True Trifecta

A True Trifecta

Posted on July 1, 2018

We usually think of athletes in human form, but there are some pretty amazing four-legged competitors out there, too. With the opening of the Del Mar racing season this month, tens of thousands of people will flock to the stands of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to watch the spectacular animals race “where the turf meets the surf.” And, like all elite athletes, the horses are treated to top-notch conditioning, care, and rehabilitation to keep them in top performance shape.

The Trifecta Equine Athletic Center in Bonsall is a bona fide haven for the horses who are fortunate enough to visit, providing state-of-the-art treatment for equine clients including racers, hunter-jumpers, and event horses. “We offer a lot of different sports medicine and rehab treatments and different modalities, as well as regenerative medicine at Trifecta,” says Korin Potenza, DVM, CVA, who founded the center with her husband and fellow veterinarian, Nick Huggons, DACVS, DVM, in June 2016. “The goal of Trifecta was to be all-encompassing. We wanted horses to have the same treatment that you or I would get if we had an athletic injury from diagnosis and treatment to rehab, physical therapy, and conditioning.”

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Trifecta Equine Athletic Center

Potenza says that she pays close attention to advancements in treatments in both human sports medicine and veterinary medicine. “They have a lot of advanced technology for looking at the biomechanics of the human athlete, and I think that would be awesome for horses because there’s a lot of biomechanics that go on with horses, especially when there’s a rider on top.” However, she feels that equine medicine is ahead of human treatments in the use of regenerative medicine and the use of stem cells and PRP (platelet-rich plasma), so, she says, “It only makes sense that we have a tailored treatment regime, and we wanted to take not only veterinary care but also sports medicine and rehab to a next level because I think it’s really been lacking for equine athletes.”

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Their clients don’t only come to them as a result of an injury. “The racehorse trainers around here are stellar,” says Potenza. “If they feel like one of their horses has worked really hard and needs a little pampering, they’ll come and get spa treatment here. They get to go out on the grass pastures, stand in the cold saltwater spa, and just get some rest and relaxation.”

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Located less than five miles from the San Luis Rey Equine Hospital the couple also owns and operates, the comprehensive services offered at Trifecta mean every animal gets the best care, whether it’s for medical purposes or just pure pleasure. But in the frenzy of the fires of December 2017, it became something even more: a sanctuary.

The San Luis Rey Training Center, where many eyes were fixed during those terrifying days, is just across the street — walking distance from Trifecta. Despite her proximity to both San Luis Rey and the raging fires, she, her team, and her facility were able to not only escape the ravages of the flames, but also aided in the rescue of 101 horses. “We had a good chunk of them that were either dehydrated or were tying up, and a good chunk of them with wounds or severe burns, and every single one of those horses survived,” she says, still marveling at the events of that terrifying time.

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Helicopters drew water from the pond in the track’s infield to fight the Lilac Fire. Firefighters also camped on the site with their trucks

Potenza says their work at the hospital dealing with around-the-clock emergencies made working through the chaos come naturally to her staff. “They were just phenomenal. They never wavered. They walked through the fires gathering loose horses and everyone just walked horses one by one across the street. No one ever slowed down. They sorted horses and bathed horses, triaged the ones that needed medical care, hung fluids, and sutured lacerations, and it just kept going on for days,” she remembers.

True TrifectaOver the hours and days that followed, Potenza saw the other side of the nightmares of the fires. Reuniting trainers with horses they thought were lost, she says, “We can’t believe how emotionally intense that was — their trainers, just grown men in tears, so happy to see their horses.” She recalls volunteers coming from the local community and even driving in from out of state, with feed, hay, and medical supplies coming from as far as the East Coast. “I think that was just probably the most impressive part of the whole experience. It gave you a little hope for mankind I guess, for lack of better words,” she says.

In honor of their efforts during the fires, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is creating a special day for Potenza and staff to come enjoy the races this season. “I’d like to do that for the team,” says Potenza. “I think they deserve it. They love following the horses when they go back to the track, and I think it would be awesome to spoil them for the day at the races!”

Now, it’s business as usual for Potenza and Trifecta, though the experience stays with her. “I don’t know that it changed the way we operate here, but it definitely put a lot into perspective. I think it reminded all of us how life can change in a heartbeat and you definitely shouldn’t take any moment for granted,” she says. She also hopes that seeing how this community came together and the love they have for the horses helps racing critics see the sport in a new light. “Sometimes racing does get a bad rap and that makes me really sad because, at least in the Southern California racing community, race horses live like kings and their trainers and their owners will do anything for them. I think if people could see how much the trainers love and literally live for these horses, I don’t think they’d ever doubt at least the Southern California racing industry.” trifectacenter.com   Deanna Murphy

Photography by Brita Potenza

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