The Chaps of Chapman Equestrian
This morning we explored Chapman Equestrian and their world of eventing. We toured the stables and watched a riding demonstration. The tour began in the tack room, where all the saddles hung neatly aligned on one wall with matching covers. The bridles were all cleaned and hanging on the opposite wall. The cleanliness of everything was the first indication that the farm was well managed and showed a professional environment.
From the tack room we proceeded to the paddocks, where Jonathan explained that each horse is individually turned out. The 12-acre area was split into one half acre spaces for each horse. He also stated that he has eliminated the use of gates in the interest of safety so there was no longer a solid structure for the horses to injure themselves on. For most of the year, the horses are turned out as much as weather and scheduling allows. During the winter months, the horses are housed inside but let out for two hours each day for exercise.
The stables were a traditional English barn with 12’ x 12’ stalls open to the main stable yard. One main difference from American stables was his use of 15’ x 23’ stalls in a converted hay barn. The larger stalls allowed for the horses to separate their eating, sleeping, and bathroom areas. Additionally, traditional American stalls are completely indoors and covered while English style barns open to the outside. For bedding, he used wood pellets instead of wood shavings which is fairly rare in both America and England. The pellets are more absorbent and he also believed that they reduce dust which decreases the risk of respiratory diseases. A major difference in feeding practices between Chapman and American barns is that Jonathan fed the horses haylage. He chose this feed to help reduce respiratory issues within the lungs because of the higher moisture content which reduces dust.
We then had the opportunity to watch a riding demonstration. First, we watched flat work where Jonathan explained how body alignment of the horse and rider affects the quality of movement. He explained what he looks for as the horse moves and how different exercises can be used to train for the multiple aspects of eventing (cross country, dressage, and show jumping). We were then able to see two different riders training over jumps. Jonathan stressed doing big jumps sparingly as more of a check-in then a training session. The majority of his riding time is spent with much smaller jumps to refine technique and preserve the soft tissues of the horse’s legs.