Fizz Marshall’s therapy blog: Blue Chips, Winters and bon voyage, Valegro

  • It’s the time of year when everything seems to happen at once for us at Hartpury.

    We’ve been relatively quiet throughout February and early March in terms of inpatients but it was like someone flicked a switch as soon as the promise of April appeared on the horizon, so much so that I could have filled our barn twice with the number of enquiries I’ve received during the past three weeks.

    We don’t have a particularly seasonal pattern to the types of cases that come in at different times of year, and we have a real variety of horses in at the moment.

    Our current compliment of inpatient horses includes everything from a hind limb suspensory branch injury, another with a stifle injury, one with back and hock pain, sacroiliac pain combined with forelimb lameness, and another couple of horses who are here to be brought back into work following long periods off. It’s great to have such diversity in our midst, but it does make our record-keeping super important so that we know who is due for what and when!

    We’re now in the middle of the Easter holidays in terms of college term-time, and that brings with it the onset of ‘big show season’ at Hartpury.

    This week we play host to the Blue Chip Show Jumping Championships (pictured) with the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships following on next week.

    It’s such an odd feeling to be literally surrounded by row upon row of lorries, bringing hundreds of competitors, and yet our yard remains an unchanged, calm oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle. The horses barely seem to notice the difference, which is incredible really. I think they just wake up one morning and wonder where the party has come from.

    It might not sound like the ideal situation for a therapy centre, but I do think it’s good for the horses to keep being reminded about competition life. It keeps them interested to have an ever-changing view, and is a really good education for our young horses.

    Before the shows started I took advantage of the vast number of advertising banners that are up in the massive indoor Hartpury Arena, long reining our young dressage horse around the perimeter to get him used to seeing such things. He also did a bit of prize-giving practice whilst he was in there, and was quite happy to stand and face the rows of seats where (hopefully) his adoring fans will be in a few years’ time! Prize-giving practice was really quite entertaining, but on a serious note, I want him to leave here having experienced as many situations that he is likely to face in the future as possible.

    Within the realms of sense and safety, I do believe in maintaining the horses’ grasp on reality as far as we can during their stay.

    Final preparations for Valegro

    The Easter bank holiday was also business as usual for us and this week has saw us complete Valegro’s last two water treadmill sessions prior to him leaving for the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.

    Charlotte Dujardin came with him for one of these and it was great to chat to her about preparations in the build up to such an important show. She took some pictures and videos whilst she was here and, should I ever forget the power of social media, I was certainly reminded of it this morning when I looked at Facebook: 95,000 views and counting of a video she posted of Blueberry working on our treadmill. I think that is quite astonishing. It’s only when you see numbers like this that you remember how important that horse is to so many people, including us. We never ever take for granted how lucky we are to be able to work with him.

    We wish Blueberry and his groom Alan a safe flight over to the States and all the very best to Charlotte as she bids to retain her World Cup title and wow the Vegas crowds in the process.

    Good luck!


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