Rowan Willis & Blue Movie - A Sure Thing In Uncertain Times.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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Rowan Willis  Blue Movie_by Shelley Higgins-MacMillan Photography_DSC_3915.jpeg

The coronavirus-induced implosion of the entire 2020 international show jumping calendar, including the Tokyo Olympics, has Australian star Rowan Willis on the unfamiliar turf of not knowing exactly what's ahead. As his country's top-ranked show jumper, it's a huge disappointment.

Photo ©Shelley Higgi for MacMillan Photography

An upside to it all is that it may give him new insights into the inner life of his sensitive superstar mare, Blue Movie, who had top finishes from Geneva, Switzerland to Spruce Meadows, Canada last year. Extensive travel and new scenarios can be stressful for any horse, putting a premium on consistency in every element of their routine. That's one of the reasons Rowan and his Team Willis Equestrian count on Haygain Steamed Hay.

"We can't really get a constant supply of good quality hay when we are traveling so much," explains Rowan. "Haygain helps us keep the hay as consistent as possible. It's made a big difference in leveling out the quality of the hay no matter where we are."

Blue Movie, aka "Carrots," also gets the occasional ulcer, making it critical to have appetizing hay that keeps protective, acids-absorbing forage in her stomach.

Consistency and appeal, however, aren't the main reasons Rowan sought out hay steaming. He did so at the recommendation Lisa Casinella, DVM, of Peak Performance Equine Services in Ocala, when hints of respiratory issues arose. Gunky nasal discharge and an occasional cough at the start of exercise were the main signs.

WEG Debut

Blue Movie was performing well, however. In the fall of 2018, she and Rowan debuted on the international stage by placing third in round-one of the World Equestrian Games show jumping competition. They finished 12th individually against the world's best and helped Australia to sixth place. "Maybe if she'd been on steamed hay, we would have medaled!" Rowan quips. More seriously, "Her minor respiratory issues didn't stop her from jumping around, but she certainly wasn't able to do it to the best of her abilities."

Since adding Haygain steamed hay to her daily routine roughly a year ago, Blue Movie is definitely jumping to the best of her ability, and that ability is increasing every outing. Rowan describes Haygain as critical to her steady ascent.

"Nowadays, the competition is so tough at the top, you need every little advantage you can get to beat the McLains and Beezies." That's McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, U.S. Olympic jumping veterans who are also steamed hay believers. So is one of Rowan's equestrian idols: Andrew Hoy, Australia's seven-time and still active Olympic eventing competitor.

Nasal discharge has gone from regular to a rarity, and Blue Movie's occasional cough early in exercise sessions is gone. In retrospect, Rowan speculates these issues came from both environmental factors and long-standing respiratory challenges with symptoms so mild and sporadic they didn't cause worry.

Surprisingly Common

That's not surprising given that multiple studies, over many years, indicate that over 80% of active sport horses have some degree of respiratory issues, often without obvious symptoms. Diagnostic advances have accelerated veterinary and horse owner understanding of conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum. Today, many vets consider these the top performance limiter in otherwise sound horses. Haygain's ability to virtually rid hay of the dust, mold, bacteria and fungi found even in hay of the highest nutritional quality makes it key to preventing and treating respiratory problems.

All of Rowan's Grand Prix horses get steamed hay in Ocala, Florida and when on the road. Where that road will go from here is an unknown. Instead of what would have been the final outings for Tokyo team selection, the HITS Ocala Million and the World Cup Finals, the 14-year-old Blue Movie is getting unexpected downtime in Ocala. She'll be there for the arrival of her first foal, by embryo transfer, by the Darco stallion HH Copin van de Broy. And a recent insemination during the unexpected break will hopefully produce another youngster, from the same sire, with the fiery chestnut's spirit and talent.

Thanks to careful management, a sparing competition schedule and not having jumped a 1.4M class until she was 9, Blue Movie is in peak form and likely to stay that way. "She just keeps getting better, and we keep finding ways to improve her program," Rowan says. Regular communications with the Australian equestrian federation indicate that the Tokyo Olympics will likely be held in the same summer time frame, but in 2021. Wherever the new road to get there goes, Haygain will be there.

Haygain is a science-driven horse health company that manufacturers Haygain Hay Steamers and ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring. For more information, visit haygain.com or call 888-307-0855.