Noble Outfitters featured rider, Erin Sylvester, looks forward to Rover cross-country day after a successful dressage test on Friday! Erin’s Irish thoroughbred, Paddy the Caddy, has proven to be a strong and tactical cross-country horse and will be a fierce competitor today as he makes his debut run at the Kentucky 3-Day. We were so fortunate to be able to pull Erin aside from her busy day and talk about cross-country and horse health! Here are four highlights from Erin Sylvester’s training and sports medicine program that help horses prepare for and recover from America’s 4* cross-country course.
Erin’s first preparation point for cross-country day at Rover starts about 6 weeks out from competition. She points out that she likes to add about an hour of hacking or hand walking to daily schooling as she nears competition time. Erin explains that “walking on varying surfaces and terrain is best, because it strengthens tendons and ligaments, loosens and increases elasticity in muscles, and increases bone density”. She goes on to voice the importance familiarizing a horse to different terrain, because “in order for horses to develop strength and coordination on a footing, they have to be exposed to it”.
Fast forward to cross-country day and Erin and Paddy can be found schooling in the early morning hours. Erin explains that when horses have to live in the show environment they can become stressed and even tense. This is NOT ideal for a cross-country run. To work past this, Erin takes Paddy out in the mornings for a school. She gets his muscles warm and loose, and his mind relaxed. She also runs through a check list of balances that Paddy will have to have through the course. Whether that is an open gallop, a sitting canter for a turn, or a call to whoa, Paddy needs to have the boxes checked and held for later!
After a tough cross-country course, Paddy is sure to be vetted, cooled, and ICED! Between cross-country and stadium, horses need to remain as comfortable as possible, and this means keeping circulation up, and inflammation down. As she ices Paddy’s legs in an “on for 20 minutes, off for 20 minutes” fashion, Erin ensures that heat and inflammation from the stress of exertion stay out of Paddy’s legs. Where inflammation subsides, circulation can be abundant!
Blood flow is the basis for a horse’s biological function. Increasing circulation helps the horse’s system to deliver nutrients to cells, flush toxins, and drive muscle recovery. Therefore it makes sense to try and optimize a horse’s circulation at any given time, and particularly between Rover cross-country and stadium! Here are a few of the ways that Erin works to optimize Paddy’s circulation.
Hand walking in between icing legs can help pump blood through the legs when they are cool and tight. It also helps to stretch and soften muscles over the topline, shoulders, and hips.
Massage treatments, particularly deep tissue massage, will stimulate blood flow to deep muscles that may be tired and holding toxins. When blood flow reaches the muscles, they can ‘breathe’ and soften, relaxing them and flushing the toxins.
Magnetic therapy is an effective way to help streamline the blood flow in a horse’s system. This can be particularly helpful in combination with cold therapy, as magnetic treatment can help draw blood flow to areas where the inflammation subsides, helping to keep it down.