For many years my Father and I wondered how we could use a stream that runs through the farm to the of advantage to the horses. About eight years ago I asked our ‘projects manager’, the legendary “Noisy Geoff” Mander to try and make the bottom of about 150m of the stream safe for the horses to walk through. I thought the project would cost about £5,000. Imagine my horror when I came back from Tattersalls Sales two days later, to find Geoff had already dug the Suez Canal parallel to the existing stream! His acceptable excuse was that he could not think of a way of daming up the stream, so that he could secure the bottom, without flooding the gallop, under which it flowed. So £20,000+ later, we have created a ‘state of the art’ and pretty unique ‘water-walk’!
After working, the horses come back down the gallop and walk into the ‘splash’, where the water level is upto the back of their knees. Horses have to walk and ‘wind down’ after exercise, so they might as well do it in cold water and at the most sheltered part of the farm, out of the wind. They will spend upto 15 minutes wading through the cold water before walking back up the drive to the yard. Probably only ten years ago, Rugby players would have had warm showers or sung ‘bawdy songs’ in communal baths; now it’s all about ‘icing injuries’ and ‘applying cold’ as soon as possible. We are trying to do exactly the same with the horses.
Tendon injuries occur due to the tremendous build up of heat within the tendon, caused by the friction of intense exercise. This heat damages the collagen and therefore ‘frays the fibres’ of which the ‘rope-like’ tendon is made up of. We are trying to take that heat out a little sooner, to stop it causing quite so much damage. We are still in early days, but we feel we have suffered slightly fewer of these injuries, but understand that they still are going to happen. We are hoping to get a proper scientific study into the core tempratures of horses’ tendons undertaken by a university or veterinary college in the immediate future.