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June 6, 2012

Otto Is Fit And Ready For The Selection Trials

Todd Flettrich looks forward to showing off a fitter, stronger Otto at the U.S. Olympic selection trials. Photo by SusanJSticle.com Photography.

Otto and I have been working hard to prepare ourselves for our journey to the Olympics. Well, first we have to set our sights on the USEF Olympic dressage trials in Gladstone, N.J., and THEN we can focus on the Olympics.

I think one of the most important things we have done is pared down our warm-up time, which has been huge. After I start Otto on a loose rein, I can put him together faster.

He has a great work ethic, but he is like anyone else, human or horse, in that work is work, and sometimes he needs a little kick in the butt. I have to say “Come on now, Otto, you’ve been doing it. But now I want a bit more.” Sometimes I have to push and ride a bit more aggressively. I’m not a pushover and neither is Otto.

Otto is much stronger now. I feel like he used to work off his tension, but I would say now he works off his strength. He is fit and more muscled than he was even a month ago.

Otto doesn’t spend much time in the stall. In the mornings, I work him, and then he gets to go out for hand grazing. He loves turnout time but, for now, we can’t let him get any turnout injuries, so he gets lots of hand grazing. And he gets plenty of attention and treats. He’ll do anything for food!

In the afternoons he goes on the treadmill. Otto has this amazing walk, but, for some reason, he doesn’t seem to relax at the walk on the treadmill. I think it’s part of his work ethic. So, in order to make sure he has a more relaxed flat-footed walk, he is hand-walked for 20 minutes a day as well.

Three days a week he goes to The Sanctuary on the west show grounds in the afternoon [Sanctuary Equine Sports Conditioning and Performance Center on the show grounds of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla.] where he gets in the aquatic exerciser. They say that 20 minutes in the water treadmill is equal to an hour and a half workout, but Otto only gets a 15-minute workout in the water. It takes six minutes for the water to fill up, then he does his workout, and then it takes six minutes for the water to drain, and all the while he gets carrots—except during his workout, of course! After that he does 10 minutes of ice therapy.

It’s really amazing to watch his muscles move when he is in the aquatic treadmill, and when he gets out, riding him feels like he has had a massage. His muscles are nice and loose. He has great legs anyway but after his aqua therapy, he has the legs of a 3-year-old!

Partners In Fitness

But, just so you don’t think Otto is doing all the work, besides riding him, I work out with a personal trainer two days a week, do Pilates five days a week, go to the gym and run. My trainer, Oded Shimoni, says Otto and I look fit and strong.

Otto and I are stayed in Wellington until just before the selection trials. We stayed to train with Oded, and we needed to remain in Florida to stay acclimated to the heat in case it turns hot and humid in New Jersey.

Besides getting him fit, we’ve also been working on Otto’s food. He eats crimped oats plus a 12-12-12 supplement for natural minerals. He gets Lixotonic, a vitamin, iron, and B vitamin tonic for the production of red blood cells, and he gets alfalfa and timothy hay. We found out at [the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.)] that he’s allergic to beet pulp. He starting sneezing and breathing loudly, and we figured out it was the beet pulp, so he doesn’t get that any more.

Otto is such a great horse and so talented. His best talents are piaffe and passage, but now he shows his flair for all the rest of the movements as well. In 2010, we went back to the basics so I could get him to use his body better biomechanically, and we have been working on his strength and our connection.

He’s also an energetic horse, and he’s definitely a Type A personality. Within that, there is some positive natural tension. I actually enjoy that kind of horse. He always has a certain confidence, and I have learned to encourage him. I have loved his character from the beginning.

Through all this, we have become really good together, and I think our relationship has developed into much more of a partnership. You know, I think he has just gotten better with age, like a good bottle of wine.

The selection trials for the U.S. Olympic dressage team begin on Saturday, June 9, and the Chronicle will be there to bring you all the news, photos, results and more.

Horse Sports