year at the AVA AGM in Brisbane where the AEVA was arguably ‘borne’! The inaugural Constitution and Rules and By Laws as a Special Interest Group (SIG) under the banner of the AVA were adopted.

The same (or similar like-minded) group of equine veterinarians were to meet regularly on the International stage in the ensuing years. This tended to cement friendships, establish close liaison and generally bind the cohort into a well knit team of visionaries with similar aims and objects. I think this philosophy indelibly imprinted itself among this group to eventually emerge as the functionary AEVA? There was a lot of bonding, imprinting and congeniality! Most important of these ‘expeditions’ were the First International Symposium upon Equine Reproduction at Cambridge UK immediately followed by the First International Equine Veterinary Conference in Kruger Park, South Africa in 1974. Attendance at the Second International Symposium upon Equine Reproduction at UC Davis, California USA in 1978 gave rise to the Third International Symposium upon Equine Reproduction in Sydney in 1982. In my admittedly (subjective) view his was the ‘biggest and best’ achievement of the AEVA and yet to be emulated or matched? (See below).

Evolution & Egress

With no money and no assets and few financial members the EAVA struggled to stay afloat for a number of years. The Association relied entirely on the good will and self support of the elected delegates. Predictably early Executive Meetings were not well attended with usually only 4/5 from the Eastern States presented. It was not until the appointment of Ms Audrey Best as equivalent Full Time Administration Officer (1977) that the AEVA began to flourish and prosper. I used to refer to her as ‘Miss Audrey Doubleplusgood’. This was a direct parody of ‘Newspeak’ from George Orwell’s iconic social commentary ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.  (See below)

Early Association

My association with the Australian Equine Veterinary Association (AEVA) began in 1973. I succeeded Virginia Osborne as NSW delegate. Virginia had been appointed to the inaugural Executive Committee in 1971. President John Bourke and Honorary Secretary Tony Stewart were most surprised when I attended my first Executive Meeting at Parkville, Melbourne. I had great difficulty in locating them and would not have been able to do so without the timely assistance of undergraduate student Bill Harbison who was also looking for Tony. They were enjoying an impromptu and very well lubricated dinner clearly not expecting “outsiders”! Subsequent meetings were held in the private home of Honorary Secretary Andy and spouse Sarah Black in Adelaide. These were usually over and after munificent dinners and lasted well into the wee small hours. There was great difficulty with accurate recall of any decisions reached in the cold hard light of dawn! Attendance at all these early meetings was entirely self-funded.

My first foray into expansion of the AEVA’s profile was a letter under my signature distributed from my practice in Scone to all AEVA members located in NSW. This unearthed a feisty Peter Roach who was quickly appointed as Honorary Secretary in succession to Andy Black. Peter was a very proactive and proficient secretary although his term of office was not without its controversial moments! An article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald by leading racing journalist Bert Lillye criticizing “official” veterinarians at Sydney Metropolitan Race Tracks (AJC and STC) citing the office of the AEVA as its information source. Percy Sykes, Bill Monk, Norman Larkin and Jim McFadyen were indubitably not amused to put it mildly! The latter resigned in protest from the AEVA never to return again. Peter resigned his position after this episode also.

It was the policy of the AEVA to invite an eminent overseas equine veterinarian to address members at its annual conference held during the AVA AGM each year. In common with other special interest groups (SIGs) we were allocated four one-hour lecture sessions only. Professor John Hughes (UC Davis) gave these lectures in Melbourne in 1975. Professor O. R. Adams was invited to “remote” Perth for a similar program in 1976. With admirable foresight Peter Roach distributed a generic letter asking if any other organization would like to access the expertise of Professor Adams in the eastern States and also share a proportionate portion of the costs. What is now a famous part of history is that the dynamic leader of the PGFVS Tom Hungerford seized the moment with great verve and admirable alacrity. With very few members able to travel to Perth because of a national air transport strike a record number of veterinarians attended Tom’s promotion of the Lameness in Horses course at Sydney University. To this day this is still the record course for the PGFVS in terms of attendance (over 500) and profit margin (around $60,000)! Recognizing a potential bonanza, to Tom’s eternal credit and with remarkable prescience he wrote to O. R. Adams urging him to “get here even if it meant chartering an aeroplane”! Professor Adams advised he would not have bothered to come if he had not received this letter when temporarily stranded in Singapore and unable to fly to Australia because of the still extant national air strike. He managed to procure a seat to Perth for the AVA/AEVA AGM on a private charter flight at the end of which time the national strike was over.

