What’s going on with eventing’s favorite comeback kid? Well, it sounds like he’s on his way to making another comeback. Samantha Clark pays him a visit.
The Caddel Equine Therapy Center, nestled in the rolling hills that surround Georgetown, Kentucky, prides itself on absolute discretion. For example, I have to prove a certain level of security clearance before I’m allowed to visit, and all the horses, some of them extremely high profile, are given different stable names upon arrival to protect their identity. However, there’s no disguising a certain white-faced chestnut cribbing for the USA on his stable door. It may say Ned on his plaque, but it’s hard to mistake Neville Bardos!
Neville is here at Caddel Farm so that he can receive laser treatments thrice weekly, and he is walked under tack for 30 minutes every day following signs of a suspensory strain that showed up on an ultrasound. Linda Caddel, who founded the rehab center in 1996 with her husband Steve, stands outside his door and alternates between chatting to me and cooing at Neville, who’s obviously won her over in the two weeks he’s been here. “The more serious the injury, the more attached to them we get, or a horse like this who’s not only achieved so much but overcome so much,” Linda said, ” You have to admire the heart in this horse. It’s such a privilege and very humbling to work with horses like these.”
Like Linda, the barn is quiet and calm, and she told me it didn’t take long for Neville to adjust to his surroundings. “He’s a pro. He was on his toes when he first arrived, but these horses are absolutely remarkable. The pace here is very quiet and slow, and they sense that immediately and usually settle right in. He’s out every day under tack for 30 minutes, and after a couple of days he got it; he realized that was all there was!”
Linda has seen her practice evolve from almost entirely post-surgery racehorses to almost exclusively sport horses, as well as some very pedigreed broodmares. The 27-stall “hospital barn” is currently full of an assortment of breeds and disciplines. Offering everything from basic rehab and R & R to more extensive recovery including ridden exercise — and with a range of on-site therapies, as well as the convenience of having your own vet or representative continue your horse’s care, plus access to all the facilities in the area (swimming, hyperbaric chamber, etc.) — it’s no wonder Caddel Farm might be one of Kentucky’s best kept secrets in the horse world.
Combining the very latest technology, such as the laser treatment that Neville is receiving, with good, old-fashioned horsemanship, meticulous care and attention to detail equals the very best of both worlds for the equine patients. Linda is hands-on at every stage — applying medication to one horse and overseeing Neville’s laser treatment — always watching carefully.
Katie Osborne, who rides for Linda, was handpicked. “I never advertise for riders; I’ve known Katie since she was a little girl because she rode with a friend of mine who brings on a lot of upper-level Pony Clubbers, and that’s what I look for — a Pony Club background. They’re taught to articulate back to me what they’re feeling, and that’s really, really important that they can say, ‘He’s not even in his shoulders, or in his hips,’ or ‘This is different today,’ as opposed to, ‘Oh, he feels fine!’ So I’m constantly asking how the horses feel.”
The day I visit is a nice one weather-wise, the first in what feels like forever. So after a few turns around the shed row, Neville does his walking outside on the firm surface around the barn, because “the fields are still so saturated, and with soft tissue all they’d have to do would be to sink in a little and hyperextend, and then all this work would be for naught.”
Linda, who used to event herself, literally watches Neville’s every step, and when he is out of sight on the other side of the barn, she listens intently to his hoofbeats to make sure they’re even and that he maintains a rhythm. Her eyes light up when she remembers: “Katie hasn’t been able to make it out on a couple of days, so I’ve gotten to ride him. I think the eventers more than anybody teach their horses that the walk is a really important gait. This horse has the greatest power walk and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘This is amazing!’ It’s like lying in a memory foam mattress — everything is so supple and responsive and just so smooth. And then I have a young Thoroughbred that I have to get on, and he’s like a tank in comparison!”
“Particularly in the wintertime when it’s too cold to get outside — and if Neville were going to be here for any amount of time — we would start setting grids up in the aisleway with poles on the ground, and making them walk over grids,” Linda said. “Depending on how they’re spaced and how high they are, we’re targeting different muscle groups. Just like with human physical therapy — but because we can’t explain in words to the horse which muscles we’d like him to work and how — we have to put an exercise out there for him to make sure that he does do it.
“From there, as horses progress, we have a eurociser, a round pen, a large field that we like to do a lot of work in, and an incline, so we do lots of hill work with these horses, really making them use their backs and their shoulders and their hips. That takes a really good rider to be able to do that with a horse. In our dreams, we would love to have an underwater treadmill. We thought about what we would have been trying to accomplish with it, and then recreate it without the water, and that’s how we came up with the grids and the exercises.”
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Neville is treated with the laser, and he seems to almost enjoy it. After cleaning the leg and applying gel, the entire process takes about half an hour. Britney, a technician with Equine Medical Associates, administers the laser, and Dr. Peggy Marsh, who is overseeing the treatment in consultation with Boyd’s vet, sees Neville about once a week to lay her eyes and hands on his leg. She expects to probably ultrasound once a month, although Neville is expected to go home “sometime around Rolex.” (That’s how we measure time in Lexington, and you give directions according to fast food restaurants — “Turn right at Arbys…”)
The laser is Italian, still relatively new and “like their shoes — super fancy!” according to Dr. Marsh. “It’s about getting the right energy, the right wavelength of light and the right frequency, and that’s what’s proprietary about this particular laser. But a huge portion of what we know about rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries is that controlled exercise program — once we start walking a small amount and then more.”
