My rural life
Laura Kirk-Bradshaw is a manager and equine therapist at Rookery Equine Spa and Therapy Centre in Nantwich
A day in the life of an equine therapist
PLAN THE DAY
As an equine therapist, it’s my job to care for horses staying with us for a few weeks in the six-stable livery, and rehabilitate or pamper horses in the therapy centre. The livery horses might be on holiday while their owners are away, sports horses that come to us for exercise or horses that need rehabilitation. We also accept day visits. We get a lot of racehorses that come for treatments and support with recovery postcompetition and to help prevent injury. As manager, my first job is to look at the rota and go over what needs doing with Grace Wallace, the owner of the business.
First up, it’s breakfast time – the horses are very vocal about being hungry! Breakfast bowls will be different depending on the nutritional needs of the horse. Some of Grace’s own horses are pregnant at the moment, so we’ll have foals on the yard next year. Their diet is very specific for example, made up of stud mix, which is pre-natal food. One mare has been having problems with colic, so she has a Yakult to settle her tummy! We also fill hay-nets for night time, and hang those on the outside of the stable.
We all muck in and muck out together and we’ll put the horses out of their stables into the arena for a leg stretch. There’s often cleaning up outside that needs doing, as we pride ourselves on keeping the yard very clean. We’ve definitely got the wow factor and when somebody comes into our yard for the first time, they’re blown away by how beautiful it is. We’re not just a rehabilitation centre, we’re a luxury one and everything is five-star.
10:30 PLANNING TREATMENTS
I’ll look over who’ll do each treatment, when we can fit in breaks and other tasks like machinery maintenance and grooming. As a luxury rehabilitation centre, there are lots of different tailored therapies that we do from pulse electromagnetic massage therapy that increases the rate cells repair, and heat therapy in the solarium, to the water treadmill and theraplate treatment which uses wave therapy to increase blood flow in the animals, prevent injury and break down scar tissue.
TO THE SPA
We’ll start treatments on the livery horses first, before moving onto the day appointments. Our water treadmill is used on horses that are of sound health, and it increases muscle tone, suppleness and stride length. We also have a saltwater spa which helps with soft tissue damage and inflammation. The coldwater therapy from this and the Epsom Salts help to reduce the risk of injury and bring relief from pain. It’s like a human spa! We actually offer human and horse spa days now. You can leave your horse with us and we chauffeur drive you to and from a local spa where you can enjoy a human spa day while we pamper the horses. It’s not only about rehabilitating, it’s about pampering too. We are going to be the first therapy centre in the UK to be British Horse Society accredited, which is amazing.
The therapy lasts all day, but sometimes there will be time for a break in the treatment. I’ll take one of Grace’s competition horses out for a ride. Sometimes, we all do it together and it’s nice to have that teambonding. It’s a busy job but it certainly isn’t a chore, I love it!
If it’s busy and we work late, my two boys, aged seven and eight, are welcome on the yard. Being around horses is my happy place and I’ve seen the positive effects on my children as well who both have autism – it’s profound the way it calms them. As a small team, it’s not just a job, it’s a family and a second home.
I’ll do some of the admin side of the business once I’m home, such as payroll and emails. I tend to sit around in my jodhpurs for a few hours until I get shouted at by my husband. I’ll still be working in my pyjamas late at night, updating social media. When you’re really passionate about something, your brain doesn’t switch off!
Although life with two kids can be chaotic, I try to get bed at around 10pm, otherwise I won’t be getting up the next day!