The Caddel Equine Therapy Center, nestled in the rolling hills that surround Georgetown, Kentucky, prides itself on absolute discretion. For example, I have to prove a certain level of security clearance before I’m allowed to visit, and all the horses, some of them extremely high profile, are given different stable names upon arrival to protect their identity. However, there’s no disguising a certain white-faced chestnut cribbing for the USA on his stable door. It may say Ned on his plaque, but it’s hard to mistake Neville Bardos!
Neville is here at Caddel Farm so that he can receive laser treatments thrice weekly, and he is walked under tack for 30 minutes every day following signs of a suspensory strain that showed up on an ultrasound. Linda Caddel, who founded the rehab center in 1996 with her husband Steve, stands outside his door and alternates between chatting to me and cooing at Neville, who’s obviously won her over in the two weeks he’s been here. “The more serious the injury, the more attached to them we get, or a horse like this who’s not only achieved so much but overcome so much,” Linda said, ” You have to admire the heart in this horse. It’s such a privilege and very humbling to work with horses like these.”
Like Linda, the barn is quiet and calm, and she told me it didn’t take long for Neville to adjust to his surroundings. “He’s a pro. He was on his toes when he first arrived, but these horses are absolutely remarkable. The pace here is very quiet and slow, and they sense that immediately and usually settle right in. He’s out every day under tack for 30 minutes, and after a couple of days he got it; he realized that was all there was!”
Linda has seen her practice evolve from almost entirely post-surgery racehorses to almost exclusively sport horses, as well as some very pedigreed broodmares. The 27-stall “hospital barn” is currently full of an assortment of breeds and disciplines. Offering everything from basic rehab and R & R to more extensive recovery including ridden exercise — and with a range of on-site therapies, as well as the convenience of having your own vet or representative continue your horse’s care, plus access to all the facilities in the area (swimming, hyperbaric chamber, etc.) — it’s no wonder Caddel Farm might be one of Kentucky’s best kept secrets in the horse world.
Combining the very latest technology, such as the laser treatment that Neville is receiving, with good, old-fashioned horsemanship, meticulous care and attention to detail equals the very best of both worlds for the equine patients. Linda is hands-on at every stage — applying medication to one horse and overseeing Neville’s laser treatment — always watching carefully.
Katie Osborne, who rides for Linda, was handpicked. “I never advertise for riders; I’ve known Katie since she was a little girl because she rode with a friend of mine who brings on a lot of upper-level Pony Clubbers, and that’s what I look for — a Pony Club background. They’re taught to articulate back to me what they’re feeling, and that’s really, really important that they can say, ‘He’s not even in his shoulders, or in his hips,’ or ‘This is different today,’ as opposed to, ‘Oh, he feels fine!’ So I’m constantly asking how the horses feel.”
The day I visit is a nice one weather-wise, the first in what feels like forever. So after a few turns around the shed row, Neville does his walking outside on the firm surface around the barn, because “the fields are still so saturated, and with soft tissue all they’d have to do would be to sink in a little and hyperextend, and then all this work would be for naught.”
Linda, who used to event herself, literally watches Neville’s every step, and when he is out of sight on the other side of the barn, she listens intently to his hoofbeats to make sure they’re even and that he maintains a rhythm. Her eyes light up when she remembers: “Katie hasn’t been able to make it out on a couple of days, so I’ve gotten to ride him. I think the eventers more than anybody teach their horses that the walk is a really important gait. This horse has the greatest power walk and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘This is amazing!’ It’s like lying in a memory foam mattress — everything is so supple and responsive and just so smooth. And then I have a young Thoroughbred that I have to get on, and he’s like a tank in comparison!”
“Particularly in the wintertime when it’s too cold to get outside — and if Neville were going to be here for any amount of time — we would start setting grids up in the aisleway with poles on the ground, and making them walk over grids,” Linda said. “Depending on how they’re spaced and how high they are, we’re targeting different muscle groups. Just like with human physical therapy — but because we can’t explain in words to the horse which muscles we’d like him to work and how — we have to put an exercise out there for him to make sure that he does do it.
“From there, as horses progress, we have a eurociser, a round pen, a large field that we like to do a lot of work in, and an incline, so we do lots of hill work with these horses, really making them use their backs and their shoulders and their hips. That takes a really good rider to be able to do that with a horse. In our dreams, we would love to have an underwater treadmill. We thought about what we would have been trying to accomplish with it, and then recreate it without the water, and that’s how we came up with the grids and the exercises.”
Linda told me that Neville wears standing bandages at night, which were kept on until the laser treatment first thing in the morning — “so that the tendon stays warm, and then as soon as the treatment is over, I’m going to put Draper Therapies polos on him, and that keeps it nice and warm. He’ll be ridden 20 to 40 minutes after that for 30 minutes, and then once he’s been ridden, I’ll put an ice boot on it, so we have complete control of warming it up and cooling it down, and that’s his routine.”
Caddel Farm also rehomes Thoroughbreds for several of the racing operations locally and exclusively in North America for one of the largest studs in the world. With a return guarantee and no strings attached, it continues to amaze Linda that there aren’t more people jumping at the chance to come and look at the horses she has available, often impeccably bred horses that simply didn’t have the aptitude to race. After being let down at Keeneland, they’ll come straight to Caddel Farm, where they get turned out, get some very basic schooling, and Katie and Linda can assess them before trying to match them with a suitable owner. For more details, visit the Caddel Farm Facebook page.
Wishing Boyd and Windurra USA a hearty EN congratulations and best of luck with Pancho Villa, and of course, keeping everything crossed for a continued positive recuperation for Neville. Many thanks to Linda Caddel for being so gracious with her time and showing me around her beautiful property. Thanks also to Dr. Peggy Marsh, Katie Osborne and Britney for chatting to me and being patient about pictures, and, of course, thank you for reading! Go Neville, and Go Eventing!