Fizz Marshall’s therapy blog: Networking and preparing for competition season

  • The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy, including a careers event held at Hartpury that I was asked to take part in.

    There were many representatives from a range of industries in attendance so it was quite a big deal. So much so in fact that I felt the need to dress in something other than my breeches and even straightened my hair for the occasion; those in the know will realise this is a major effort for me!

    The premise of the event was to bring all of our final year degree students in to contact with people who could give them really valuable, practical advice on how to progress after they graduate. It took the form of panel interview sessions, followed by an evening dedicated to networking for students and employers (see picture below).

    Fizz Marshall


    I really like these kind of events as they offer the chance to hear from people who have been highly successful in their respective fields. As a result it wasn’t just the students who were listening keenly to their advice and opinions; I think it’s really important to look outside of your own world for new ideas and inspiration.

    As if the attraction of the event itself wasn’t enough, I thought the team in charge of organisation showed a stroke of genius when they offered free pizza to all students in return for coming along!

    The opportunity to actually go and talk informally to lots of different business people in general, let alone potential employers, is a rare one in my experience, but it is something that can be challenging for a lot of people.

    I am naturally quite shy and so I understood how some of our students were feeling; it’s not always easy just going up to someone you don’t know and striking up a conversation with them. I made some introductions for a few of the wary, and they were flying once they’d got their confidence.

    I have a lot of contact with our students due to teaching commitments and our work experience programme, so I was really proud of how they all conducted themselves.

    It was also really nice to chat to a number of students who wanted advice on how to progress in a therapy-related career; two of whom wanted to know specifically how they might do this overseas. The therapy industry is enjoying something of a boom-time at the moment and I do think they’re on to something in terms of capitalising on the opportunities this may present.

    Training season

    It’s the time of year that we all start looking towards the coming spring and summer competition seasons and the recent International Eventing Forum was at the top of the tree in training terms.

    The feedback from sessions delivered by Christoph Hess, Charlie Longsdon, Hugh Suffern and of course Andrew Nicholson was great and I have been out practicing some of the exercises outlined with my own horse.

    We also had the New Zealand event team here for a squad training day on Monday (16 February), with the BEF’s Excel Talent training sessions following on throughout the rest of the week. It’s amazing how much you can glean just from observing training like this, and although I don’t have a huge amount of time during the day, I’ll be trying to grab a bit of time to watch over lunch at some point.

    Despite the fact that we work in a rehabilitation focused environment and therefore are not expected to produce competition-ready horses, it’s really important to be able to contextualise our in-patients, understanding not only where they have come from, but what also will be expected of them in the future.

    Correct development is really important and thus if I ride a horse for a client, I want them to get back on him/her and find that the foundation stones have been well laid at the very least. Straightness, balance, connection and rhythm are aspects that are often adversely affected by injury, and thus are things that it is our job to reinstate prior to a horse leaving us.

    It’s important to remember that the same injury may affect different horses in different ways, as their responses are dictated many factors. These things include conformation, previous training and whether the injury is chronic or acute in nature.

    Continued below…

    Read more of Fizz’s blogs

    Learning self-carriage

    A really good example of this is Luigi, a horse we have been working with over the last couple of weeks. He had back and sacroiliac pain which was treated with a combination of steroid medication, osteopathic manipulation and a course of electrotherapy; off the back of which we have carried out a programme of controlled exercise.

    Yesterday was his first day back under saddle and as you can see from the video (top), his confirmation leaves him susceptible to being disconnected and holding himself in an extended posture, ie. he drops his back down and moves with his hind legs out behind him.

    He found it hard to drive with the hind legs and tended run on the forehand through downward transitions as he couldn’t shift his weight backwards to sit.

    Therefore our osteopath Liz, who is running his case, wanted to have him travelling in a way that meant he was having to carry himself, maintaining a consistent rhythm, and thus establishing a basic connection.

    Liz’s input is invaluable when it comes to working our inpatient horses, she provides expert eyes on the ground and can rationalise what I’m feeling if I’m riding.

    Luigi’s balance is fairly poor, so we used lots of little half halts to help him with this. He’s very weak still and so I only had around 10mins actually on his back to start putting these building blocks into place, thankfully he tries really hard!

    His owner takes over again from this week and will continue to progress from this early stage.

    My own horse is flying again after a bit of time off and so this week will see a bit of training intervention for him too.

    My great friend Alan Davies is good enough to give up his time to help me and apparently I’m a good student… I wouldn’t dare answer back to him for a start, I just get my head down (or up as the case may be) and do as I’m told!

    Charlie hasn’t yet learned that the arrival of Uncle Alan = hard work, but I’m sure it won’t be long before he cottons on.


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