Paralympic dressage rider Dr Tamsin Addison & McTimoney Animal Chiropractor Jin Langstone – treating high level competitive horses & riders!
Paralympic dressage rider Dr Tamsin Addison and McTimoney Animal Chiropractor Jin Langstone – the importance of treating high level competitive horses and their riders!
Dr Tamsin Addison is an Irish paradressage rider based at Radnage House Stables in Buckinghamshire who has been riding since she was 5 years old. Tamsin came to Radnage House as a child to learn to ride. In those days, Tamsin was taught by Miss Smallwood who was somewhat terrifying in Tamsin’s memories, but Tamsin says fondly, “If only I could inspire as much awe as she did!”
Initially Tamsin evented for most of her younger years until she was given a recently gelded dressage horse to ride. Tamsin explains, “he was somewhat excitable and nobody else was mad enough to take him on” but her love of dressage was rooted in those beginnings. Tamsin jokes, “My dressage results as an eventer were spectacular in terms of being a cricket score which was usually offset by being fast and brave across country,” but with her first dressage horse came a determination to succeed and so Tamsin’s dressage journey began.
Whilst training progressed up the levels for Tamsin, there were setbacks, however one turned out to be advantageous in the most unexpected way. “My best failure was to turn up to a competition and not have my paperwork in order. It was the best failure I have ever had as it resulted in me being lent a horse to ride from Joyce Fern and she hasn’t managed to shake me off since!”. Joyce is now Tamsin’s trainer and accompanied Tamsin to the Tokyo Paralympics in 2018. Tamsin explains her special relationship with Joyce. Tamsin says “Joyce has the most wonderful turn of phrase and in the arena, I can hear her comments in my head, “Do you think you could take a half halt as then he won’t need 6 months notice and a postcard to know that you have a transition in mind”!”
Tamsin’s current horse is Fahrenheit (Fursty) whom Tamsin describes as “such a dude! He’s a Danish Warmblood that I brought on from a 4yo. I adore him. He’s a really relaxed character most of the time but like all horses he has his “thing”. Being a well brought up horse he won’t wee in his bedroom so he requires a bucket morning and evening in order to keep his bed tidy! He follows my groom around like a puppy and he makes me laugh as he has numerous girlfriends who worship him. They tend to scream when he leaves his stable. I swear if he could talk you would hear him mutter “I don’t blame them, I am gorgeous, but it would ruin my street cred to look even slightly bothered by my needy adoring women!”
Fursty takes the job in hand seriously though and works hard in his training with Tamsin. Current goals are to take Fursty to WEG in Denmark this summer. Tamsin says, “I would love to do the European Championships next year and then I would be lying if I denied that it would be amazing to dance around the gardens of Versailles in Paris Paralympics of 2024. But horses have a way of changing all the plans we make. So the most important goal is to enjoy the journey and ride well today. After Paris 2024 I have promised my husband that I will consider the concept of a summer holiday …. (Consider being the most important word in that sentence).”
Fursty also has a lot of help with his physical performance from McTimoney Animal Chiropractor Jin Langstone who is based in Oxfordshire and treats a range of competition horses, including supporting the Irish dressage and para-dressage teams at WEG in 2018. Tamsin explains, “I met Jin through the Irish Performance Director while I was at a 3* competition too many years ago to recall now! I wish I knew what it is in her hands that makes them so magic, if I could bottle it the world would be a better place. It’s not just her treatment, Jin also brings peace and calm to the whole of my yard and is a pleasure to work with. Among her considerable talents is the ability to assess each horse as an individual – to get to know them and treat them with such huge care and attention. I think this is how she can tell just how sore they are and provide such good advice on how much work they should or shouldn’t do. I mentally think about her visits as a way of my horses being able to talk back to me and give me feedback on how its working for them as an athlete. For me this is an essential part of success, any top athlete needs to push the limits – but only to attain positive gain, and it’s a very fine balance. Without the communications through Jin’s hands, we would be far further from the optimizing point.”
Any animal that competes is challenging its body and for high level horses this includes the travel, routine changes and optimizing performance for a specific competition. As an International Equestrian Federation Permitted Equine Therapist (FEI PET) Jin is able to treat her equine clients at international competitions as well as at home, which gives her a fantastic insight into how the competitions affect the horses as well and enabling her to tailor treatments accordingly. Jin explains, “I think there is no one therapy that answers all needs, but the McTimoney chiropractic treatment is critical to allow the horse to work bilaterally symmetrical with minimal energy expenditure through their body. Therefore, it is critical to know the horse at the competitions and at home, and why the ability to adjust the poll, spine, pelvis and pasterns is important in maintaining symmetry.”
Jin’s approach to both the horses she treats, and their owners shows her dedication to providing the best chiropractic care. Tamsin explains, “Jin never hurries treatment even when I have given her a huge unreasonable patient list for the day and will often be found still in the yard long after she should have left taking time to explain to my clients what she has found and how their horse was feeling. Then when she’s finished de briefing me, explaining to clients she can often be found showing my students what she saw and what results she’s hoping for next time around. Her passion, dedication and skill are not to be underestimated.”
Next month Tamsin and Fursty will travel to Belgium, do a top-level competition and then travel on to Germany for another 10 days and more competition before coming home. Tamsin’s lorry is designed to keep them as comfortable as possible, but Tamsin says she knows only too well how tiring a journey to Europe can be. “Even if we have a good run, with no traffic issues and a calm channel crossing I can feel the tension from the lorry in my muscles,” says Tamsin, “I don’t believe Fursty is any different. If McTimoney if good for me, it’s certainly good for my partner too.”
Like many riders, Tamsin must find a way to fund her competing. Unlike the Team GBR riders, there is no funding available, so Tamsin is self-funded in everything she does. Tamsin says, “I love working with horses and enjoy my riding – and it would be easy if that’s all there was to it. I run a livery and rehab yard to fund “my habit”. Its long hours and as anyone who runs a yard knows the hours are far from 9-5 but I get huge satisfaction from helping our horses progress and gain strength.”
However, the hardest challenge for Tamsin is meeting the increasing quality of horsepower that is needed to be able to compete at top level. The quality of movement, suppleness and expression to be competitive at my grade is substantial (and so are the prices). Tamsin had to retire her top horse (Donna Siesta) on the run up to Tokyo, so has been looking for another horse to compete alongside Fursty, but as Tamsin eloquently puts it, “the unicorn that I’m seeking is yet to appear! It’s probably sitting beside the sponsorship unicorn just waiting for the right moment to support me!”
In the meantime, though Tamsin strongly believes in trying to steer fate with all her being so she is planning for the long term and breeding from Donna Siesta whilst making the best of every single opportunity that comes her way.
* Photographs of Dr Tamsin Addison with Fahrenheit and Donna Siesta courtesy of Christine Dunnington Photography www.cdphotos.co.uk