The man from Belgium must have x-ray eyes. Last Saturday, he was watching the open training at the Berlin World Cup tracks for a whole day, without knowing any horse or rider, taking notes of the sequence of movement of the individual horses.
On Sunday some of these horses just slipped through the vet check, physiotherapist Charly van Droemme from Landsberg am Lech recalls. And yesterday he heard that joint problems had occurred—which he claims to have recognized on Saturday.
He gained his ‘x-ray vision’ through years of experience in eventing and show jumping at world-class level where things are different. Not at least because a lot more money is involved.
Each team has its own physiotherapist who works closely together with the vet and farrier. The physiotherapist’s work is limited by the FEI anti-doping regulations, but a physiotherapist can have a lot of affect on the well-being of the sport horses at the tournament.
And in that sense, Icelandic horses are just like any other horses.
“Most horses are stiff after the long transport to the World Cup venue,” the experienced physiotherapist and chiropractor explains. “Here they spend much more time in their box, they are ridden less and differently and suffer additional stress from the unfamiliar surroundings and separation from their herds. The psychosomatic stress has negative effects on muscles and joints.”
However, the horses have to deliver maximum performance.
Van Droemme is of the opinion that the requirements are underestimated by the teams. Sports medicine is still unknown in the Icelandic horse scene.
“There is no sportmedical support before the World Cup,” he has observed. This explains why horses slip through the vet check and show lameness after a few days, which in his view is always a result of a history of injuries.
“How did these horses come here?” he asks provocatively. And: “Does a world cup have to have Olympic spirit?”
For him the level is too different, he wants to see real world class riders and horses at a World Cup.
Organizations have to control the qualification criteria better, in van Droemme’s view. Then one would have honest finals, the world’s best. He finds vet checks should be stricter.
He is also concerned about the physical condition of the sport horses. He saw some horses that he assumes not in sufficient shape for a world cup. According to him, in most cases non-fitting saddles cause problems.
“They are too tight in the chamber. Thus, the front part of the long back muscle cannot expand during riding and regresses. The saddles are not placed as far back as at the last world cup.”
He demands more cooperation between all participants around the sport horse. “Conventional medicine looks upon issues with a different eye,” he says, referring to the wide variety of sports medicine.
The world of sports is a tough field for horses. Van Droemme’s desire is to make it more comfortable for horses. He is driven by this desire; it encourages him to tell owners and riders uncomfortable truths, if necessary. In his experience, healthy and fit horses have more fun at work and are more willing to reach new heights for their riders.
Dagmar Trodler reports for Iceland Review from Berlin.