So it’s quite different. With the youngsters, very often we’ll break them in when they’re three, but we’d often bring them in for a couple of weeks, get them started, put them out, bring them in, put them out, bring them in, put them out…
I don’t like the young horses to work hard, so if they’re going nicely, our principle is “don’t work them hard enough that they sweat.” Unless they’re naughty – if they’re naughty, you have to push them through it, and they have to work until they’ve been reasonable, but if they’re doing the right thing, 10 or 15 minutes and they can go out again.
It’s really an essential piece of equipment. I definitely use it at competitions, I always use it to warm up before competitions, and I also use it to cool down after competitions as well. He (Jazz) has had a problem with tying up some years ago, so that’s another one of the benefits of using it that way. Certainly if we’ve got anything that might have injured itself or slipped, we might put that on as well.
We use the Draper Therapy Cooler sheets, especially in the winter time. That’s terrific, because it’s so thick and warm, that when you’ve got hot horses that have worked really hard and then you stand them in the cold, it’s just great. We can wash them, put that on and they stay warm. It wicks out the water really quickly, I’ve really been impressed with that.
In the summertime, we use the Draper Therapy Anti Sweat Sheet, and at shows, I always use the Draper Recovery Wraps as stable wraps at night. I’ve found them to be really good, very durable as well. We use the rugs all the time, and they stand up to use really well.
CW: What are some of the common soundness and health issues you tend to come across with the dressage horses?
KM: The most common thing would just be sore muscles from too much work. So clearly, the rug helps us to manage those problems really well. Sometimes I suppose you get little muscle strains and that kind of thing. We do have a really great vet chiropractor, and we also have a massage therapist, so we see the rug as part of the overall management of those small things.
The bigger things that we’ve had to deal with…we’ve had a couple of horses mail order hydrocodone with suspensory ligament problems, and we’ve used the rug and the front boots as part of the recovery of that..
CW: Did you find that it helped to speed up the process?
KM: Yeah, absolutely…
When you’ve got older horses that have done a lot of work, it’s just that general wear and tear, a bit of arthritis and all that sort of stuff. So it’s just trying to keep them as supple as we can. That’s the whole thing, they’ve got to be supple and they’ve got to be able to get their hind legs underneath them and carry weight. So they’ve got to be comfortable, or they won’t do the work.
And in dressage, I suppose, rhythm is so important. Obviously, a lameness gets penalised, but even if one leg isn’t quite right, not stepping through quite as much, not working quite as hard in one hind leg, the changes might have been not quite symmetrical, one jumps through a little bit more… All of that is very expensive in the marks, so anything that you can do to make sure their joints are in tip top condition is really good.
In any teaching session, you’ve got to think about those three phases, the warm up, the work, and the cool down. For young horses, really, your warm up and cool down is most of the work, because, once they’re warmed up, and you can really get them over the back, that’s when you can really make the steps a little bit more expressive and bigger, and that’s virtually cool down stage. So, for the four year olds, that’s really mostly what we do, we warm them up.
But for older horses, obviously it’s really thinking about the work in those three phases, and making sure that you cool them down properly, icing their legs… We know that heat stays in tendons for a long time, and if you can get the heat out of the tendons, then that’s a very good thing.[Keeping it short], not working them too hard, putting rest sessions in your work session. That’s another thing that breaks down tendons and ligaments, is keeping on working them hard. So, you work them hard, then let them out, work them hard, and then let them out again. You’re going to get less fatigue injuries if you really think about how you’re going to use your sessions.
CW: It sounds like you’ve got a great program in place…
KM: Yeah, I’m quite obsessive…Grand Prix horses take such a long time to train, they have to last