The Birth of Bain Fallon

The massive scientific and financial success of Tom’s venture gave us an idea! We could do this for ourselves! First we needed to secure some core funding and seed venture capital to launch any new initiative. We did this in the first instance by promoting a program at the old Camperdown Travelodge (now Rydges) in Sydney utilizing free local talent. Speakers on this occasion include Professor David Hutchins, ingénue debutant Reuben Rose, Phil Knight and Bill Howey. The net return to the AEVA was around $3000.00. We were in the black and with funds! Previously the Equine Group of the AVA had run successful scientific programs in Canberra (1971), Brisbane (1972), Werribee (1973), Darwin (1974) and Hobart (1975) where I made my local speaking debut. The establishment of the AEVA was first mooted in Canberra by John Bourke and others and cemented in Brisbane (See above). The problem was that we did not make any money! The first proceedings of the Equine Group of the AVA (1971 – 1974) were produced by early Honorary Editor Dick Dixon.

About this time and during the terms of office of Norman Larkin and Professor David Hutchins the AEVA was incorporated into the AVA together with other SIGs. This was a difficult, arduous and painful process and involved a long series of delicate deliberations and negotiations! Geoff Hazard succeeded Professor Hutchins as President of the AEVA (1977) and I took over the reigns from Geoff in 1978. We made the collective decision to arrange our own stand-alone AEVA program in June 1978. Further funds were needed and so a two-day program was held at Scone in March 1977 featuring Percy Sykes, Professor Bill Pickett (Colorado State University, USA), Professor Cliff Irvine (NZ), Margaret Evans (NZ), Bill Stewart and Bill Howey. Bill Stewart presented on the only recorded case of grass sickness or grass ill ever diagnosed in Australia. Don McFadden from ‘Tatura’ chartered a light aircraft and brought a full load from north-east Victoria to the meeting. Audrey Best had emerged by this time as an outstanding administration officer for the AEVA. This was indubitably one of the very best decisions ever reached by the Executive! All scientific content was provided gratis at Scone and a substantial profit ensued. The second set of AEVA proceedings was printed in conjunction with the Scone meeting.

Later that same year (1977) John Morgan was visiting Newmarket (UK) and was asked to unearth a potential keynote speaker for June 1978. He returned with a list of 24 topics provided by Leo Jeffcott who was then at the Animal Health Equine Research Station in Newmarket. So began a virtual litany of aerogramme correspondence between the author and Leo in England. This was the genesis of what was to become internationally known as ‘Bain Fallon’. The concept was set in stone at a seminal meeting of the AEVA Executive at the Windsor Hotel, Melbourne on VRC Derby Day 1977. I traveled by small aeroplane charter to be there and Galena Boy won the Derby! The ‘brand name’ decided for the AEVA ‘special’ was Bain/Fallon Memorial Lectures in honour of eminent equine veterinarians the late Murray Bain (died, Scone 1974) and Peter Fallon (died, Melbourne 1974). I was employed by Murray Bain in 1967 and Geoff Hazard was a former associate and employee of Peter Fallon. The rest as they say is history!

1977 was the year of emergence of ‘Jubilee Clap’ (CEM) in England and also the first ostensible recorded case of Equine Herpes Virus Abortion in mares in Australia. This occurred on a stud near Scone in July 1977. A massive meeting of industry personnel was held at the Scone Bowling Club to discuss these vital issues at this time. Over 400 owners, breeders, and veterinarians attended the debate including AEVA President Geoff Hazard.

The inaugural Bain/Fallon Memorial Lectures were held at the Wentworth Hotel, Sydney from 15th to 18th June 1978 (Thursday to Sunday). Leo Jeffcott was magnificent and with incredible zeal and admirable stamina filled the whole program. Notes (three booklets) were printed and handed out the day of delivery. Thanks to Tom Hungerford’s inadvertent expert tuition the ‘grand ship’ Bain/Fallon was launched to brilliant acclaim and the AEVA really attained its majority seven years after its birth! Dave Hutchins had presciently predicted that the AEVA “would not progress until it had its own full time fully paid administration officer”. We now claimed Audrey Best as our very own!

