Austin and Courtney Maier are filling a huge need in North Dakota.
The couple, who live south of Almont, N.D., own Revive Equine.
They provide the equine athlete every opportunity to make a successful return to competition with their Horse Gym Water Treadmill. The water treadmill allows horses to be exercised in water up to shoulder height and provides resistance on limbs with the adjustment of the water depth up to 44 inches. The water treadmill can also be used as a dry treadmill, with or without an incline option.
Their treadmill sets them apart from other equine facilities in North Dakota and neighboring states, as their Horse Gym Water Treadmill has the incline feature, which other facilities in the state don’t have.
Horses that come to Revive Equine are either in need of rehab because of injury or need to be conditioned.
The treadmill is above ground, with access via ramp, which can be intimidating to some horses. Most horses walk in with no problem, but Courtney says she wants their first experience to be good, so “the first session is light, quick and easy,” she said. She works to gain the trust of the horses by “praising them and encouraging them that they are safe and OK. We try to gain their trust right off the bat.”
Depending on the horse, its injury, and how in shape it is, workouts are increased gradually each day. The treadmill can work a horse up to thirty minutes max, “but whatever the horse is able to do, we do.”
Courtney stands at the horse’s head and monitors its breathing, “to make sure we don’t overdo it. The lower the water, the harder the workout is,” she said.
Water is added up to the appropriate level for those horses who are rehabbing, depending on where the injury is.
For conditioning, she likes to keep a horse a minimum of two weeks, which includes ten swims. She tells clients they may not see a physical difference on their horse, “but you should feel the difference when you’re on the horse’s back.” The longer a horse stays, the better the results. And she mixes up the workout as well. “I like to add the incline option a couple times during their stay. The incline is a tough workout and really helps with their top line.” She says she never uses the incline with the water, as it isn’t a natural thing to do. “You don’t swim uphill in a river.”
As for the treadmill’s speed, Courtney follows the lead of the horse. “How fast the horse walks is up to the horse,” she said. “I let the horse tell me what is comfortable for them.”
She cautions clients that just because their horse spent two weeks conditioning on the treadmill doesn’t mean they’re ready for competition yet. “I’m just peeling back a couple layers of getting in shape. You have to finish getting them in shape.”
The couple has a rodeo and equine background. Austin was a steer wrestler until a knee injury sidelined him; he says he hopes to compete again. Courtney was a rodeo queen and barrel racer, graduating from the Red Horse Ranch in 2013 with an equine science degree. In college, one of her assignments was a business proposal, where she dreamt of an equine facility similar to what she and Austin have now. “When I was in college, I would have never had the confidence to make that dream come true,” she said. She took the idea to her husband, and together they prayed about it. “With faith in God and the encouragement and support of my husband, I am living that dream.” A college professor she looks up to, Andrew Hinrichs, helped design the barn.
She and Austin have a two-year-old son, Denim, who is “the best stall cleaner ever,” his mother said. “We bought him a mini snow shovel, and he cleans all the time with me.”
She started with the treadmill in July of last year, and since then forty horses have gone through the barn.
One of her biggest testimonies was her first client’s horse from Billings, Montana. The horse had a weak back due to kissing spine. Before rehab at Revive Equine, the owner could press on the horse’s back, and there was no muscle. After a month of rehab, the owner pressed on the horse’s back, and it didn’t flinch. “She had gained muscle on her top line and looked fit as could be,” Courtney said. “The owner started crying. It proved to me the treadmill works.”
Revive Equine has ten stalls and can accommodate ten horses. It has a 30’ x 60’ indoor turnout area with beach sand, so horses can roll and stretch. The stalls are equipped with stall mattresses, made of shredded tires that are three to four inches thick. The facility is also heated.
Courtney says they keep their horse clients at Revive Equine are comfortable.
“If a horse doesn’t like something, they’re going to be a pain about it, and that makes more work for me. The happier the horse is, the easier it is.”
Revive Equine is located two miles south of Almont and fifteen miles south of Interstate 94. The couple can be reached at www.reviveequinellc.com.
Ruth Nicolaus is a longtime writer and advocate for the western way of life, traveling the country covering rodeos and the horses and athletes that make the sport. She hangs her hat in Nebraska.