In the ever-evolving world of veterinary medicine, one Irish vet has put himself ahead of the game, innovating his clinical services and extending the remote capabilities of his practice. Henk Offereins is a specialised performance vet, supporting many well-known trainers, owners and sport horse teams worldwide. Recognising an opportunity to do more for his equine athlete patients and extend the reach of his practice, Henk is using the Sleip app to offer his clients a new level of support – even when they are in different geographies. He calls it E-consulting.

I’ve always valued being able to follow horses consistently over time. Having long-term relationships with both clients and their horses makes a difference in the management of their health and performance.

Keeping tabs on “his” horses

Henk has horses in his blood and grew up at a time when equine sports medicine was developing. His father was a leading Olympic vet, keen on exploring new opportunities to enhance the care of top-performing horses. Henk has inherited this drive for progression and “thinking outside the box”. He is deeply passionate about bringing the same level of attention to top equine athletes as we do to human athletes in terms of rehabilitation but, above all, prevention and avoiding injury in the first place.

Vet work is often reactive; when it is broken, it is too late - you have to be ahead of the curve. My philosophy is to be proactive, both in terms of client relationship management but also in my approach to veterinary work. I want to see the horses I work with regularly.

In 2016, Henk established Equine Athlete International as a platform for the total management of equine athletes worldwide. He also started to offer worldwide tendon and soft tissue management services, a company that now has offices in Ireland, the UK, The Netherlands, South Africa, the US, Denmark and Canada.

Innovating equine care

The availability of technology such as Sleip’s has been transformative for the practice. Regular clients and consistent check-ups allow Henk and his team to build the bigger picture around each individual horse and its management. These days, clients can be invited to record the horses themselves using the Sleip app, and the analysis video and data are automatically sent to the clinic. Unlike traditional gait analysis technology, Sleip’s is also portable and hardware-free. All you need is a smartphone. This aligns perfectly with Henk’s proactive approach as it allows him to collect valuable data, monitor the horses remotely and generate personalised reports for the clients within hours.

Collaborating with owners and riders

The beauty of Henk being able to offer his clients Sleip’s technology comes to the forefront as his clients are not only spread across the world but are frequently on the road for competitions. Regularly monitoring the horses’ provides valuable information for both him as a vet and the client.

We (as vets) want to give clients a better service - our forefathers couldn’t benefit from any of this technology, but it is a valuable tool in the toolbox. It’s not only about the value I get as a vet from being able to monitor the horses; the measurements also form a basis for dialogue with clients.

Henk illustrates this point by telling us how riders often feel something underlying in the horse but struggle to pinpoint what this is or convey it to other invested parties. Using quantitative gait analysis over time, the team gets a baseline measurement and a “common language” where any changes can easily be picked up and discussed. With about 90 horses currently logged on the system, Henk is keen to emphasise that the technology in no way replaces vets; it’s a tool to do more for horses. Consistent gait monitoring makes it easier to detect subtle changes early on and ensure proactive intervention. “Vets are busier since Sleip was created as we can gather more information than ever; it won’t hurt the industry as it won’t take work away; it will create work if anything.”

Remote services extend the reach of his practice

For Henk, Sleip not only enhances the quality of his clinical work but also impacts his business model and paves the way for services that his clients appreciate. Henk has developed new service offerings built around the capabilities of the Sleip app.

A word from Henk’s clients at Sycamore Stable

Breeding and production stable Sycamore Stable, run by former World Cup rider Joanne Sloan Allen and team rider of Great Britain’s national show jumping team Sameh El Dahan, is one of Henk’s clients. Sycamore’s philosophy has always been to work proactively rather than reactively. When we catch up with Joanne, she has been at the Sunshine Tour for a couple of weeks. As soon as the tour wraps up, she and Sameh fly to Florida to compete at the Nations Cup.

“Sameh is the one in charge of Sleiping; men love tools, “ laughs Joanne. “Just joking; it is super user-friendly.”

Back at Sycamore Stables, they have two riders and a yard manager handling the yard and the horses. “Every month, we catch up with Henk, trotting up the horses at our yard. If I’m concerned about a horse, I Sleip it and get feedback from Henk. It certainly has strengthened the communication between us and Henk. Before Sleip, we sent videos of the horses, and it is always hard to judge from “just” a video. With Sleip, you get actual parameters”, says Joanne.

We don’t really like using a lot of medication on our horses. Instead, we work with how we manage the horse. With Sleip, we can take action earlier and give the horse less intense work or a rest in a big grass field. We Sleip when we feel that something is off with the horse. It’s really helpful to have numbers to back up your feelings.