Leo wrote by Email on Thu 1/02/2018 6:26 AM:

Thanks Bill – that’s how I remember it.  John Morgan asked me for a list of lectures that I could give to the AEVA, and I came up with 21 topics thinking that they would choose 6 – it never occurred to me they would ask me to do the lot!  However, it was a great challenge to present 21 lectures to such an enthusiastic and attentive audience.  I finally lost my voice after the discussion of the last lecture!  It was my family’s first visit to Oz, and the greatest conference I have ever been to!!  Despite the obstructive columns the Wentworth Hotel was a great venue and we had no problems with slide projection – I have never shown so many slides in my life!!  The organisation from AEVA and Audrey Best was outstanding.  I still have a copy of the 3 booklets given to delegates as proceedings.

With very best wishes, Leo

The next big thing the AEVA did was to host the Third International Symposium on Equine Reproduction in Sydney in 1982. To date this is still the biggest and best single achievement of the AEVA (in my opinion!). Following the Second Symposium ay UC Davis (USA) in 1978 a core group of devotees managed to persuade a somewhat reluctant Executive to allocate $10,000.00 of AEVA member’s funds as initiating venture capital for the idea. A local arrangements committee was formed comprising Peter Irwin (Chair), Phil Knight (Treasurer), Rex Butterfield, Reg Pascoe and Bill Howey. There were three former AEVA Presidents (CPI, RRP, WPH) and two former AEVA Treasurers (RMB, PRK). Audrey Best was the expert and highly efficient Group Secretary. The symposium was a huge success and many Australian equine veterinarians were able to benefit from the accumulated wisdom of the eclectic international gathering. The proceedings were published as Equine Reproduction III by the Journals of Reproduction and Fertility Ltd.

The First International Symposium on Equine Reproduction was held at Cambridge University (UK) in 1974. Murray Bain and Bill Howey were co-authors of two papers. The following obituary to Murray was printed in the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility Supplement No. 23 – Equine Reproduction – Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Equine Reproduction. An identical tribute appears every year in the annual Proceedings of the Bain-Fallon Memorial Lectures of the AEVA named in his honour.

Murray Bain

Murray Bain died at Scone in New South Wales on 18 March 1974 after a long and painful illness courageously endured.

Murray graduated form the Royal (Dick) Veterinary School, Edinburgh, in July 1937 and after service with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in the Middle East during World War II, followed by brief periods spent gaining experience of thoroughbred breeding in Kentucky and New Zealand, he settled at Scone, NSW, in 1950 where he worked until his death. In this time he built up a large group practice, based primarily on work with thoroughbred breeding. His particular interests were infertility in the mare, diseases of new born foals and the many management problems associated with thoroughbred breeding. He kept detailed records of all his cases and over the years published many authoritive papers based upon his observations. He took an active interest in post-graduate education and was one of the foundation members of the Post-Graduate Committee in Veterinary Science of the University of Sydney. He was a gifted speaker and gave many interesting lectures to veterinary surgeons and horse breeders throughout Australia, New Zealand, America and Great Britain. He was awarded the Seddon Prize by the Australian Veterinary Association for his major contributions to clinical veterinary medicine.

Despite many years of life in Australia, Murray was always a proud Scot, remaining conscious of his early upbringing in Scotland and his training at ‘The Dick’. He was strong, agile, energetic and tremendously able as a practicing veterinary surgeon. By the time of his death he had acquired a great fund of knowledge and experience in equine veterinary medicine which gave him the confidence and decisiveness so well known to all those who knew him as a friend or sought his professional help and advice. He had an ordered mind and was clean and tidy in his work. He enjoyed life to the full and always encouraged others to join in with him. He took a lively interest in a wide field of activities and was especially prominent in making Scone the active centre of thoroughbred breeding as well as racing in Australia that it is. He was full of praise for things well done and equally intolerant of anything that he thought was wrong.