Our own wonderful EN vet, Dr. Laura Werner, is looking forward to a demonstration of the laser in a couple of weeks and will have a full and detailed report on it then. In the meantime, I asked Dr Marsh to try and break it down into layman’s terms for us. “There are three different phases to the laser treatment — cleaning, feeding and seeding. There’s two ways that we deliver the energy. The first is just through a hollow tip that directs the light. The light is a distance away, and that’s the phase that I can physically see some difference. So, for example, if there’s swelling or a profile, or if you had filling in a tendon sheath, by the time you finished there would be less. It definitely moves fluid, and there’s also supposed to be some pain relief. The next phase, we amp up the power and typically decrease the frequency, and we have contact with the leg. We focus on the area where the lesion is; first, we go big, and then we go small. The last phase is what I think of as the cool-down phase. I don’t know if it does that much, but it’s just part of the procedure. I do it three times a week in conjunction with an exercise program and monitor it with ultrasounds.”
The laser machine is too big and unwieldy to be removed from the car for treatment–
Linda told me that Neville wears standing bandages at night, which were kept on until the laser treatment first thing in the morning — “so that the tendon stays warm, and then as soon as the treatment is over, I’m going to put Draper Therapies polos on him, and that keeps it nice and warm. He’ll be ridden 20 to 40 minutes after that for 30 minutes, and then once he’s been ridden, I’ll put an ice boot on it, so we have complete control of warming it up and cooling it down, and that’s his routine.”
The rest of the day Neville spends eating hay, cribbing on his door and greeting any visitors, as his stall is closest to the barn door. “I know my horses are happy when I see them standing with their heads over the door, engaged in everything, and he is always. He thinks he is the king of the hill! He’s got a very inquisitive, busy nature.”
The view out of the back of the barn
Caddel Farm also rehomes Thoroughbreds for several of the racing operations locally and exclusively in North America for one of the largest studs in the world. With a return guarantee and no strings attached, it continues to amaze Linda that there aren’t more people jumping at the chance to come and look at the horses she has available, often impeccably bred horses that simply didn’t have the aptitude to race. After being let down at Keeneland, they’ll come straight to Caddel Farm, where they get turned out, get some very basic schooling, and Katie and Linda can assess them before trying to match them with a suitable owner. For more details, visit the Caddel Farm Facebook page.
Old habits die hard — Neville cribbing on the cross tie!
While Neville’s obviously been off the road — and last year, Remington moved on to a new career with Caitlin Silliman, Ying Ying Yo retired, and Otis sustained an injury in London (now completely recovered, and he has been given the go ahead to resume full work) — Boyd is still looking forward to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy next year. With that in mind, he’s excited to announce that he was fortunate to rally a group together to buy Pancho Villa from Sydney Conley Elliot and expects the horse to be syndicated within the next couple of weeks.
Sydney Conley Elliot and Pancho Villa at Rocking Horse earlier this year
Like Master Frisky and Trading Aces, this horse is another U.S.-raised eventing star; Boyd first saw the big, rangy bay at a clinic at Texas Rose and loved him at first sight. “He was in the first group of people I taught, and I knew as soon as I saw him that I absolutely loved him; he was outstanding. I found out that he might be for sale and rode him that afternoon and took some video home to show Silva, who agreed with me that he seemed to have good movement and paces and plenty of potential. From then on, I just watched him like a hawk.”
“I asked Phillip (Dutton) to keep an eye on him at Red Hills for me (Pancho Villa finished second in the Advanced division), and he came back and reported that he thought the horse was pretty ideal, that he appeared to have no major flaws, and that he looked very rideable and trainable, which are two of the most important factors I look for in a horse. From my point of view, I think it’s important for American riders to realize that they can find nice horses here in the U.S. in our backyard, but they just might be hidden away a bit. The advantage is that you can try them and watch them. You know the events they’ve done, and you can speak to previous owners and riders.”
“Pancho Villa’s record before this year wasn’t stellar, but at first glance I fell in love with him, and I’ve had the luxury of being able to bide my time a little bit and watch him closely before coming to a decision and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. When you go to Europe to look at horses, you often only have about 48 hours; then you have to factor in the shipping, customs and commissions.”
As to when we can expect to see the new combination out competing: “First things first, I don’t underestimate for a second how good a rider Sydney (Conley Eliliot) is, and Pancho Villa has been extremely well-ridden and well-trained. So while that will make my job much easier, at the same time I’m going to make sure we take as long as we need to figure each other out and get comfortable. Then, probably just like I did with Otis and Oscar, I imagine we’ll do a preliminary and a couple of intermediates to make sure we’re on the same page before we even start thinking about qualifications for next year.”
Wishing Boyd and Windurra USA a hearty EN congratulations and best of luck with Pancho Villa, and of course, keeping everything crossed for a continued positive recuperation for Neville. Many thanks to Linda Caddel for being so gracious with her time and showing me around her beautiful property. Thanks also to Dr. Peggy Marsh, Katie Osborne and Britney for chatting to me and being patient about pictures, and, of course, thank you for reading! Go Neville, and Go Eventing!