We have really been feeling the heat these last couple of weeks here at Hartpury, and that has meant lots of early morning exercise sessions to keep the horses cool. We also have massive fans to keep the temperature down in the treadmill room. They don’t half blast you when they’re going, I think we’re experiencing forces of around 3Gs standing in front of the fans when they are turned up full!
Horses are exceptionally good at generating heat and so we use the fans on the treadmill to simulate natural airflow, particularly when cantering during a high-speed exercise test for instance. However, with temperatures up to and around 27°C here at the moment, we have the fans on all the time while the horses are working, even if they are just walking and trotting. An added bonus is that it tends to back the keen ones off a little, replicating the air resistance that would be encountered whilst working outside.
The college has such a buzzy atmosphere normally that you really notice when it’s quiet. The light mornings and warm sunny evenings really highlight this stillness and there is a totally different feel about the place. One of our horses has just started his canter work and the views that greeted he and I yesterday morning as we worked our way up to the top of the hills around Hartpury (pictured top) made getting out of bed early to avoid the heat totally worthwhile. Much as I like our normal hive of activity for most of the year, I do appreciate the quiet times which allow you to take a breath.
It’s never quiet for long however, with the Festival of Dressage just last week (pictured below), we are now in the midst of the RDA National Championships this weekend. Although we’re open as usual for business in terms of our therapy work, we also have a role to play at some of the major events such as the dressage festival, and for the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials, which is rolling ever closer with only a couple of weeks to go.
The job of our Therapy Centre team is to run the trot-ups for these events, and we assist in the D box at the end of the cross-country for the horse trials as well. Let me loose with a clipboard and radio and I become a demon. We pride ourselves on being as efficient as possible when it comes to getting through the whole affair, which can take a bit of doing on the Sunday morning after the Saturday night of horse trials week! It’s all good fun though and the running of these big events is a massive college-wide team effort.
Speaking of trot-ups, we are in the midst of finishing our beautiful new addition (below), which will be ready in time for the horse trials. Having a hard surface which is safe, level and straight to assess horses on is vital to us. We have a hard circle integrated at one end of the trot up so horses can be observed on a turn also. The circle is 12m diameter so it’s not too small, but does a good job of showing up lameness’ that are affected by increased torque.
Whether a lameness is more prevalent on a hard or soft surface is often of significance in the diagnostic process and the majority of our cases will be observed trotting up by their vet and/or therapist as a routine part of tracking their progress. We are nearly there with our new trot-up strip — it is just awaiting its non-slip grit top coating, the fencing and then a bit of landscaping to make the whole thing look pretty. I find it ironic that the final landscaping and beautifying process is done with a JCB — who knew elegance could come in so many forms?