Gundy Park Equine owner, Ali Foye - former world class eventer & trainer - is involved in every facet of your horse or dog’s journey to rehabilitation & recovery
Ali’s Story in her own words:
I have grown up with horses my whole life. I grew up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and started following my older sisters to pony club when I was 3-4 years old on a little Shetland, Nugget.
From there I developed my passion for horses, coming through the grades as time went by. I come from a very competitive family: my Father was a professional footballer for East Sydney ‘Roosters’ and North Sydney ‘The Bears’, and my Aunty represented Australia in Swimming at the Perth Commonwealth Games, just missing a trip to the Olympic due to her team mate, Dawn Fraser, being that little bit faster. So naturally, I am very competitive myself and the desire to perform and win is strong.
I went to New England Girls School for 4 years, boarding 8 hours away from home at age eleven, just so I could ‘take my horse to school’! Now, that’s passion! A year after starting at NEGS, I went from a pony to a very successful schoolmaster, bred and trained by Olympian Sonja Johnson, and before my 14th birthday (the legal age to compete FEI competitions) I started in my first International Three Day Event in Melbourne Vic at CCI** level. I did well, paced 2nd out of a much older and stronger field of 44 other riders.
I continued my path of Eventing from there. I was spending more time on the road, or in the air as I flew to school, getting to and from competitions, so I moved back to Sydney in 1999 to attend a day school and further develop my career in Eventing.
That same year, we bought Gundy Park, a 500 acre block of land being sold off from the historic Belltrees property in the Upper Hunter Valley, 4 hours from Sydney. I soon left my day school to be home schooled, so that I could spend more time developing the farm and my career.
When we first bought Gundy Park, it consisted of 3 big paddocks with original 90 year old cattle fencing and a very run down cottage. Over the next 20 years, we carefully designed all the facilities and layout of the farm. It’s come such a long way since then!
At 17, I was selected to be the Reserve member of the Australian Young Rider Team travelling to NZ, however my team mates stayed intact and I was not needed. At 19, I was selected again to be on the team and this time we competed in Sydney and won team GOLD!
By this point in time, I was competing at World Cup level, having been placed 3rd at the Melbourne International 3DE CIC***W Cup Qualifier. I was a member of the NSW Institute of Sport and the Australian Young Riders Development Squad (mentored by the great late Gillian Rolton).
My career in eventing was taking me all over the world, campaigning in NZ, the UK, USA, and Europe. I had left school and taken up equine studies, in both Thoroughbred Breeding and Equine Veterinary Nursing.
In 2005, I won the prestigious Australian International 3DE CCI*** from start to finish by a whopping 15 points! 3 years later I was back there to take 11th place in at Highest level of eventing, the CCI***** where I was also the youngest competitor. This was all onboard my ex-racehorse Bondir (his racing name was Rash Brave) and at this highest point in our career, he was a young 19-year-old, recovering from a fractured sesamoid earlier that year and bone bruising the year before.
Eventing at this level on these amazing ex-racehorses often meant you had to develop skills in management to understand the true anatomy and physiology of the horse, how to help them recover, but also become their strongest ever and to maintain peak performance for up to six months at a time, if not longer.
Bondir was not the only horse I had at this level. Over 20 years there have been numerous horses and numerous injuries I have been faced with that have helped develop my vast collection of rehabilitation skills.
In 2011 I competed in the Australian International 3DE on Leica Luvid, a Langfur TB gelding bought from Jen Butler as a 3 yr old ‘very slow’ ex-racehorse. Despite being tricky, he suffered moderate navicular syndrome in both front feet and through the help of Jo Halt at the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre, we were able to manage this horse’s career for a number of years at the highest level. We were the ONLY combination in 2011 to go clear and undertime XC!! The best part about that weekend was that 3 days later at the age of 27, I was in hospital having a total hip replacement and this horse managed to smash out that course with a rider that had no use of their left leg!
