You can’t carry on like you’re the best in the world, like some people do, until you are the best in the world!’
The warming up is the most important part of the work. We very rarely ride the Grand Prix exercises; instead we’re training exercises that strengthen the horse’s body and working on their weaknesses. We’ve only just started putting all the Grand Prix work together. What’s the point in doing that until your horse is going how Jonny wants your horse to go, which is a pretty high standard – he’s such a perfectionist!
We always walk the horses for quite a long time at the start, especially in the winter, because it’s so cold. We’ll stretch them in walk, trot and canter, but when they’re stretching, they’re working. After we’ve done the stretching, we walk the horses again. Then we pick them up and usually start in canter. I much prefer to do my trot work after I’ve cantered, as the canter improves the trot.
We never ride on the outside track, but always work on the inside track, which helps to keep the horse straight. We also do a lot of counter-canter, around the whole arena and on circles. That is honestly such a good exercise and it has really helped me and Roy. To do it properly, the way Jonny wants us to do it, with the horse in self-carriage, is really hard, but I love it and it’s what I do nearly every day for my warm-up, along with a lot of legyielding across the whole arena. The hind legs have to be active and underneath you, and it requires a lot of strength.
We’ve actually had to change Roy’s warm-up a lot, because he’s a stallion and he’s quite clever and finds ways out. Sometimes we have to make things tricky for him or change it regularly just to keep his mind busy, because he gets bored.
Another good exercise is riding legyield down the wall. The horse’s head and neck are more or less in the middle and you push the bum to the inside. It’s a really good strengthening exercise, but again you have to wait until the horse can do it in self-carriage. Everything comes so much more easily when the horses are carrying themselves. As soon as they lock against you they go dead in their bodies. If you can get them soft in front and carrying themselves, they react and move off your leg.
Of course, the horse always has one side that they struggle with more, but the worst thing you can do is sit against it. A
lot of us push on to our outside seatbone when we’re trying to get our leg on, so although we’re wanting the horse to move left, we’re sitting to the right and bracing against them. As soon as you sit down through your inside seatbone and shift your weight to the inside you’d be sur- prised how much easier they move over.
We stretch the horses to start and finish. After we work them, we trot and canter them around pretty much on the buckle and let them go as fast as they want to – it’s like their time to let go and have fun. It’s so good for their minds and it’s the way you get more energy as well, because you don’t interfere with them in any way. It’s great for horses that don’t have a natural medium trot, because they suddenly find another gear.
You have to have a really good maintenance programme in place. I’m pretty lucky – I have a great farrier and a wonderful physio who works closely with Jonny’s vet. I’ve also been fortunate with Roy in that he’s been a very sound horse and he handles the work so well. He’s 11 now and he looks completely different – he’s so big in the body. It’s amazing to see the change.
Managing the workload is also so important in a Grand Prix horse – you can’t just keep hounding them. If we’ve worked Roy really hard one day, we obviously change what we’ll do the next and be careful to let him recover.
I never really give Roy a day off, because he’s got so much energy, but some days I will free-lunge him, just with the halter
Andrea’s partner Brett Davey, an Australian Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, is with her in Germany and has recently started training with Jonny too; the pair are enjoying every aspect of learning about the European scene
Some horses seem to be accident prone. It can be very frightening to go out and see that your horse or pony has a wound. However careful we are with our paddocks, stables and yards, it seems that some horses are able to find something to injure themselves on, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
If there is any chance that a joint or tendon may be affected by a wound then it is always better to get veterinary attention sooner rather than later.
It is often small, deep, puncture wounds that cause problems.
There are a lot of ‘synovial structures’ in the lower legs. Synovial structures is the term used for joints and tendon sheaths (the cushioning layer around some tendons).
Once these become infected and inflamed there is a potential for permanent damage to occur. Joints often have ‘pouches’, which means that the joint pocket can be some way from what we think of as the joint. A wound that is anywhere near a joint should be examined by a vet to see if the joint has been affected.
