Superstar horse Valegro has been working out at Hartpury ahead of his appearance at this year's Hartpury Festival of Dressage.
Top equestrian magazine, Horse and Hound, recently came to the college to film the multiple world record holder using Hartpury’s Aquafit water treadmill and interview Felicity Marshall – the manager of Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre and Horse and Hound blogger. You can see the video here
Valegro, who is also known as Blueberry, visits the centre with his groom, Alan Davies, around once a week as part of his normal regime, increasing his visits to twice a week in the build-up to competing at major events with Charlotte Dujardin OBE. Charlotte lives in Newent and is coached by Hartpury’s elite dressage coach, Carl Hester.
Felicity said: “Carl and Charlotte like the water treadmill because it makes him move through the range of movement they are looking for in his work, but in a really nice, relaxed and non-intensive way.
“We use the water just above hock height for Blueberry, so we put him through a big range of movement in both his front and hind legs. The water treadmill encourages the horse to ‘sit’ behind by generating lumbarsacral flexion — which is a key component of what you’re looking for in a dressage horse’s work. It makes them drive with the hind legs and helps them to take the weight off the front legs.
“The unique thing about Blueberry on the Aqua Fit compared to other horses is his ability to maintain flexion in the part of his spine that sits underneath the saddle, regardless of water height. Most horses will drop this area down into extension as the water gets higher. This allows him to generate a different type of movement in that part of his back to any other horse we have seen.
“Our Principle Lecturer in Equine Therapy, Dr Kathryn Nankervis, has undertaken a significant amount of research into water treadmill exercise. As a result of this, we know that horses work much slower in the Aqua Fit than when walking over land.
“We adjust the speed of the treadmill to each individual horse. With a longer stride duration and a lower stride frequency, the horse takes bigger, longer steps and the water encourages the hind legs to step underneath, ultimately generating more power. This helps to build up the important muscles in the hind quartersand over the lumber area of the back.”
Hartpury’s Festival of Dressage, which runs from July 8th to 12th, will be Charlotte and Valegro’s only competition before they head to the European Championships in Aachen. The duo recently wowed the equestrian world with a superb victory at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas.
They have taken the world by storm since their last appearance at Hartpury in 2012, where they claimed the British Grand Prix Freestyle record with 90.650% just a month before being crowned Double Olympic Gold Medalists.
Since then they have amassed an impressive tally of medals including becoming 2014 Individual Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle World Champions and winning Team Silver at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. They have also claimed three World Records.
The Festival features five of days of outstanding equestrian sport, incorporating Premier League, CDI3*, CPEDI3*, Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championship and new for 2015, the Elite Stallions Prix St Georges Young Horse Championship. You can buy tickets and find more information at www.hartpury.ac.uk/dressage Entry is free from Wednesday to Friday.
From September 2015, Hartpury’s renowned equine facilities will also include a new Rider Performance Centre – the first of its kind in the UK. The new centre will support riders of all levels – both para and non-disabled riders - to enhance their performance and give equestrian students even more opportunities to apply the theory they learn in the classroom in a practical setting.
A unique facility nationally, the Margaret Giffen Centre for Performance in Equestrian Sports will enable riders from all disciplines and levels to access facilities and professional therapists that will enhance their performance and help them to rehabilitate from injury.
It will incorporate a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning suite, a rider performance zone including horse simulator, 3-D motion capture and electromyography equipment, weight lifting platforms and a sport therapy area.
There are still places on a range of equine courses at Hartpury starting this September, from BTEC Diplomas to Foundation, Honours and Masters degrees. Part-time options are available, enabling you to study at the same time as pursuing your career. To find out more, go to www.hartpury.ac.uk