Another win for Camilla Speirs and Jiff at Tattersalls this weekend

Just when you think this combo have achieved peak performance – they just keep getting better!

Perfect Movers Camilla and Jiff had a magnificent win at Tattersalls this weekend with a very high dressage score and perfect clear rounds on the cross country and show jumping courses. They made it look incredibly easy and finished almost 8 points ahead of the second and third placed competitors.

This must be a personal best for Camilla whose dressage performance put her virtually at the top of the leader board on day one.

Last time I got my hands on Jiff 2 weeks ago I said that he felt so good that he would float for his dressage training the following day. I’m so pleased that he did!

I so hope this little bundle of perfection keeps up the good work and makes it to London 2012. All of the eventers have been working relentlessly to earn their places and the competition will be well worth watching when it finally arrives.


‘Olympian’ Eventer Camilla Speirs Chats to Ray D’Arcy at Today FM Radio

It’s every young rider’s dream to one day compete for their country in the Olympics and for Camilla Speirs that dream may come true.  Camilla and her horse, Portersize Just a Jif (at 15.1hh he’s only just a horse) are Ireland’s very own International Velvet duo!

Today FM are currently running an Ireland’s ‘Olympians’ series of interviews where they are interviewing various personalities aiming for 2012.  In this extract from 22 year old Camilla’s interview with the exuberant Ray D’Arcy, she reveals the background to her very straight path to becoming a top event rider.  Set to become the youngest rider on the smallest horse, which is usually the case every time she competes, she progressed very quickly from trials to junior to young rider (I think she only spent about a week in that category, such was the speed of her success!) to competing against seniors, to being placed 14th out of 80 riders at Badminton in her debut there 2 years ago.  Before you get to thinking that she is a one trick pony – she has a yard full of other secret weapons that have had her winning formula applied to them.

I’ve been privileged to work with Camilla and Jiff since Camilla was fifteen and Jiff was five.  Jiff could barely see over the top of the stable door when I first met him and my first impression of him was that he was quintessentially cool – just like any other little jumping machine!  I worked on developing his posture so as to maximise his hind limb leverage and optimise loading through all limbs to keep him at his mechanical best.  Camilla remarked in her original testimonial that he had ‘turned inside out’ with vitality soon after I began treating him but at that time none of us knew that he was soon to become a jumping freak!

Camilla went on to compete for Ireland in the European championships, then Badminton which he qualified for during his first season at 3 star level after only a handful of qualifiers to finish 14th when Camilla was only 18!  He then went on to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year and now her next goal is London 2012!

I’m nipping over to Ireland next week to check and tweak him for Tattersall’s, one of eventing’s final leg stretch to showcase skills before the final selection of who gets to compete there.  I’m so looking forward to the buzz at Camp Speirs……..

Linda Cruse – Cakes, Kalishnikovs and changing how we give to charity

Last week I booked some ‘me’ time and attended the Global Entrepreneurs Conference in Liverpool.  The final seminar was a unique intimate gathering of spiritual entrepreneurs hosted by Christiane Pedros and Hitesh Daudia in the luscious Liver Building on the banks of the River Mersey, in contrast to the heaving BT ACC venue jam packed with thousands of visitors hoping to acquire some of the magic that Sir Richard Branson has for turning a shilling or two.


Following an interval, my seat had been taken by a jacket.  Feeling miffed about losing my seat, rather than thinking that perhaps another person had asked the Cosmos for a helpful contact to network with, I then found another seat and the person next to me got up to speak.  This was humanitarian aid worker Linda Cruse, author of Cakes and Kalashnikovs, who has found a niche in the market of giving by successfully connecting the expertise of business people, delivering it directly to disaster frontlines where it is needed.  Nothing to cry about there.

Linda then showed a powerful video of her photo album of happy disaster victims, in contrast to the horrendous scenes typically shown on TV making us feel utterly helpless.  Lionel Richie’s ‘Love Oh Love’ and Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ played in the background and I was just about coping with trying to sob in silence until a picture of several pairs of prosthetic limbs lined up on a bench appeared.

Trying not to wail out loud was then painful, made worse with the thought of Linda returning to sit back down next to me after the video.  Profoundly humbled by Linda’s work, I was planning to say something deeply encouraging to her but all that I uttered was ‘Are you on Facebook?’.  It turned out that this was exactly what Linda needed to hear as she is keen to build a network of business people willing to share their expertise to assist disaster victims in a variety of ways.

I believe that Linda has invented the new face of giving to charity – it is not enough to drop some cash into a charity box to delegate our duty and increase the funds held in charity bank accounts and I know many people who don’t give for that very reason.  They would give a lot more if it made them feel truly empowered, not conveniently paying up so that a small number of others can courageously and selflessly do the right thing.

So, when Linda Cruse makes her appearance on Facebook shortly, please give your network generously.

Remedial Exercise Programming Sessions

In February I ran a series of Remedial Exercise Programming sessions where students carried out a full palpation of a riding horse then devised an appropriate remedial exercise program based on their results.  Closely supervised, the students came up with 4 treatment goals which could be resolved with exercise then studied the horse both ridden and on the lunge as he performed the remedial exercises.

This series of short films highlights how effective the exercises were in achieving the students’ treatment goals.

2 more clips currently being edited.


