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September 15, 2021
A Groom's Perspective Leads Show Jumper Mavis Spencer to Steamed Hay
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
Show jumper Mavis Spencer has famous Hollywood parents, but the glamourous life that might conjure was not the stage for her equestrian upbringing and early professional path. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the sport: Kent Farrington, Darragh Kenny and Neil Jones Equestrian, but not initially as a rider. Despite having a stellar junior career, she deliberately began her professional life as a groom.
Mavis credits the education and experience gained in those years as critical to the successes she's now enjoying in the Grand Prix ring. She is the resident rider for Georgy Maskrey Segesman's Whitethorne Ranch training and sales program in Southern California. She's also the West Coast rep for Twin Flames Horses, the importation endeavor of friends Martin Fuchs and Paris Sellon.
Mavis Spencer & Con Calle. Photo: Sara Shier Photography
It may have been her grooms' perspective that caused Mavis' ears to prick up when a veterinarian suggested Haygain Steamed Hay, equipment she knew several of her contemporaries used and recommended. The suggestion came midway through a frustrating sequence of apparent allergy issues with the talented jumper Con Calle. He arrived from Europe in March of 2020 and, in June, they won the big Equifit Grand Prix at the Temecula National Horse Show.
Progressively Worse Irritation
On arrival at their next show, just an hour away in Southern California, "I noticed he was trying to clear out his nasal passages and blowing a little in his stall and while I was riding him." It was more exaggerated the next day during competition. "By day 3, he was shaking his head and was obviously really uncomfortable."
Mavis remembered a horse from her junior days, who exhibited similar symptoms and was helped by traditional allergy medications. She put Con Calle on them and "they helped a little." He backslid later that summer, but Mavis suspected it was caused by particulate matter from distant wildfires raging at the time. They continued the allergy medications and wet Con Calle's hay to dampen dust. All of those measures helped a little.
But back at the Desert International Horse Park that fall, the allergy symptoms returned with the same degree of severity despite the dry climate and good air quality. "It was almost violent the way he was trying to scratch his nose against the stall wall," Mavis explains. She pulled out all the stops: nasal strips and medications for allergy and lung health.
"Finally, I thought of hay steaming. I've had a lot of friends use them over the years, including Martin Fuchs' groom Sean Vard. I asked him and he said they had made a big difference, so I went ahead and purchased one."
The mid-size HG 600 model was shipped to her at the Desert Horse Park and improvements were almost immediate. "It has made all the difference," Mavis reports. "The
head shaking and sneezing have stopped and I've noticed the little things don't bother him anymore."
On return home to Whitethorne Ranch, a few of the sales and lease horses in the top-notch program jumped on the Steamed Hay bandwagon.
One mare needed a slight reduction in her hay's sugar content. Even though a main benefit of Haygain Hay Steaming over wetting or soaking hay is that it does not leach nutrients, the process does slightly reduce the water-soluble carbohydrates in hay. Mavis observed that all the horses who tried it took to it enthusiastically. That aligns with studies in which most horses preferred steamed hay to dry or soaked counterparts.
Mavis shows off the Whitethorne and Twin Flames horses in competition, so they were soon back on the road and the HG 600 came along. "We took it to Temecula and it was really easy to load onto the trailer and easy to use at the show," Mavis says. Given her background, the opinion of Whitethorne's grooms is critical to her. "They really like it and say it's easy to use!"
In a familiar progression of Hay Steamer ownership, Mavis now has the largest of three models, the full-bale HG 2000, that stays at Whitethorne. "It's wonderful," she says of having her whole string of horses on Steamed Hay whether at home or shows. With the Fall FEI jumping season about to begin, Mavis and her horses are prepping for some steam-powered successes throughout the West.
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