Dressage Star Rosmarin’s Health-Care Routine

Behind-the-scenes with Kim Herslow's top dressage horse Rosmarin

Kim Herslow knew Rosmarin was the one when she discovered him in Germany. Rosmarin, or Reno, the Pan American Games dressage team gold-medalist receives top care to keep him at peak performance.

Learn more about his daily care routine, including his shoeing schedule and favorite treats.

Nickname: Reno
Occupation: Dressage
Hometown: Stockton, New Jersey (summer), and Wellington, Florida (winter)
Basic stats:
17+ hands
Rosmarin’s people:
Kim Herslow
Allison Meyer

Rosmarin and Kim Herslow helped the U.S. dressage team win a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games last summer. | © Nancy Jaffer

Major accomplishments: Before being imported to the U.S., Rosmarin was the reserve champion at the 2008 Hanoverian Riding Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, as a 3-year-old. Last year, he rose to international prominence by winning all three of the Small Tour classes at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Week 7 FEI CDI* in Wellington, Florida. This earned him a chance to travel back to Germany with the U.S. squad in May where he won the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I classes at the Pferd International in Munich. He went on to win a team gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

Background: Kim discovered Reno in Germany while shopping for an investment project for Robert and Lisa Fritschy. After looking at many other horses, she says, “I knew he was the one. We clicked right away. He felt really easy for a 3-year-old. He moved through his body already and understood the basics clearly. He was also very confident and comfortable in himself. He’s a funny guy and very Labrador-like. He loves attention and gets jealous when other horses get it. And he gives hugs—he puts his chin on my shoulder. He’s very sweet.”

Although the original goal was to bring Reno along and sell him, Kim eventually bought out the Fritschys with family help. “I didn’t expect to keep him. Luckily, the timing worked out.”

Throughout his development, Kim has been careful not to rush his training. “He’s very tall and long. I wanted to let his body mature and get muscled enough to handle the training. He’s the type of horse, once developed in body and mind, who will bend over backward for me.” Once he learned the Prix St. Georges movements as a 7-year-old, she says, “he rocketed from there. He’s a super-fast learner.” Even so, Kim continues to take his training slowly. She also limits his shows to only a handful a year, doing just enough to qualify for the big events. “I don’t need to show him just to show him,” she says. “I want him to last a long time and to continue to enjoy going down the centerline.”

Kim gives Rosmarin all the credit after they won the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI* at the 2015 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Week 7 with a score of 75.525 percent. | © Susan J. Stickle

The pair is currently schooling the Grand Prix movements, but Kim won’t make any predictions about when they’ll debut at that level in the show ring. “We’ll see what he’s ready for,” she says. In the meantime, however, Reno’s training program includes little downtime. “He doesn’t like changes in his routine,” Kim explains. Even when she lets up on the training intensity, “I still hack him for 20 minutes or so and do a little stretching.”

Daily routine: The key to Reno’s success is movement, Kim says. Every day, he has multiple forms of exercise, starting with 25 minutes in the covered horse walker. After that, he has a half-hour session in his Sport Innovations electromagnetic massage therapy blanket and leg wraps. Kim then rides him in one of her three rings or out in a 12-acre open field. “I try to change the scenery a lot to keep him fresh. We do two to three days a week of serious training. The other days, we do gymnastic stretching or just hack out in the field. He gets upset if I ride horses before him so he’s one of the first ones I ride in the morning.”

Kim is the only person who ever rides Reno. “We’ve had a long relationship and a very special understanding. Our harmony is what makes us stand out.” On the rare occasions when she gets away from the farm, she has another staffer long-line or longe him. “But that rarely happens. I’m pretty much married to him.”

Before and after his ride, Reno gets a good grooming. “He loves to be curried with a metal curry. He’s very good at giving you feedback. If he’s tight somewhere, he’ll let you know it.” Later in the day, after harder workouts, his groom, Allison Meyer, zeroes in on those tender spots with a handheld Thumper® massager. “It helps him stay supple in his body, and he loves it,” says Kim. “He positions himself where he wants you to do it.” Reno also has his front legs treated by a Frio-Horse cooling machine directly after training sessions.

When he’s in the crossties, Reno entertains the barn with his upper lip. “He does circles with it, rubbing it over his teeth and making a funny, rubbery sound. He’s just a character.” He’s also really mouthy when being bridled so Kim always gives him a peppermint to keep him busy. “He actually sucks on it.”

Rosmarin, who is very Labrador-like and loves attention, gets a bath from his groom, Allison Meyer. | Courtesy, Kim Herslow

In the afternoons, Reno goes back on the walker again for 25 minutes. He gets turned out only in the paddock when Kim has time to watch him, about once a week. “I want to be there in case he starts running and risks pulling his shoes off.” When he does go out, she says, “He’s very playful. He rolls and bucks and does these slo-mo rearing stances. He’s smiling when he’s doing it.”

Every night, Reno wears standing wraps on his front legs to protect them when he lies down.

Nutrition: Finding the right nutrition program for Reno has always been a challenge for Kim. “I try not to pump him full of sugar or extra things he doesn’t need.” At the same time, she says, he needs the nutritional support to build the musculature on his large frame and the stamina to perform upper-level dressage movements. Although he’s an easy keeper, he can be finicky about his food so Kim switches his grains periodically.

Reno currently eats four hay meals a day—mostly grass hay, plus one flake of alfalfa each day—and three meals of a low-starch grain, Purina WellSolve L/S®. He also receives Lixotinic®, a vitamin–mineral supplement; Equsani EFA-XTM, a fatty acid supplement; biotin for hoof growth and Purina’s SuperSportTM, the same amino-acid supplement that Flexible gets. Besides helping to build up Reno’s muscles and stamina, Kim thinks these supplements have brought out the gloss in his coat.

Reno’s favorite treat is bananas, which Kim says provide good potassium for muscle recovery. “He loves them. He gets a few a day after every ride, plus one or two a night. I go through a lot of bananas.”

Other care: Reno is shod every four weeks. “I do not like him to get long in the toe,” explains Kim. “That puts more strain on the tendons.” He wears bar shoes and leather-rimmed pads on his front feet. “He has really great feet. We just want to give him the support for the work he’s doing.”

Reno is also on a schedule of Adequan injections. When showing, he receives them every other day. Otherwise, he gets them once a week. He also receives occasional Legend injections.

When he travels, Kim gives him preventive doses of the ulcer treatment GastroGard® to “keep his stomach comfortable. He has no history of colic.”

At shows, he’s also treated to massage and acupuncture. “We’re trying to keep the wear and tear to a minimum,” explains Kim. “Knock on wood, he’s physically in a really good place. We just want to keep him there.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.

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