It is no secret that hydrotherapy, such as swimming and the use of water treadmills, is beneficial to a horse’s health and fitness — from sport horses to racehorses.
Bianca Dunk, a racehorse trainer in Holland, incorporates the natural surroundings — the sea — into her horses’ training routine, by lungeing them in the water.
“I started lungeing in the water about two years go with my home-bred pointer, Beau Traveller. The idea came to me while I was on the way back from cantering in the woods on a very warm day. I wanted to cool him off in the water, so I got off and just walked him through the water,” said Bianca, who is based in Zuid and has access to a beach called Nesselande.
“The next time, I decided to try trotting him through it on the lunge. Beau seemed to enjoy it — I realised that it was definitely hard work but it was also relaxing for him.”
Bianca now lunges all her horses in the water as part of their routine, about two or three times a week.
“I ride to the beach, which is about a 20-minute walk, then I get off and roll up my leggings, so I can be in the water too — it takes a big, deep breath to do this when the water is nippy, but once you’re in it’s alright!
“I start trotting straight away and continue for five minutes on each rein. As the water level reaches just below the shoulder, it becomes hard work for them. Then I put the saddle back on and walk them back home,” added Bianca, who moved back home to Holland nearly three years ago after 23 years working in racing yards across England and France.
The handler believes the hydrotherapy keeps her horses happy in both mind and body.
“It really develops their muscles and, because I like to do something different every day, it keeps their minds right and interested,” she said. “The horses seem to love being in the water and, with the proven benefits of hydrotherapy, I feel like it’s a win-win approach to all-round health and fitness.”
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Bianca, who works as a waitress to fund her training dream, is hoping to expand her string in the future by taking on new owners and currently has three horses in her care. While in the UK and France, she bred and trained a few point-to-pointers and hunter chase horses, before moving back to Holland.
“Beau is now retired, but I have two racehorses who I purchased from the Ascot sales; Russian Ranger, who won two races for me last year, and Groundnut.”
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