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Posted by Toni Venhaus on 08/03/2023.
Mike Tomlinson, Sydney CDI 2013
Franz Venhaus

International FEI Vet from the USA officiating at the 2023 Sydney CDI


Already this year Dr Mike Tomlinson, based in Thousand Oaks, California, has officiated at many shows around the US, worked in NZ and attended a veterinary seminar in Uruguay. 

Just before coming to the Sydney CDI he was the FEI veterinarian at a two-star vaulting event in Tryon, and at a three star endurance ride in Christchurch. “I’ve also been many times to Australia’s Tom Quilty,” he added. “These have always made me feel this equestrian sport’s still on the right track, despite all the detrimental foreign pressures.

“The Aussies can put on a great competition at which everyone has a memorable time, and they do this while ensuring every single horse is extremely well cared for and watched closely throughout the event.

“I find them extremely heart-warming.”

Over the years he has witnessed varying changes in the equestrian world.  “It doesn’t matter whether it’s in fashion or feeding trends, horse people aren’t immune from looking for the latest innovation that will rapidly increase what they are desiring.  I strive to encourage every owner to achieve consistency and balance with their horses, changing only when facts (not gossip or marketing) indicate a change is needed.”

Mike also feels there are riders and there are horsemen.  “This trend is observable around the globe. The number of people having grown up around horses is declining everywhere.  We can’t change that trend,” he said.  “What we can change is the education that young aspiring equestrians receive.  Since they didn’t obtain the experience at home they need to be provided with the opportunity for hours and hours of close contact with horses as a foundational pillar of their equestrian education. 

“They cannot simply be taught to ride – they must understand the horse in order to be the best possible partner with it when they do ride.”

When watching the FEI trot ups at the Sydney CDI spectators will instantly recognise Mike by his colourful, graphic ties. The reason for these goes back to his junior year at veterinary school.

”The hospital administrator said I had to wear one to generate the clients’ respect. I said I wanted them to respect me for what I did for their animals, not for my clothes.” He went to a thrift shop and bought a pink sequined tie edged with flashing lights. “I wore it for a few days and my clients and colleagues all enjoyed it. Then the administrator said:  ‘OK you win‘ and after that I never wore a tie in school.

“When I got out and had to wear ones for more formal occasions, I looked for less obtrusive, yet equally enjoyable neckwear.  I found that the competitors at FEI events were downright scared of the FEI Veterinarians (luckily that has changed since then).  I started to wear Looney Tunes and Warner Brosties explaining to people that I’m human, too, and am there for the welfare of their horse – we’re on the same side.  Getting the competitors to relax was often my most important job.  The cartoon ties help me achieve this goal.

“I have about a hundred and try to rotate them so nobody ever sees the same one twice.”

 Needless to say he will be bringing quite a few in April when visiting the country he loves.

“It’s filled with some of the very best people in the world.  Add to that it has amazing topography and often perfect weather.  

“Australians know how to put aside their differences, find their similarities, and have a great time together.”

Article by  Suzy Jarratt

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