You can take Hanna Mauritzson out of Sweden, but you can’t take her home country’s ingrained devotion to horse health out of the show jumper – even now that she lives an ocean and continent away in Southern California.
“I am really grateful that I came from Sweden and learned in the Swedish Equestrian Federation’s system because they really care about the horses: about the horse in general and how to train and care for them so that they feel their best. I love to get into all those details.”
The horsemanship-heavy upbringing underpins Hanna’s ongoing study and embrace of all things proven to help horses – those she owns and develops through Swede Equine and client horses at her Equatic Spa Rehabilitation and Conditioning business in San Diego County’s San Marcos.
Nutrition & Rehab in Sport Horses — Free BBQ & Educational Event Monday, May 30 4-7 pm, featuring international sporthorse vet Dr. Philippe Benoit, & chats with Purina and Haygain representatives. RSVP to Abby Jackson at 760 420 1554, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Water treadmill & swimming demo at 4:30, plus raffle for Forager Slow Feeder and other great prizes!
A swimming pool and in-ground water treadmill elevate Equatic’s offerings in a sporthorse-dense region that is slim on rehab and conditioning options. The hydrotherapy opportunities complement services including a Theraplate full-body vibration stall, shockwave and pulsed electromagnetic field treatments and an intense concentration on respiratory health. All are administered by skilled, knowledgeable staff
Swim To Soar
Swimming and work on the water treadmill are unique enhancements to Equatic’s approach to boosting respiratory health. Both are low or no impact on the joints, so horses can retain or gain fitness without wear and tear.
“I did backflips when Equatic Spa opened up,” recalls Temecula-based international eventer Tamie Smith. “Swimming and treadmill work are very common at the upper levels of the sport.” The Next Level Eventing owner’s top horses had been doing both when available at the racehorse-heavy Trifecta Equine Athletic Center in Bonsall for several years. She’d seen and felt the benefits of stronger muscles and improved cardiorespiratory function in her horses. When weekly appointments opened at Equatic Spa, Tamie was quick to book her 2020 Tokyo Olympics reserve partner Mai Baum and his rock star stablemates.
“In our sport, it’s super important to get our horses as physically strong as possible,” Tamie explains. Cardio function and muscle strength, especially core muscles, are the main benefits and the swimming and Aquatreadmill. Tamie’s horses do both.
The work is a complement, not a substitute, for more traditional conditioning. At Tamie’s base at Kingsway Farm, hill work and cross-country jumping and gallop tracks give her horses the important variety in terrain. “It’s all important. Our horses are triathletes, and they have to be as strong as possible to stay as sound as possible.”
“Swimming is a different sort of exercise,” explains Swede Equine groom and Equatic Spa staffer Shay Stenchever. “Like galloping on the track, horses are bringing a lot of air into their lungs, but without the impact. They are exercising the muscles and lungs, therefore it’s super important their respiratory health is at peak condition.”
Haygain High Temperature Steamed Hay has been part of Swede Equine and Equatic Spa’s respiratory health regimen for two years. Inhalable dust is common even in hay of excellent nutrient quantity. These invisible particles are considered the biggest cause of conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum that affect over 80% of active sport horses.
Haygain’s ability to reduce up to 99% of the inhalable particles from hay helps healthy horses stay that way and helps treat or manage those with respiratory challenges. Flexineb Portable Equine Nebulizer and low dust bedding are also critical to Equatic’s quest to help horses breathe easy, at home and during peak performance. Lung and airways that are free of irritants and related inflammation maximize the system’s capacity for inhaling oxygen that fuels all cellular function. It helps them exhale carbon dioxide, too.
A diet heavy on steamed hay helps Hanna’s horses and visiting steeds maximize their swimming and Aquatread sessions.
Fellow Haygain fan Nicky Galligan saw Equatic’s respiratory focus help take his Grand Prix partner Javas Miss Jordan to new heights. She was already soaring to top 10 placings in the biggest classes when Jordan added swimming to her conditioning routine late in 2020. By then, Nicky had Jordan’s subtle respiratory issues under control with Haygain and Flexineb treatments. Swimming maximized those improvements.
“It’s really interesting to watch her breathe as she swam and recovered from the work-outs,” Nicky explained. “It’s the depth of her breath as she came out: how she’s expanding and contracting her ribcage, taking huge breaths. It’s not so much the frequency of the breaths, it’s the depth. Before Haygain and the Flexineb treatments, her breathing was too quick and too shallow.”