In June 2013 I decided to broaden my skills and set off to Netherlands to do equestrian training as well as taking the opportunity to develop more veterinary skills I spent countless hours with leading vets learning their ways to treat and manage different injuries in horses. These methods were very different to the mainstream ones I was used to and were actually bordering on physio for horses more than anything else. I started to study these skills and ideas further. The results these intensive studies had on my own horses were enormous.
In 2014 whilst competing in Netherlands, I suffered a serious injury to my knee which put a stop to my eventing career at that time. My top horse, Kung Fu Panda, was given to my coach to ride and they were long-listed for Rio – the first horse I had bred and trained to that level. This was a huge achievement, even if I wasn’t the rider!
In 2015 I was approached to try out for the Paralympic Squad for dressage. I had a home bred Warmblood Stallion, Westminster GP, and after assessment, I was classified officially as a para rider and short listed for Rio Paralympic. That was the second horse that I had bred to be listed for the same Olympic Games – an achievement of epic proportions. I was stoked!
At the beginning of 2016 I moved down to Wollongong for a short period of time to start a new career in Law and working for one of Australia’s leading Law firm, HWL Ebsworth I studied Law through the University of Sydney where my riding took a step back for the first time in my life.
This didn’t last long, as I often find myself easily side-tracked by anything horsey! The visits to the farm increased and I found it harder and harder to leave. The pain I was starting to suffer from my accident to my knee was also increasing, to the point where pain relief was not doing its job at all.
My surgeon was kind enough to invite me to a medical conference as a case study and they came up with a plan to buy me time until I was old enough to have both my knees replaced. Within a matter of days, I had signed myself up for 2 years of surgery and recovery, having an osteotomy performed on both my legs, one at a time, learning to walk, not for the second time, but 3rd and 4th time in 6 years!
The recovery was extremely intense, requiring much rehabilitation and hydrotherapy. It was during these weekly rehab sessions that I began planning my new career. As I spent more and more time researching equine rehab facilities in Australia, it became clear that there really wasn’t much available. Veterinary Clinics would offer the service, but it was an exceptional fee to do so and there really wasn’t a clinic set up to rehabilitate – the focus was more on the recovery side. Most pre-training farms that had water walkers would offer a rehab service, but water walkers don’t provide you with the individual attention to detail and are more used as a form of fitness than rehab.
I then started to do a lot of research on Hydrotherapy equipment and nutted down the top 2 machines available in the world – the Icelandic and the ECB water Treadmill. Both were similar, however there were two distinct features of the ECB that won me over.
Firstly, it was the ONLY marine grade stainless steel construction which is very important when you want to be using Epsom salts and sodium chloride. Secondly and more importantly, it had an advanced filtration system. I needed my machine to be a therapeutic use for injuries of all nature and not risk infections due to contaminated water. I also wanted to make sure that I was able to recycle as much water as possible – 5 filters in one unit equals a very clean tank of water. I decided to go with the ECB and started my novel-length questions to the company who had yet to install a unit in the Southern Hemisphere.
ECB put me in touch with Fiona Fitzgibbon from The Irish Equine Rehabilitation and Fitness Centre in Northern Ireland and after spending some time with her there and learning about the amazing results they were having with their set up, I decided that it was exactly what I want to establish back home in Australia.
Since then, I have been in touch with many other rehab farms all over the world and we have started to create a network of therapists – some of whom have been rehabilitating horses for many years now – some are vets, but we are all about helping the horse. They’ve offered me a lot of advice on set up, providing me back up assistance where they could as strange injuries presented themselves.
Another advantage of ECB is that I have the access to two leading professors in Equine Rehabilitation and Fitness – Dr Even Hunt who pioneered Cryotherapy back in 1998 is available to provide advice if I should need it, plus Dr Allan Davies, who has done extensive research on heart rate monitoring and the use of high speed treadmills. Having access to both these incredible veterinarians is a big asset to Gundy Park Equine.
In August 2019, the go ahead was given to order the very first Australian ECB Water Treadmill, and by Christmas, it was installed, and in full swing.
I look forward to presenting the Gundy Park Equine range of services to you and making a real difference in the life of your horse or dog.
Ali Foye 0438 650 990