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Conditioning Program One of the main concerns for any horse or human that has been through a fire is smoke inhalation. Fortunately Hoku’s lungs were in great shape which made it possible for Caitlin to bring her back to peak fitness in only a few months’ time once her burns had healed. “One of the things I was most concerned about at


Following the fire, Amy and Bruce Jackson at Fair Hill


Therapeutic Center let the horses that survived use their hyperbaric chamber. “I think Hoku’s skin healed well because of that, and I also think that’s a big reason Nev made it to Burghley,” says Caitlin, referencing Neville Bardos’ amazing and well-publicized return to the highest level of eventing competition, finishing seventh at the Burghley CCI**** in England only eight weeks after the fire. “I took Hoku in to New Bolton again before we went to


Aiken last winter, and they told me that she is not likely to grow much hair because the pigment in her skin changed. Even if it grows, it’s likely to get rubbed off. They encouraged me to try riding her and said if her skin didn’t hold up, we could talk about skin grafting.” Today much of Hoku’s hair has grown back, but she has no hair and pink scarring from the bottom of her withers to the middle of her back, and lots of scarring on both shoulders. “She also has all these little lines all over here where the hair didn’t grow back,” says Caitlin. “Luckily it’s all black skin, so she can spend some time in the sun. I put cream on her now and then, but the skin needs to get tougher, so I don’t overdo it. I also put something like Aquaphor on it before cross-country, and she still has to be covered up all the time. Ryan found all these cotton sheets from Australia that keep the horses cool and protect them from the sun.” To protect Hoku’s skin while riding, Caitlin puts a


Fleeceworks-brand sheepskin pad under her regular saddle pad and the saddle over that. She also uses a frictionless saddle pad, made by Ecogold, with no seam down the middle. “Nothing has rubbed her, so I don’t want to change anything I’m doing!” she says. “After Bromont, though, I think we’re in good shape with her skin, so that’s exciting.” Besides the care Hoku received at New Bolton Center to


begin her road to recovery, Dr. Hart believes that Caitlin’s dedication was essential to the mare doing so well. “We are talking about months of intensive care to ensure the healing tissue stays moist and clean, making certain Hoku didn’t go outside in any adverse weather conditions. Caitlin could not allow her burns to be exposed to sunlight or anything that would cause damage or discomfort,” she says. “I kept in touch with Caitlin throughout the rehabilitation period and was extremely impressed with her dedication.”


18 September/October 2012


Bromont this year,” Caitlin continues, “is that while I was walking cross-country with Boyd and Phillip, they kept talking about how the horses would be so tired. So naturally I thought that if their horses were going to be tired, what would Hoku be feeling? Most of the horses at Bromont had done the fall three-day, while Hoku didn’t do her first gallop until March (eight months after the fire). Suddenly I was worried we were in way over our heads. I was also worried about how hard I could ride her. It was a real credit to Boyd’s fitness program that she was even fitter than his horse! He had her perfectly fit to do a three-star in just a couple months, which is so impressive.” Explaining Boyd’s conditioning program, Caitlin says, “In


the winter we do 3.5 minutes of slow cantering, or about a mile, with 30-second rest intervals. Then there’s a fantastic hill here in Pennsylvania over by Bruce Davidson’s farm called Nelson’s Hill. It’s a long hill and takes anywhere from a minute and a half to two minutes to climb up. It’s a long, steady climb and really works the horses hard; we trot up once, then canter slowly up, then do maybe prelim speed. Boyd has it figured out and can tell you how many times your horse needs to go up and at what speed. A lot of racehorses use it too and they keep the grass really well groomed, so the footing is good. We’re lucky to be able to use it, and this spring the footing stayed perfect.” She adds that Boyd also makes sure the upper level horses


walk for 30 to 45 minutes a day before or after they work which contributes to their fitness. Boyd also uses swimming to condition his event horses, but Caitlin was worried about what might happen to Hoku’s skin in the pool. Since even a mild irritation would have meant she couldn’t ride the mare, she didn’t take the chance. Other than the hyperbaric chamber, Caitlin has not used


any alternative treatments or therapies for Hoku. “I’m hesitant to change her program since it’s working,” she says. Ultimately, Caitlin thinks that Hoku’s break and time


off was actually a good thing for the mare, who is not generally an easy keeper and who was already trim and fit for her first two-star at Jersey Fresh when she lost even more weight in the hospital. “New Bolton restored all the vitamins she needed to help her body and skin heal, but she didn’t eat much for a while. Out at Suzanne’s, she became really fat and hairy—she looked like an old, fat


Photo courtesy Caitlin Silliman


Photo courtesy Boyd Martin


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