At the canter, the horse’s inhalation and exhalation align with the stride. Nicky and his Guardian Stables partner Paige Jardine estimate Jordan’s stride has gotten 8 to 10 inches bigger since implementing a stringent routine around her respiratory function. “We used to walk the course and talk about adding strides,” Paige notes. “Now she does the same strides as the 17-hand horse 90 percent of the time.”
Early in 2021, Nicky and Jordan hit a new peak in winning the $250,000 CSI4* Grand Prix at the Desert International Horse Park.
Winning performances from Equatic’s clients are icing on the cake of Hanna’s rewarding work. “Nicky brought Jordan to us last year saying that she just needed that little extra bit,” Hanna recalls. “It’s so fun for us to see them succeed. We love working with different teams and becoming part of their teams.”
Like Nicky, several of Equatic’s clients are extremely particular about their horse’s care. “I get that! We know that if a hair is wrong on these horses, we need to communicate that to the owners. We have staff that really pays attention to the horses for exactly that reason.”
Tamie Smith corroborates that. “I hear some people are nervous about having their horses swim. Hanna and her team are so unbelievable in their care of the horses. I’ve had 15 different horses swim there and never had an incident.”
Highest quality horsemanship is what brought groom, Shay, Hannah’s way. The 25-year-old’s career jumpstarted by traveling with the Cavalia show in China as part of the team caring for 30 horses. Since returning to the States in 2017, Shay worked with several top show jumping programs and observed a range of horsemanship approaches while working the top European circuit. She feels at home with Hanna. “We see eye to eye and that is difficult to find in a groom-rider relationship.”
Hanna’s interest in conditioning and rehabilitation grew from experiences with her own horses. Her veteran Grand Prix mount, Parkmore Lux, introduced her to the benefits of swimming.
After an injury several years ago, Lux’ vet suggested swimming for reasons that made sense to Hanna. “When the horse gets to a certain point in their rehab, swimming is an amazing tool because it helps them build up their muscles and strength without full concussion and the risk of re-injury.”
Healing and post-healing phases are prone to injury because the affected body part, and the surrounding structures, are weak from lack of use. Returning to even light exercise can pose serious risks unless rehab includes time and techniques to build up the muscles and structures affected by the injury, along with those that may have been compensating for the injury.
Building knowledge about the rehabilitation process is part of Equatic Spa’s mission. “Many horse owners really trust their veterinarians’ advice and ours,” Hanna notes. “Yet some just don’t think about the recovery process in full. It’s like, ‘Hey, they’ve had three months off, they’re healed. Let’s go back to work.’”
Gently advising otherwise is part of the learning curve for an equine sport medicine world slowly catching up to advances and understanding in human sports medicine.
Sold On Swimming
Hanna was so immediately onboard with swimming for Lux that she hauled him 9 hours north to Premier Equine Rehab in Oakdale. Having full range of motion while building muscular and cardio fitness during swimming helped Lux return to the 5* form he still enjoys. That secured Hanna’s belief in swimming’s benefits and illustrated a void in her Southern California area. Hence, the aquatic additions to Equatic Spa and their steady use ever since.
Along with conditioning and rehab, several owners send their horses to Equatic for vacation: to keep fit in new, fun ways. Grass paddocks and a Eurociser free walker contribute to varied routines for all horses. Those returning to under saddle work can enjoy a gallop track along with arena work.
Debbie McCarthy recently dropped off her many-time national champion, Cosby, at Equatic Spa mostly for vacation. The Los Angeles-based owner reports that swimming is a common practice for top horses on the Arabian circuit. For the “busy minded” Cosby, Debbie prioritizes providing variety for him. “He needs something different to do.” She looks forward to seeing the physical benefits of swimming emerge for Cosby and is already convinced of the spa staff’s level of care. “They send videos and let me know absolutely everything they are doing with him.
“I so appreciate that and he seems very happy there.”
Swedish Star Rising
An international jumping rider, Hanna regularly competes against horses her program has helped. Parkmore Lux is 17 and now campaigned selectively. Her stallion Unique Star excelled all the way up to 1.60m World Cup ranks last year and is poised for top levels this season. A range of young horses are coming along, some in California and some in Sweden, where it’s less expensive to raise them.
Hanna is on the Swedish team’s radar and is happy that the West Coast and the United States are having more FEI shows where it’s possible to earn ranking points. Representing her home country on the international stage is a goal in her riding.
Continuing to help horses at any level of the sport excel and feel good doing so are goals that Hanna, Shay and the entire Equatics Spa team are achieving every day.