Bleeding from wounds
OFTEN IT CAN like look a lot of blood has been lost and this is, of course, of great concern – but horses do have a lot of blood. Around 8% of a horse’s bodyweight is blood, so a 500kg horse has about 40 litres of blood. Something to bear in mind is that a 500kg horse can lose 6-8 litres of blood before it would physically affect the horse, and 12-16 litres before it becomes life-threatening. However, bleeding should still be stopped (if you can do so safely) by applying pressure to a wound while waiting for the vet to arrive.
Clockwise from above left: this horse was found in the paddock in late March last year, covered in blood, with an intial wound that looked like two huge punctures and a deep tear, as if he had got caught on something. After a week in a vet clinic, the outer layer of skin sloughed off, leaving a gaping wound (top left, image taken in early April). The vet debrided the proud flesh around a month later (top right). By July, healing was well under way (above) and by August 21, (left and centre) it was completely healed
Top and above: cold hosing is an effective first aid response to a nasty leg gash. Above right: a back wound caused by a kick in the paddock; painful but not serious with a bandage change slowing down the healing.
Finally once the epithelialisation has closed over the wound, we get remodelling. This minimises scar size and can still be happening three weeks to more than a year after the wound has happened. (This may also explain why some ointments appear to reduce a scar – it could be that remodelling was minimising the scar anyway).
Factors that delay healing
THERE ARE SEVERAL factors that will delay wound healing. A lot of these are more common in leg wounds. These delaying factors can result either in a wound that is slow to heal or in one that develops proud flesh. Here are 10 main factors that can delay healing: 1. Infection – by bacteria, viruses and fungi will delay healing. A wound must be cleaned thoroughly and a good bandage will prevent reinfection. Antibiotics may be used by your vet if they are indicated. Movement – this is particularly important on the legs. Movement makes it harder for the wound to fill in, delays healing and can often result in proud flesh. Confining the horse to a small area, using a thick padded bandage and sometimes even a cast are all ways that movement is restricted to encourage healing.
Poor blood and/or oxygen supply.
These are both important for healing. It is thought that using a dressing that prevents oxygen getting to the wound may encourage the formation of proud flesh, so using a breathable dressing is advised. Health status of the horse. The age of the horse affects healing (young horses usually heal better than older ones), whether it is a pony or a horse affects healing (ponies usually heal better than horses) and if the horse has Cushing’s syndrome then healing can be delayed. 10. Sarcoid. Wounds can turn into sarcoids. We don’t know if this is because flies which can carry a virus (bovine papillomavirus type1, BPV) are attracted to the wound and deposit the virus there, resulting in a sarcoid,
9. Continued trauma – this is quite obvious but a wound caused by something rubbing won’t heal if whatever caused it is still rubbing. Human factors – something that we may do to the wound that delays healing. It can mean the wrong dressing, a bandage that isn’t changed often enough or is too tight or the use of a topical ointment that inhibits rather than helps healing. Large deficit – a large wound with a lot of tissue missing will take longer to heal as the granulation tissue has to fill in the gap. The blood supply also has to grow back.
Common complications are proud flesh and infection. With any complications of wound healing, you should seek veterinary advice. Infections will need to be treated, proud flesh removed and then if any of the other above factors are present these will need to be managed to allow healing to take place.
Hopefully, by having an understanding of how healing occurs and also what stops healing, then you will be able to manage any wounds you are unfortunate enough to encounter, and so keep conditions as ideal as possible for healing.
A basic first aid kit
You can buy elaborate (and expensive) equine first aid kits made up for you, but they often have items you’ll never use. Here are my suggestions for a simple kit that will cover most emergencies. • Water/saline. A simple solution can be made with 9g salt (1.5 teaspoons) in a litre of water, or buy contact lens saline solution from a chemist. Bandage material. You need a poultice such as Animalintex, dressings such as Melonin or Telfa pads, an absorbable padding such as gamgee, and an outer layer such as Vetwrap. Stock up with plenty of each. Iodine - use very dilute. A torch with longlife quality batteries. Hardware. You need wire cutters, scissors and tweezers. Cotton swabs and cotton wool. A few cool packs, or grab frozen peas from the freezer. Your vet’s phone number.