Not Just a Horse Hospital: Equine Medical Center at the Forefront of Technology

For the local equine community, there is only one medical center in the area that has all the essentials needed to restore a horse to good health.

Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center near Leesburg has been offering specialty care, 24/7 emergency treatment and diagnostic services for 33 years. With a medical staff of about 40, a 70,000-square-foot main building, access to the latest advances in equine medical treatment, the center continues to grow in size and prominence.

About 2,500 horses are treated at the center each year. While sport horses make up most of the patients, the center treats equines of all types.

“We see everything, from the backyard fluffy pony to your Washington International show jumper,” said Sharon Peart, the administrative assistant to center director Michael Erskine.

The center is largely known for being a leader in CT imaging, regenerative medicine, lameness diagnosis and treatment, and emergency care. Within its walls, there are multiple operating rooms, a pharmacy, an isolation building for horses with contagious diseases, four ICU stalls and the latest medical equipment.

In continuing its advancement in modern equine medicine, the center welcomed Erskine as its director in 2013. He is the 2017 recipient of the Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Directorship endowment, an award he received in part for leading the center toward implementing a three-year strategic plan that contains initiatives and services to help better care for horses.

Students and staff photograph a tumor on a horse’s tail at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center near Leesburg. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]

Erskine said the equine community, in general, has made many medical breakthroughs in the past 10 years. In that time, the center has kept pace with new technology to help with diagnoses and treatments, including ultrasound, radiology, nuclear imaging and MRI equipment. Donors provided the center with a $400,000 CT scanning machine, which is one meter—slightly more than 3 feet—in diameter and can generate a 360-degree image in about a minute.

“It can accept quite a bit of the horse into it,” Erskine said. “It’s a very high-end diagnostic tool.”

Jeanne Lindamood, a Purcellville resident and owner of a 17-year-old horse named Majestic Valley, has seen the benefits of the CT scanner.

When she took her horse to the center for treatment of a broken jaw earlier this year, the scanner was put to use.

“It was amazing what they could see with that new piece of equipment as opposed to an older X-ray machine,” she said. “I never doubted that he was just in the best hands.”

Last summer, a full-time farrier also joined the center’s team. Paul Goodness has been shoeing horses for four decades. He served as the U.S. Equestrian Team farrier from 1992-1996 and used his skillset in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta.

Students and staff at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center work on a horse that has an injury on her hoof. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]

“It is unusual to have someone like that working alongside the faculty in close collaboration,” Peart said.

Moving into 2018, the center will be working toward goals set by its three-year strategic plan, including renovations, equipment purchases and building new facilities. The largest initiative is the construction of a $1.5 million, 100-by-200-foot indoor arena that will feature soft, firm and hard surfaces—giving the staff the ability to see how horses fare on each one.

“[The arena] is really to advance our ability to observe a horse under a certain circumstance,” Erskine said.

Although the center is still raising funds to match a $750,000 grant, it expects to have the arena built in the next 10 months.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center was created in 1984 after a 200-acre donation from the Westmoreland Davis Foundation and a $4 million gift from Marion duPont, an avid horse breeder and the daughter of the DuPont Co.’s founder. Its property borders Morven Park, the estate of former Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis. The center is one of two hospitals of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Students and staff at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center work on a horse that was in for a sonogram. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]

pszabo@loudounnow.com