Exercise, exercise and more exercise is renowned physiotherapist Mary Bromiley’s mantra in her mission to make the British horse-owning public understand that their horses are not properly fit.

“Horses are nothing like as fit as they used to be,” she says, citing the hours of work that Ginny Elliot’s mother Heather Holgate put in on her championship horses as an example.

“Sheikh Mohammed’s horses can gallop for 18 kilometres in the desert – that’s fitness. And the Waley-Cohen brothers’ hunters were in better shape at the end of last year’s Golden Horseshoe ride than some of the so-called ‘scientifically’ prepared long-distance horses.

“In my humble opinion, the only really fit horses at the Olympics were the Australians and the Americans, who arrived at Horsley Park at the last minute. There wasn’t nearly enough space to exercise properly there.

“Forty-five minutes a day toddling around the lanes at home or doing circles in an arena isn’t nearly enough daily exercise. Horses should be out for two to three hours – and being ridden properly every step of the way, not slopping along.

“But people want everything to happen so fast nowadays. They don’t realise that it takes years to get a horse – or a human – to its peak.”

Mrs Bromiley’s advice to the young horse owner is to “ride it out, hack it and enjoy it before working it in the school. After all, you can teach shoulder-in with a hedge. Don’t try asking a horse for an outline until he’s been taught to balance.

“The trouble is that a rider can’t achieve something unless they know how it feels themselves, which is why novices riding novices are such a disaster. I wish more riders would learn on schoolmasters.”

She is also an advocate of teaching the horse from the ground first. “All the great masters of the past, like Oliviera, trained from the ground but, there again, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.”

“People in all walks of the horse world aren’t willing to gain the experience of riding and looking after horses, doing the basic jobs like mucking out which really teach you about the horse.”

For the complete interview with Mary Bromiley see Eventing magazine’s February 2001 issue.

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