StableTalk with Laura Tomlinson

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Ever wondered how an Olympian’s yard is run? Equi-Ads and HAYGAIN take a closer look at Laura Tomlinson’s stable management routine and the attention to detail the team go to in order to maximise performance.

HARDWORK, determination, a drive to succeed and a desire for the very best are attributes that count when you want to win Olympic medals.

Dressage star Laura Tomlinson is well known for wanting to get the most out of her horses. She understands that in order for her horses to compete at the highest level their health and happiness is a top priority.

As you enter her yard in a pretty Gloucestershire village there is an overwhelming feeling of calm and tranquillity.The yard is ultra smart but it is also set out with practicality in mind. Designed by her father, Dr Bechtolsheimer the aim was to create maximum ventilation for the horses when stabled.

Laura commented: “The most important factor is keeping the horses happy. We have a devoted team of grooms, who take their time and enjoy the horses, rather than rushing.”

It is evident that the horses respond to the extra time and care as their ears prick up at the sound of Laura’s voice.

Laura is very hands on around the yard, riding up to five horses a day and teaching during lunchtime so that the yard routine isn’t disrupted.

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Currently there are eight horses in work and around 30 horses on the site if you include the youngsters, stud and older horses. With nine members of the team, Laura recognises she has excellent support from people who are very dedicated.

Amy Richardson has worked for Laura for more than two years: “My whole life is working for Laura and I enjoy every moment. I ensure the yard maintains high standards at all times and make sure the environment is very clean. This works through an organised, efficient routine. It all just becomes second nature.”

Correct stable management is vital to ensure the yard works efficiently with the mind-set focused on the horses and making sure their stables are clean and as dust free as possible all the time.

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The grooms are allocated horses so that they build up a rapport with them and know immediately if there is something wrong whether it is swollen legs, they are off their food or their temperament is different to the norm.

“The grooms all have individual roles, but then have to work as a team. As the grooms have their own jobs they get more efficient at them and it makes the yard run smoothly with everyone knowing what they are doing,” said Laura.

“The yard is clean and disinfected at all times. With the horses away at competitions so much and recent virus outbreaks, we can’t take any risks.

“The stable walls and doors are cleaned and sterilized daily using Protek Envirocair Veterinary disinfectant on every surface on the yard and in the horsebox and the drain is then cleaned out regularly.

“The horses all usually have a holiday in October after the Nationals.  During this period all the horses are turned out and the stables get fully pressure washed and repainted.

“If I travel to a show, clinic or demonstration, it is my responsibility to ensure the stables are clean. We use the Protek Envirocair Veterinary disinfectant spray on the stable and then have the peace of mind that when the horse goes in we don’t have to worry.

“If any horse enters the yard, we spray the facilities afterward. Mark (Laura’s husband) occasionally brings his polo ponies in to use the water spa so it just safe guards from any possible diseases entering the yard.

“The Protek shampoo allows horses to be cleaned and disinfected, and leaves the horses really soft. You can use it on sensitive skin and not feel like you are removing any of the goodness.”

All these measures help make the yard a cleaner, nicer and disease free place for the horses.

The horses’ respiratory health is a major priority on the yard and to ensure dust is kept to a minimum the yard is swept with a sweeper three times a day so the dust is removed for the surface and not spread into the air.

Ventilation is also important and high on the priority list. The stables have big windows at the back so air can circulate through the stable and the side walls also have a grill window so the horses can see each other. The ceilings are high, with the walkway of the stable block open at each end which all contributes to plenty of air flow and ensuring the horses are exposed to lots of fresh air.

The bedding is low dust and the hay is steamed in a HAYGAIN. All the hay is stacked up in the barn, placed in hay bags and shaken to remove dust, then steamed in the HAYGAIN hay steamer. The steamer is used twice a day and cleaned out after use.

When travelling all the horses are fed steamed hay nets, so there is no extra dust, especially as the horse box has limited ventilation. The horses eat from the ground; this is great especially when travelling long distances abroad.

Laura is well aware of the importance of feeding high quality forage to help achieve her horse’s best performance.

“We know every horse is different so each horse has a tailor made hard feed, to suit the individual.  This comprises of the protein, vitamins and minerals they need to maintain the best health for the work they are doing. The horses are fed four times a day, along with forage and grass,” added Laura.

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Daily Routine:

  • 6:30am The grooms are on the yard. The horses all have an initial check, and are then given hay and hard feed. Once finished, the grooms check all the food has been eaten.
  • 8:00am Lara and Laura start riding at 8 and each horse is groomed before and have magnetic rug every other day.They are washed down and groomed properly including strapping, after work.

The horses are exercised for around 50mins. Exercise can be anything from lunging, schooling, the water treadmill, going on the all weather canter track or hacking around the village. Hacking around fields and country lanes, allows the horses to see different things. It’s good education for the horses to do something else.

Whilst the horses are being exercised the stables are mucked out, cleaned and the yard it swept.

After exercise the horses are washed down thoroughly and put in the paddocks.

  • 12am The horses are brought back in the stables and groomed. The horses are given hay and hard fed. The yard is swept. The horse’s are skipped out, hayed and then fed just before 1.
  • 1-2:30pm The whole yard goes on lunch, so the horses can enjoy a rest.
  • 2:30pm a light exercise, ie if schooled in the morning then they are hacked/treadmilled in the afternoon. Then washed if necessary. And then go in the paddock weather permitting.
  • 5pm The horses get hay are skipped out and the yard is swept up.
  • 5.30pm The horses get hard feed and yard closes up.
  •  9pm Is the last check. Mash is fed, the girls don’t work till 9, its a rota of who does late check!

 

Stable Management Advice

1. Do small jobs regularly. If you leave it, it will become a bigger task. Jobs like the cleaning the manger, stables, walkway and the school.
2. We sweep up three times a day, after we have mucked out, before lunch and last thing. To eradicate the dust. 
3. Allocate jobs, so everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are. This makes it fair, it balances jobs out and people become quick at their jobs.
4. Steam hay to eliminate the dust and use low dust bedding.
5. Have big windows and airy stables, preferably with high ceilings to create good ventilation.

HAYGAIN is currently available in three models: the HG-1000, HG-600 and HG-GO.

Complete nutritional value and goodness are maintained with improved palatability.

For further information please contact HAYGAIN hay steamers on 0333 200 5233 or www.haygain.com

Author: The Editor

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