What kind of maintenance do you use to deal with your own old riding injuries?
I recently celebrated my 40th birthday and looking back on it, I’ve been riding at the top level for about 20 years now. I did my first five-star in Australia when I was 19 years old and I’ve been going strong ever since. Throughout those years, I’ve had numerous injuries, mostly from riding: things like broken collarbones, arms, wrists and legs. Most of these fractures, once they healed up, never seemed to bother me again. I felt pretty invincible in my body up until about age 35, and then I started feeling old and stiff, and noticed it impacting my riding. When I watched videos, I looked stiff and crooked, not supple.
About five years ago I made a decision that I needed to start working harder at being healthier, stronger and more flexible if I wanted to keep riding at the top level of the sport for the next 20 years. The first thing I did was start utilizing a personal trainer. I’m very lucky that down the road from me is an ex-jockey named Linda Brown who’s an excellent personal trainer and knows the sport of eventing well. She’s singled out a number of core exercises that help with riding. Since a lot of the horses have a day off on Monday after they compete on the weekends, every Monday morning at 7 a.m. I go to Linda’s to work out.
I utilize a chiropractor, Suzanne Cloud, once a week; she manipulates and adjusts my body and uses some laser therapy on some of my stiff and sore muscles. I have a herniated disc in my back, which constantly needs manipulating and Suzanne does this perfectly.
I think diet is important. I probably don’t do it the most healthy way, but I basically eat and drink as much as I feel like in the off season but as soon as it’s time to compete, I eat a very strict diet. I use Isagenix products, which consist of shakes and vitamins at breakfast and lunch, and have benefitted from my good racing friend Mark Beecher, who has a famous vegetable soup diet that helps you keep healthy, fit and light without being hungry.
Lastly I’ve got a massage chair in my house that does my whole body, an ultraviolet sauna in the bathroom and I recently started using the BEMER, which is sophisticated therapy to increase circulation throughout your body. I can guarantee everyone who feels stiff and sore should do some research into the benefits of this amazing therapy.
You might look back and read all of this and think, Holy moly, it’s over the top, but the reality is, riding horse after horse day after day, your body takes a tremendous beating and without all of this my longevity would suffer. I love competing in the sport and am eager to keep as fit and strong as I can for as long as possible.
I have a horse that doesn’t sweat. Do you have any recommendations for his maintenance? Can he be a successful event horse?
Over the years, I’ve had a number of horses that don’t sweat. The scientific name is anhidrosis; in Australia we called them puffers, because they end up puffing like an overheated dog because their body isn’t able to cool itself using sweat. Usually these horses come from an ultra-hot climate where they sweated a lot then moved to a cooler climate, and it wreaks havoc on their system.
I found that a supplement called One AC, a feed additive fed at breakfast and dinner, can definitely increase the sweat. Obviously electrolytes are helpful. Funny enough, high-alcohol beer is helpful — alcohol makes you sweat, so buy yourself a carton of the cheapest high-alcohol beer you can find and crack one over their breakfast every morning. Keep a close eye on whoever’s dishing out the feeds in the morning though; over the years, I’ve noticed a few cans of beer have gone missing!
Care-wise, if it’s a hot day and I know a horse has trouble sweating, before I go out on course I’d have a groom sponge the horse head to toe, then scrape them off so it’s almost like a fake coat of sweat to help cool the animal just before they go to work.
You get a lot of media coverage. Do you have any tips for dealing with that (and your owners, riders and sponsors) in your busy schedule?
It’s a difficult balance; you always want to keep your owners and riders happy and keep the media informed, but you also need to focus on the job at hand. In the age of social media, everyone wants to know what’s happening and there’s a constant flow of information. While you don’t want to let it take over your life, you have to accept that it’s part of the game. Over the years, I’ve developed a small circle of people who help me with this: Amber Heintzberger and Lisa Thomas help me get info to the media and sponsors, and my groom Steph will do updates of products we use in the barn. At the end of the day, as a rider, people are interested in hearing directly from you. I like to utilize the time driving back and forth to events to do phone calls and podcasts so it doesn’t interrupt the day’s training, though I’ve been known to conduct an interview or two from the back of a horse when I’m doing long walks or trot sets!