Positive influences in the barn carry into the arena for Vermont dressage rider and stable owner.
Kim F Miller
Dressage riders strive to feel and control every muscle in their horse's body while doing exercises to strengthen and supple their horse. So, it's not surprising that what dressage competitor Vanessa Shayan first noticed about ComfortStall Sealed Orthopedic Flooring is how her horses reacted to it. "The most profound thing is to see the difference in their head and neck muscles and to watch them stand on it in a deep state of relaxation."
In March of 2020, Vanessa had six stalls outfitted with ComfortStall at her private training facility, Delara Farm, LLC, in Vermont's Champlain Valley. She had first seen it in a veterinary hospital and was instantly intrigued.
Supporting her horses' health and comfort is the priority in every detail of Delara Farm and the flooring seemed a good fit. "I understand how important it is to get the proper amount of sleep and rest," she explains. Her own health issues influence her perspective, too. Scoliosis and past accidents have made the equestrian keenly aware of spinal maintenance and function and its role in overall health. "I know how important proper shoes and footing are."
Her personal herd ranges from senior citizens to young show prospects. The older charges have a range of issues, including kissing spine, bad feet and arthritis. They all seem more comfortable and at ease in their bodies on the new flooring. Hock inflammation in a young horse has lessened dramatically since spending nights on the flooring, Vanessa continues. And a friend's older horse has gone from not being able to lie down and stand up to doing both regularly
Vanessa's former competition horse passed away just recently. But during the last year of his life, the effects of chronic arthritis that had plagued the 22-year-old were clearly lessened by living on ComfortStall.
ComfortStall's cushion is created by a layer or proprietary orthopedic foam. That is topped with a single piece of thick, durable rubber sealed to the stall wall. These materials provide a unique surface with give, traction and stability. Vanessa is one of several owners to notice her horses standing balanced on all four feet, an indicator of ease and comfort. "Their stance reflects mental and physical relaxation," she observes.
Some of that is likely attributable to "proprioception," the tiny muscle movements automatically activated to maintain balance on the cushioned surface. These constant actions increase blood flow and help reduce inflammation. This familiar process in the human and equine rehab realm aids recovery from everything from regular workouts to injuries or surgeries.
Most of the Delara Farms horses are napping a lot, too. Peeking in on them beyond normal barn activity hours, "They are flat out snoring...loudly," Vanessa says. Good support and comfort during their time in the barn translates to arena work in the form of less time needed to warm-up before schooling sessions. Her horses seem to recover from the workouts more quickly than they did before ComfortStall, too. Particularly good news for a dressage rider, the calm attained in their stalls carries into their under-saddle work, she reports.
Savings on bedding and maintenance are flooring benefits that Vanessa considers a nice bonus. For her purposes, the core benefit is its contribution to her horse's well-being, a goal achieved with a combination of holistic approaches.
Delara Farms' horses wear Sports Innovation ProSeries 2IN1 blankets with heat, massage, magnetic and PEMF therapy pre- and post-ride. They receive monthly sessions with a Masterson Method certified body worker and get natural balance dentistry, acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathic work. Individualized diets, their own saddles and excellent farrier care are also part of the approach.
The care providers and other barn visitors seem to like ComfortStall as much as Delara's horses do. "Everybody that comes here raves about it," Vanessa shares.
"The investment in the ComfortStall was one of the biggest things I could control for my horses’ well-being," she concludes. "I invest so much into them as athletes and I’d be remiss to not be concerned about their comfort when stalled. They show me in their behavior how much of a difference it makes."