Murray became ill at the height of his career and to this end felt frustrated and disappointed that his life should ebb away when he still had so much more to contribute. He hated the sickness that overtook him and fought hard and courageously against it.

The following obituary was made for Peter Fallon.

Peter Fallon, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc.

Peter Fallon died suddenly at his home in Burwood, Victoria, on 25 June 1974 on the eve of his departure to attend the Equine Reproduction Symposium on Cambridge.

A native of Christchurch, New Zealand, Peter studied Agricultural Sciences at Lincoln University, Christchurch, before transferring to the School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, where he graduated in 1948. Following a period as resident veterinary surgeon on two major Thoroughbred Studs in Victoria, Peter established a private practice at Tallangatta in north-east Victoria in 1955. Three years later he moved to Burwood in Melbourne where, up to the time he died, he admirably served the veterinary needs of many important Thoroughbred Studs in Victoria and major racing stables in the metropolitan area of Melbourne.

A man of great drive, energy and common sense, Peter was always outspoken in his opinions which were backed by more than 30 years of hard work, experience and keen observation on Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding. While not a man of the written word, he nevertheless frequently presented the results of his original research and clinical investigations in his own inimitable style at numerous meetings of veterinary surgeons throughout Australasia. As a result, other veterinary surgeons engaged in equine stud practice greatly benefited from his long experience and clinical acumen.

These remarkably percipient and eloquent tributes were placed by the Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Murray’s great friend Professor W. R. ‘Twink’ Allen of Cambridge University. They emphasise from quite a distance many of Murray and Peter’s special qualities including record keeping, cleanliness, hygiene and observation. Murray forever impressed on me: “the keeping of adequate records is every bit as important as the observation of the in season mare in the teasing yard”. Some things one never forgets!

‘Twink’ Allen achieved great international acclaim as one of the greats in his field and a most eminent scientist. It was as a father-in-law that he found popular fame in the thoroughbred world however! His daughter married champion jockey Frankie Dettori and as befits the offspring of an eminent reproduction specialist produced five grandchildren! You can always attract a bite and more than a few expostulations if you ask him whether he is ‘Frankie’s father-in-law – or is Frankie your son-in-law’! There are a few extra G & T’s required after that!

Evolution and Progress – Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA)

That the nascent AEVA evolved into a national veterinary icon is not in doubt. From humble beginnings it has been one of the great success stories of the profession and a role model for others to follow. Together with Small Animals (ASAVA) and Cattle (AACV) it has been the stand out Special Interest Group within the AVA. The internationally branded Bain Fallon Lectures are the envy of many other similar groups who would seek to emulate them. The following rather rambling ruminations are designed to guide possible future controlled ‘expansion’ of EVA. Much of this will depend on minute fiscal management and ability to generate ‘resources’ of sufficient funds from a relatively small cadre.

Bain Fallon

It would be heretic and churlish to challenge the structure and status of this iconic institution! However it is timely to remind present incumbents that Bain Fallon was instituted as ‘a means to and end’ rather than the end in itself? It was designed to provide the ‘resources’ ($$$$$) to do everything else! To that extent it has fulfilled its early promise! It’s inculcated ‘bloke-ness’ has been mooted as disparaging but perhaps those best qualified to comment are the many female veterinarians who frequent on an increasingly regular basis? Ban Fallon remains one of very few genuine 5-day scientific seminars on the international calendar. Perhaps its unique mix of ‘science and social’ is the key ingredient to enduring success? With long standing dependence on the successful financial outcome of each Bain Fallon it may be opportune to debate allocation of more support to the long suffering Administration Officer? Event management has become a ‘specialty’ and even ‘outsourcing’ should be on the agenda?

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Planning Meeting held in 2002 was a seminal event in the history of the organisation. Very ably facilitated by Warwick Vale the template for the future development of the AEVA/EVA was laid down. In the ensuing years much of the planning has been implemented with some fine tuning still to take place. The results are self evident? It is incumbent upon each successive Executive to revisit this plan and repeat the process at least every five years as an absolute minimum. The next is scheduled for 2008!

