Fizz Marshall’s therapy blog: When life gives you lemons…

  • My last blog was written while visiting my family in Scotland, and what a lovely week I had. It was straight back to work though on the following Monday as we made the final preparations for the horse trials here at Hartpury.

    The main job for Team Therapy was to run the trot ups and we had beautiful sunshine for the first horse inspection on the Wednesday, with the total opposite of torrential rain for Sunday’s renewal. Despite this, it was a great week, but one not without challenge to the organising committee.

    10561662_738760692836952_3147342950938322684_nThe deluge we endured through Saturday night and into Sunday morning left almost half the outdoor international arena, complete with showjumps, under water (pictured right). In whole-hearted “when life gives you lemons” fashion, the team gave in to the weather and moved the showjumping inside; take that Hurricane Bertha!

    We are so fortunate to have the scope to be able to do such things here at Hartpury, and hopefully it only served to add to the atmosphere of the final day of competition.

    Business as usual

    With a full yard of in-patient horses, it was business as usual for us during the horse trials. The warm up and exercise schedule in the schools meant some very early starts for my team and I to get our horses worked.

    We were also granted permission to use the fully-dressed Hartpury arena prior to the beginning of the dressage, which was a big help. The most surprised of all our horses had to be the racehorse, who seemed to think he’d changed profession and had been fast-tracked to the Olympics when he walked in there. Here’s hoping he won’t be needing an alternative career as we send him back into training this week, but nonetheless he has now been wholly familiarised with flowers, white boards and massive cross-country fences as part of his worldly education.

    Aside from running the trot-ups and helping out in the D box at the end of the cross-country on Saturday, my personal involvement in the whole thing took an unexpected turn at 6.30pm on the Wednesday evening when I was asked if my horse and I would be a replacement for the CCI* guinea pig, who had had to pull out at the last minute.

    After a minor panic, I said yes and set about borrowing a set of tails from Donks’ owner Ibby (who was here competing in the CIC3*) and managed to see a copy of the test at 9pm that night. Donks can be a bit spooky, despite having evented to 3* level in his illustrious career, and so meeting the flowers that night was essential preparation for the next morning.

    All in all, the test was a bit excitable but we absolutely loved it and have some beautiful pictures to boot.

    Embracing hydrotherapy

    Historically, summer always used to be a quiet time of year for us. Since the inception of our partnership with Three Counties Equine Hospital in 2011 however, we have increasingly moved away from this trend.

    Alongside an increase in cases across the board, our Aquafit water treadmill continues to enjoy something of a renaissance (pictured top) and it is great to have so many people keen to use it.

    I think a lot of the current increased interest in water treadmill exercise is coming from vets, who are now more aware of the potential uses of equine hydrotherapy and thus are actively suggesting it to their customers as an option. We are also lucky to have some super clients who are happy to recommend us to friends and so a lot of our cases are generated by word of mouth too.

    Most of the horses who come to use the water treadmill do so on an outpatient basis, being boxed up and brought in anything up to 3 times per week.

    The types of horses that we see in these instances are mostly sport horses, with the odd racehorse in there for good measure. Many of these will not have anything particularly wrong with them, rather that they have it included as part of their regular work regime to substitute a lunging session perhaps, or often to provide a way of mobilising hard-working legs and bodies in a low intensity way.

    The water temperature is set somewhere between 14°c and 17°c (depending on the time of year) and so is relatively cold compared to what we would like to bathe or swim in. Because of this, you get an added cooling effect on the horse’s limbs which, combined with the pressure of the water, means their legs feel fantastic at the end of a session.

    The suitability of the Aquafit depends on the case, but I personally use it for my own horse about twice per week. It helps me when discussing the use of it with prospective clients knowing that I practice what I preach and we never put a horse on their without veterinary referral or agreement; it is a powerful piece of kit and so you really do have to know what you’re dealing with.

    That said, we have had some fabulous results for the horses that use it. This machine that arrived here before the walls were even built around it in 1999 continues to have a firm place in our repertoire.


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