New spa at Historic Track soothes and pampers hard-working horses

Salt baths and scented rubdowns are not just for people

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  • "I've Got My Red Dress On" during her spa treatment (Photo by Vicki Botta)

  • "I've Got My Red Dress On" is led into the bath (Photo by Vicki Botta)

  • Janice Connor hoses down her filly's legs after the treatment (Photo by Vicki Botta)

  • A Standardbred exercises at the Historic Track (Photo by Vicki Botta)

Tim Masters came up with the idea to benefit all kinds of horses. And he hopes the spa will bring more revenue to the 1838 track, the oldest continuously operated horse racing track in North America and a National Historic Landmark.

By Vicki Botta

— When you hear the word "spa," do you conjure up images of horses getting primped and scented with coat-beautifying grooming products?

Or perhaps a skilled masseuse working on sore equine muscles?

The Goshen Historic Track recently became one of only a few hundred places in the country to offer this kind of pampering treatment for horses when it opened its own onsite spa.

The British-manufactured spa, which includes a whirlpool bath, actually arrived at the track a year ago but sat waiting for a building to be renovated in back of the track. Inside the building, where the spa is now fully installed, textured flooring scrapes dirt and debris from the bottom of hooves. In the shower area, horses' feet and legs are sprayed to remove loose dirt before it ends up in the spa tank. A “poop bag" is placed on the horse to keep the water clean if nature calls. The room is kept toasty by an overhead hanging heater.

Ray Osborne, who represents the Echo Equine spa manufacturer, came all the way from England to instruct the track staff on its operation and use. Tim Masters, the facility supervisor at the track, made sure the track was deiced and in good condition for the day.

Masters came up with the idea of acquiring the used spa — which can cost $88,000 new — to benefit all kinds of horses, not only those at the track. The treatment is therapeutic and soothing to any horse that works hard or suffers from age-related conditions. And Masters hopes the spa will bring more revenue to the 1838 track, the oldest continuously operated horse racing track in North America and a National Historic Landmark.

'I Got My Red Dress On Tonight'It can take one or two visits before a horse feels comfortable. But after that, Masters said, they enjoy the experience.

Their first customer was a four-year-old Standardbred filly named “I Got My Red Dress On Tonight,” owned by Janice and Chuck Connor of Goshen. Janice said, the pacer, who's won all five races she has competed in, fractured her P1 bone in her pastern (the sloping part of a horse’s foot between the fetlock and the hoof). They elected not to have surgery because the fracture was so small, and surgery is very expensive.

The Connors had been taking her and another horse up to Rhinebeck for spa treatment twice a week and are happy to now have a place so much closer to home. They hope to race their filly again in March, after a year-long break in racing.

After "Red Dress" was rubbed down and fitted with a “poop bag,” she was led into a lane, a fiberglass shell manufactured by Sunseeker Yachts. The bulletproof glass doors at each of the lane prevent damage if the horse should kick.

The doors then closed, and the 35-degree salt water in the holding tanks — a combination of Epson salts and sea salts — flowed up and through the floor. The water is kept cold to numb the legs.

Once the water gets to the horse’s knees, a timer was set for ten minutes. After that interval the water drained back out through filters, which are cleaned periodically. The water is re-used 50 to 60 times before the filters or water are changed.

Osborne said people have been using salt water therapeutically for years. Any swelling or excess heat is drawn out by the salts.

The therapeutic effect happens as the horse leaves the spa, when the numb legs are exposed to the heat and blood rushes back through the veins, said Osborne. The effect can last for hours afterward.

“The harder the blood flow, the greater the healing effect,” he said.

It's not the pain we humans experience when our frozen fingers and toes are exposed suddenly to heat, he said. The lack of fleshy tissue in their legs keeps horses impervious to freezing water, just as they are unbothered by standing in snow for long periods of time.

After "Red Dress" had her treatment, she was led right back into her trailer with a blanket over her back.

No mani-pedi for this gal. It’s just not that kind of spa.

For more information call Masters at 845-294-5333 or visit

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