Tragic equine hyperbaric chamber death and seriously injured veterinary physio student

Absolutely horrendous news from Florida on Friday.  KESMARC, a state of the art equine sports medicine rehabilitation centre was the site of a freak accident when a hyperbaric chamber containing a horse undergoing treatment suddenly exploded killing newlywed Erica Marshall, the technician operating the device, and seriously injuring intern veterinary physiotherapy student, Sorcha Moneley.

Sorcha Moneley, who had attended several skills training and mentoring with me shortly before leaving for Florida, had made me pea green with envy when she told me last year that she would be training at this world class equine rehab centre for several months over the winter.

Extremely lucky to be alive, she is now recovering in hospital with multiple fractures, having undergone surgery on her pelvis and cannot travel home for several weeks.  I can barely imagine how deeply traumatising this incident must be, both for Erica Marshall’s family and for Sorcha who survived the horrific explosion while observing the treatment which claimed the lives of the technician and a horse in close proximity to Sorcha.

Here is a nine minute video which demonstrates a horse receiving a hyperbaric treatment, with a detailed explanation from the technician about what it involves:

Rumoured to have occurred as a result of sparks igniting the explosion from the horse’s metal shoes contacting the chamber wall, I cannot comment on this subject while an investigation is underway, save to say that it seems to me that these devices should be cited remotely enough so that they pose no risk to bystanders.  Ridiculous as it sounds, it is widely accepted among horse owners that if, for example, you place a horse in a 20 acre field with a single nail head exposed in the fencing, that horse will injure itself on that nail.  That is how much minute attention to detail is required when reducing injury risk where horses are concerned.

Sincerest sympathy to Erica Marshall’s family, wishing Sorcha a speedy recovery and hoping that the KESMARC centre will return to the good work of helping needy equines in the future.

I’m also very sad for the horse owner and rider who lost their talented young horse, Landmark’s Legendary Affaire, in this horrific way.  Ironically, the horse will now be legendary for horrendously tragic reasons.

Whitney Houston – not built to break?

I was upset to learn about Whitney Houston’s death today.  She was an incredibly bright star but sadly had her many demons to battle with.  The news stories seem to be a mix of the highs of her music to the lows of her substance abuse.

I was particularly moved by her candid revelations to Oprah in a 2 part special.  In this clip she comes across as a highly vulnerable individual finally becoming empowered as she talks about an incident when her husband, Bobby Brown, crossed a line and which would make anyone run for some kind of substance to numb the pain:


In the same interview she sings ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’, a deeply moving song about her courageous recovery in which she remarks that her mother told her that she wasn’t built to break:


I am very sad for Whitney’s family that their vulnerable loved one finally broke.

Having instigated and directed thousands of both human and animal physical rehabilitation programmes, at face value, those in recovery may easily be perceived as weak but once the decision to recover is made, their strength can be profound.  Most  demonstrate that with the right help, they can be even better than before.  A big part of the rehab process seems to be about finding that inner strength and power that the individual never knew they had.

All of Whitney’s performances were special but in this Olympic year I would like to share the inspirational ‘One Moment In Time’ with you to remember her by as it sums up the scale of the relentless strength and courage required to be the best that an individual, either human or animal, can be when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge:


RIP Whitney.  We Will Always Love You.

The latest on Camilla Speirs, Jiff and a new young secret weapon

There was a particularly upbeat vibe at the Team Speirs base in Ireland this week where I dropped in for a day to tweak the horses and Camilla, accompanied by a veterinary physiotherapy student.

Jiff returned from a flatwork session where he had delighted Camilla even more than usual by performing at his absolute best ever.  Whenever you think this little athlete has peaked at his learning he just keeps astonishing Camilla with more and more perfect moves.

Jiff had the day before been posing for Horse and Hound magazine for a special feature to be published shortly.  I managed to photograph him showing off the new season horsey hairdo – straight fringe and razor cut ear trim with a frilly nape accentuating his perfectly toned neck and adding a couple of inches to his height with his ‘big hair’.  You can’t help but adore this very special chap.  He know’s he’s a star and there simply isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for Camilla.

Sitting in the house it brought me back to the day 3 Badmintons ago when I was there working on the horses and the Badminton cross country phase was on TV.  I kept nipping back from working on the horses to watch the event.   Nobody then had any idea that Camilla and Jiff would be competing there and placed 14th the following year.  Nobody had any idea that there would be Camilla’s bi-weekly eventing articles for the Irish Field in the run up to the Olympics lying on the table while she chatted about fitness programmes with another talented Irish eventer, Jayne Doherty, who has a fitness bike in her horsebox!  Camilla’s eventing insight is hilarious and a must read.

I enquired about what Camilla does on a day off.  Up at 3.30am, on board a horse by 4am in the outdoor arena with 6 horses ridden in time for her ‘day off’.  Pure, uncompromising all or nothing dedication and taking care of business, it’s as simple as that.

There is also the barn full of secret weapons of course.  4 star, 3 star, 2 star, 1 star – they are all at different stages of training and all are progressing remarkably consistently.

The latest acquisition is a fabulous ‘baby’, a four year old with such a high quality and balanced canter that is so advanced for his stage of training (pictured ridden by Camilla above).

Stabled opposite Jiff – I rather think that Jiff has blown some of his magic eventing dust in the baby’s direction…………..