Governance

Many people hate this word and it certainly resonates if not grates! The roles of the Executive have changed since inception in 1971 when ‘volunteer’ was the key word. Attitudes and expectations are very different almost four decades later. In harmony with myriad ‘not-for-profit’ volunteer groups throughout our society we should pose the question whether or not the original model is appropriate for today’s situation? I fervently believe that volunteer committees may have reached their use-by date and a more streamlined structure is desirable? Recommended and/or optimum size and structure of committees are included in the AVA draft guidelines for governance of SIG’s. These would suggest that the EVA is ‘over-governed’? Perhaps the roles of Administrative Officer and Executive Officer together with the key appointments of President, President Elect and Chairmen of the four (4) Sub Committees should form the basis of a ‘Management Council’?

Research

This is one area where there is much to be done – and probably always will be! Although individuals have excelled in promoting the concept it is still a festering blight on the Australian Horse Industry that adequate funding for equine research is as low as it is notwithstanding the excellent results achieved with miniscule means. The AEVA/EVA must share some of the accumulated blame for this extant situation. Ian Nielsen and Andrew Peacock came closest to establishing an industry based levy.

Education

This will always be a fundamental aim of every successive EVA Executive. Bain Fallon and its satellite ‘workshops’ are well entrenched. Skills training for young and recent graduates are innovative and highly desirable. More than ever mature and experienced veterinarians are responsible for those who will succeed them. Focus on youth with Young Members Groups will deliver untold benefits in the long term. The EVA should also seek to influence and provide education training designed to deliver ‘credential’ as an outcome of a course of study. This should be done in conjunction with all other providers of continuing education and professional development. Articulation pathways in equine education and clear career conduits should be an unremitting objective of the EVA.

Australian Equine Veterinarian (AEV)

The AEV had a very tentative beginning during the 1970’s a direct copy of the New Zealand equivalent known as a ‘Newsletter’. At one stage resources were combined with the ASAVA’s ‘Veterinary Practitioner’. This was short lived because of the obvious polarity of the two groups. The AEV has eventually matured after many metamorphoses and reincarnations into the model today. All have suffered from the same deficiency of inadequate resources! We (collectively) have never allocated enough time, people or money to the prime communication medium of the organisation. The journal has been something that has ‘just happened’. Even so it has emerged as a most acceptable chronicle and may not be far off achieving ‘peer reviewed’ status? This could be a highly desirable objective for any new Executive? It will need money, time and expertise!

Website & Communications

The ‘new’ EVA website is testimony to its creator! If broadband access improves as the bipartisan politicians faithfully promise then the website will be even more important as an internal and external communication medium. I rather suspect the website has suffered from the same inadequate resources as the AEV? If the willing horse leaves, what happens then? Perhaps even presentations such as ‘Pascoe Perorations’ should be lodged there?

Science, Industry, Sponsorship and the EVA

The EVA has been highly if not uniquely successfully in attracting optimum support from industry by way of sponsorship especially in conjunction with Bain Fallon. There are distinct mutual advantages. If the profession is happy to use reputable products in practice then their endorsement in the general domain is most acceptable and does not compromise professional integrity. Industry will continue with this support while it is still worth its while!

Policy Council

There is no doubt the role of Policy Councilors will become more and more pivotal. The EVA should take the lead and develop its own models to present to the parent AVA.

‘Elderwise Council’

Having promoted the premise of ‘over government’ perhaps it is inopportune to propose yet another level of corporate structure? There would appear to be a lot of ‘accumulated corporate wisdom’ going to waste on the scrap heap of ex-EVA Council Members? ‘Aristippe’ Chris Johnston has raised this issue a number of times. It may be the elected Executive could invite a finite number of ex-EVA Council Members to form a selected advisory group? This may not necessarily be restricted to the latter cabal? The Executive would allocate a number of defined tasks to deliver outcomes by a certain date. Education evolution and policy formulation are two obvious areas of early connection.

‘They’

The AEVA/EVA has always been a volunteer organization. “They’ll do it”! Who are ‘they’? ‘They’ are thee, we, me and us! Let that be I (me)!

Conclusion

The ‘good ship’ EVA has traveled a long way and traversed many (philosophical) turbulent oceans. Why significantly alter a winning design? It is easy to be critical from the safe haven of ‘the sanguine twilight zone of benign self-imposed genteel redundancy’! I rest my case!

WPH

July 2007 – or thereabouts!