Eventing: On the way to Badminton - Riddle Master gets some professional 'yoga'
Rebecca Howard holds Riddle Master as Megan King checks his back
Canadian eventer Rebecca Howard has been riding and competing around the world with Riddle Master - known to all as Rupert - for ten years. Now the sixteen year-old Canadian Sports Horse is getting regular physiotherapy sessions in preparation for their appearance at the Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials (3-7 May.)
The Canadian bred bay gelding looks smaller than his official 16.1 hands and certainly looks younger than his sixteen years. He was bred by Caroline Bazley and her mother Jean Watson in Orangeville, Ontario - and they still own him. Rebecca Howard was born and brought up in British Columbia - so it is a truly Canadian team.
Rebecca has been based in Britain since the 2012 London Olympics - first near Marlborough (with the New Zealand team members Jonelle and Tim Price) and now near Devizes. She has joined another Canadian rider Kelly McCarthy-Maine at stables owned by Lucinda Fredericks to form a 'Canadian hub' right on the edge of Salisbury Plain.
At present the stables house eighteen horses. They are within a short hack of the Plain which is wonderful for exercise rides - when the red flags are not flying.
Rebecca and Rupert had an excellent Olympics in Rio with the Canadian eventing team - finishing in individual tenth place and with Rebecca as the Games' top female event rider.
As part of their preparation for Rio, Riddle Master had weekly sessions with physiotherapist Megan King helping him undertake the increasing preparation work for the games.
On the busy afternoon Marlborough.News visited Rebecca Howard Equestrian, Megan was there giving Rupert one of his weekly check-ups for tensions in his muscles and going through some 'yoga exercises' with him - getting ready for Badminton. And Rebecca had a full schedule of training rides.
These bending and stretching exercise - head to girth, head to hooves, head to knees - keep him supple and give him the ability to make moves that may be necessary on a cross country course.
Overheard while wtaching the physio session: "It's quite obvious Rupert enjoys these sessions - though it might just be he enjoys being the centre of attention!"
Brought up in Australia, Megan King qualified in human physio in Perth and, after moving to England, in veterinary phsyio at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.
She worked for a time at the Royal United Hospital in Bath before setting up on her own in the Cotswolds. She rides in eventing competitions and is now one of Rebecca Howard's sponsors.
Rebecca Howard July 2016 Packing bags of Keyflow feed for RioRebecca Howard's horses - four star and rising stars - use feed and supplements from the Marlborough company Keyflow. And she is one of the company's 'key' riders: "I love it - it's got a good balance between giving horses the energy they need and topping them up. It's a user friendly feed, horses eat it well and are performing well with it."
"Involvement with this company is exciting and rewarding as they tap into the best of current science and research."
Apart from the eventing competitions which come thick and fast now the season has begun, Rebecca teaches and brings on young horses for their owners.
Besides Rio and the London Olympics (she fell on the Greenwich course and was eliminated), Rebecca Howard has represented Canada at the 2011 Pan Am Games (the team won silver) and the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
She has earned results at Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky and Luhmuhlen - not to forget her third place in Barbury's premier competition in 2013.
And 2013 was a big year for both Rebecca and Rupert: she was named Canadian Equestrian of the year and Riddle master was named Canadian Bred Horse of the Year.
She missed the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France after Riddle Master sustained a minor injury at Badminton. But she very much hopes to take Rupert to the next World Equestrian Games which are being held at Tryon in North Carolina in 2018.
Before that Rebecca and Rupert are preparing - with Megan's help - for South-West region's premier eventing competition at Badminton.