Behind the Scenes at a 5* Show

The Summer is such a busy time in peoples’ schedules, with the competition schedule being in full swing and team training for the upcoming European Championships to fit in too!

This Summer I have supported the British World Class Programme Riders at Badminton, been to Windsor Horse Show, St Gallen in Switzerland with the showjumping Nations Cup, Compiegne with the Dressage Nations Cup and Bramham with the Eventers again.

I thought you might like an insight into behind the scenes at 5* shows.

So what do I do at an eventing 3DE?

I will normally arrive on Wednesday before trot up.  I will trot up the horses with the team vet and will palpate them to check everything is normal.

I will watch the official trot up and observe how the horses present.  Normally the riders with them work the horses in preparation for dressage and I will treat afterwards.

Treating horses in competition is very different to treating at home.  Sometimes deeper physio treatments can cause some post treatment stiffness, that is why we will often advise you to give your horse some time off after treatment. Obviously in competition this can’t happen, but they can be treated little and often, sometimes twice a day.  My aim for physio at an event are to enable the horse to perform to the best of his or her physical ability – being as supple, flexible and pain free as possible.

Treatment at events will include more massage, myofascial release, stretches and laser.

I will often treat before the dressage to aid relaxation and suppleness.

On cross country day I help at the finish to wash and cool down the horses.  The aggressive cooling of the horses at the end of cross country promotes better recovery in the muscles enabling them to showjump better the following day.

I will aim to treat the horses 2-3 hours after completing.  This physio session will assess how sore/stiff the horses are and if they have any bruisers or cuts from hitting a cross country fence.

The grooms will routinely thoroughly ice the horses legs.  The post cross country physio will promote recovery, aid the removal of lactic acid and help alleviate any soreness from the exertions of cross country.  The first aim is to ensure they will trot up sound the following morning and then be able to be athletic and supple in the showjumping ring.  I work closely with the team vet to ensure the best treatment and management is given to the horses.  The horse’s welfare is always paramount, ensuring that continuing in the event will not cause any further injury or damage. Sometimes the decision to withdraw the horse from competition is made on Saturday night. Sunday mornings at 3DE’s are usually early ones as the horses will be treated again before trot up.

Some of the most superficial injuries like overreaches can be the most painful and not enable horses to progress to trot up even though showjumping would not cause it any further damage.  Trot ups can be quite nervous affairs and I am always pleased and relieved when the horses trot up well and pass!

The muscles of the horses can be fatigued after cross country so the physio treatment before showjumping is to try to activate and stimulate good muscle function.  Once treatment is finished I can then sit back and watch the competition unfold.

I am very privileged to be involved in the heart of competition and work with amazingly talented horses, riders and grooms.