Sponsored by Golly Galoshes
What does riding and caring for top dressage horses involve?
Are they wrapped up in cotton wool? Do they see life outside the dressage arena?
Natasha Baker MBE is a Gold Medallist Paralympic rider and is based on the outskirts of West London. Courtesy of her sponsors Golly Galoshes, the versatile equine gaiter, we asked Natasha how she cares for her national and international dressage equine stars!
All work and no play is the easiest route to creating a sour or disinterested horse, according to Natasha, so she ensures that the horse’s schoolwork has plenty of variety and that they are hacked regularly each week. Hacking is such a vital part of Natasha’s dressage horse’s routine as she goes onto explain:
“It’s a good education to life away from home. Being situated in quite a built-up area, we never know what we will meet, and I believe this has helped build my horses’ confidence in me as their rider, which can only help with positive results in the competition arena.”
Natasha’s horses go out in the paddocks daily (weather and ground permitting), and they wear protective boots and over reach boots and fortunately as Natasha says:
“They are quite sensible in the field as they are normally too busy eating! We tend to put hay in the fields in the autumn/winter months, as the grass is not abundant in our fields and it gives them something to concentrate on, as opposed to flying around the field because they have a breeze up their bottoms!”
“I find by keeping to a regular routine it really helps the horses relax at home and trying to stick to one around our competitions is important for everyone, staff and me included!” Natasha jokes.
The horses have three meals a day if required, ad-lib hay and our nutritionist regularly checks their diets.
“With any horse in work, you should keep an eye on his or her diet, as finding the right diet that works for the right temperament is also important to successful competing!” says Natasha.
If the horses have to stay in, the team skip them out regularly, pick out their feet at least twice a day. They always have haynets whenever they are stabled, and groomed horses daily, regardless of whether they are being ridden or not, which is very important according to Natasha:
“The horses just love the fuss! It also gives us a chance to check over them for any lumps, bumps or cuts and deal with them accordingly. I school the horses in boots and use my darker coloured Golly Galoshes gaiters over the top to help keep them clean and dry, and because they are breathable, they don’t make the legs any hotter either, as well as saving me time having to constantly wash them to keep them looking clean! I use the fluro ones for hacking out, as we do mostly roadwork and they really catch your eye.”
From a first aid point of view, Natasha also makes sure that she spots any injuries quickly and makes a plan of action:
A swelling or heat in a leg could be just a harmless knock. However, we would lay off any schooling work until it had gone, to air on the cautious side. For horses with cuts that require dressings, we use our Golly’s again, as they stop debris and bedding getting underneath the bandages as well as keeping everything hygienically clean. We are also a small team here and know the horses well, so if one of them seems a little off colour, it’s picked up and monitored and if we are at all concerned we always call our vet for advice.”
Because Natasha travels the horses so much for both competitions and training, they also need to plan ahead and ensure that the horse’s kit is all in good condition and repair. While Natasha has to have her saddles especially made for her, due to her disability, she still stresses that they, of course, need to fit her horses well, so regular saddle checks are essential.
“I also try and make a habit of cleaning my tack after every ride,” she says
“So, I can check over it for any wear and tear that could suddenly break, which would be a disaster if we were hundreds of miles away from home! Because we do a lot of international travel, we also have to ensure that vaccinations are up to date and passports are always ready for travel and stamped!”
Natasha also has another useful tip as well:
“I ride the horses at home in the same tack I compete them in, and if we are ever experimenting with a new bit or girth, we would always ride them at home in them for at least a few weeks to ensure they are entirely happy before using in the competition arena.”
Finally, does she treat her dressage horses any differently from her other retired horses?
“No!” she laughs
“Just because they are valuable dressage horses, it doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy being horses, although I think my mum and team are most thank-full that on a lovely warm autumn day when I decide to turn them out without rugs on the day before a big competition that they are not Greys!”
For more information on Golly Galoshes visit www.gollygaloshes.com