BY DANNY MOGLE // PHOTOS BY SARAH A. MILLER // July/August 2017
It is a warm spring day at LB Equine Fitness and some of its many four-legged patients are being put through their rehabilitation sessions.
First up is Scarlett, a beautiful barrel racing horse.
“Scarlett has been here about two months,” Katie Jones, the facility manager, says. “She had back surgery about a year ago and has been off work ever since. Her owner brought her here and wants her back in top physical condition.”
To get in competitive form, Scarlett works out in the aqua treadmill, a 1,200-gallon, above-ground tank that partially fills with water as a horse walks on a treadmill.
Scarlett moves into the enclosure without hesitation and the water slowly rises. Trainer Chad Jones, Katie’s husband, starts the treadmill and Scarlett begins sloshing through the water.
“See how she’s picking her back feet up above the water as she walks,” points out Katie.
By working against the resistance of the water, Scarlett is strengthening the muscles in her legs, back and core that she uses to power around barrels and dart to the finish line as a barrel racing horse built for agility and speed.
Chad increases the angle of the incline, which makes Scarlett work even harder.
“Water (therapy) is especially good for their joints and their tendons,” Katie says. “It’s low impact. They can get a really good workout without the impacts they would get from the ground.”
Scarlett, who is near the end of her rehabilitation, is making remarkable progress. “Now she’s the most physically fit horse we have at the facility,” Katie says.
Next up is Buckskin, a barrel racing horse recovering from a painful tendon injury.
Chad and Katie walk Buckskin down a ramp and into the 70-foot long single-lane pool. As the pool deepens and Buckskin begins swimming, Chad and Katie hold onto reigns and help Buckskin move through the water.
“Swimming is a great cardio workout and it’s very low impact on their joints,” Katie says.
Buckskin has to do four laps on this day.
Also on the agenda is Kool, another powerful barrel racing horse.
“He had surgery 30 days ago. He had a splint bone in his front leg removed,” Katie says pointing to the scar.
Kool enters the cold-water tank and stands as the 35-degree water rises. The cold water helps reduce inflammation as Kool heals.
“He’s quite a character,” Katie says of the horse, who is trying to nudge Chad’s cap off his head.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Lauren Beaird, a champion barrel racer, is the woman behind LB Equine Fitness.
“I’ve used a facility like this as a customer,” she says. “They (equine fitness centers) have become really popular for those who have a considerable investment in their horses.”
Adds Katie: “In the horse industry, to reach that top level of competition you have to have an edge over everyone else. We believe in blood lines but we also believe that the best nutrition and workout routine will get you the edge over everyone else.”
Lauren knew there wasn’t a water-based fitness center for horses in East Texas. She and her husband, Barrett, acquired 35 acres west of Tyler, Texas. She learned all she could about horse rehabilitation and fitness training and bought the best equipment possible.
LB Equine Fitness sponsored a rodeo in June to formally mark its opening.
Katie oversees much of the day-to-day operations. Lauren met Katie on the rodeo circuit.
“All my life I’ve had horses,” Katie says. “I got my first pony when I was 6. Horses have been my life.”
She earned a degree in agriculture with an emphasis on equine fitness from Murray State University in Kentucky.
“It makes a huge difference (in giving rehabilitation) when you know horses,” Katie says. “You have to know their body language. You have to be patient (with them). You have to know how to read a horse. If you don’t have the hands-on horse knowledge, it could be a big disaster.”
Katie loves helping horses get healthier and stronger.
“When a horse has been here a while, we kind of get attached,” she says. “It’s really awesome to watch the progress a horse can make from the time they get here. … It’s really exciting to see a horse back in top physical condition.”