Following on from my Blog – ‘The reality of owning horses and keeping them sound’, I wanted to share Annick’s story with you. As mentioned in the blog before, sometimes we play a part in their unsoundness, and sometimes things just happen. I think as owners we forget this, a lot. That they are living beings and like us sometimes they just overdo it, sleep or move the wrong way. Then all of a sudden, they’re just not right! And Annick did just that, she was having fun being a horse!

In June 2020, whilst enjoying the sun in the garden. Adam and I heard the horses galloping around in the fields. We checked the cameras to see what they were up to behind the stables. When we had looked at the footage we saw that Annick completely stacked it.

As you can see from the video below, she bucked but missed the floor with her legs on landing. Resulting in her landing on her side, hard! She got up and carried on and I didn’t think much of it, at the time.

I Could Sense Something Wasn’t Right

We had just finished the major works at home which took up most of my time project managing. Therefore, Annick was only just coming back into work which meant not much was being asked of her. The majority of her work was in a walk. It wasn’t until I started trotting that I felt something wasn’t right.

She doesn’t appear hopping lame and although I had many people out to see her. In a similar way like Rana, they couldn’t see it but I certainly felt it. Many had the opinion that I needed to push her forward. Make her work more through her body and get her to engage. However I was not prepared to ask or push her, I know my horse and I felt something was wrong.

She naturally has a lot of movement through her lumber which results in her plaiting (think of the hind walking on a tight rope) which is what contributes to the majority of the power in her hind and her large over track. She is extremely powerful and challenging to ride because of her movement. So when I felt the lack of swing, the occasional drop in the hind and non-existent power. That is when I knew there was something going on. But without any of the professionals I have engaged with knowing, I was at a loss.

The Animal Communicator, Joanna

Annick was in light work as I wasn’t sure what to do and It got to the point where I lost faith in professionals so I contacted an Animal Communicator – Joanna at the Wild Thread. To be honest, it’s not something I believed in but I was desperate and willing to try anything. I was taken back completely by what Joanna told me about Annick. Especially given that I only provided a few old photos, her name, age and what I wanted to know. It made me quite emotional to hear what Joanna had to say. Aso no one but I would have known all the things she said.

One of the questions I asked Joanna was ‘Was she in pain somewhere as when I ask her to go forward the hollows, throws her head a bit and sometimes keeps looking at my left leg’.

Joanna told me that Annick was saying that it is uncomfortable in her left lumber area and she cannot lift her back and use her diaphragm to bring her leg underneath her, but she’s trying.

After my call with Joanna I made some calls and contacted an Osteopath I used many years ago for Annick when I lived back South. I needed someone I trusted and I hadn’t had much luck finding anyone yet. Plus I wasn’t prepared to trial and error anymore. I spoke with Stuart McGreggor who kindly put me in contact with Nick White who covered Shropshire. Nick first came in November 2020. He listened, assessed, provided treatment and we agreed I would continue to work Annick. The main focus on allowing her to find her own balance and giving her the support through my legs when needed. In order to see how she got on during the period till her next treatment.

Refitting Annick’s Saddle

As Annick was in light work but still not right her Comfort Elite Flocked saddle slipped slightly and her saddle cloth slipped completely and I know the saddle fitted but because of her imbalances she was causing the saddle to slip. It is important to note here that horses and riders imbalances can cause a well-fitting saddle to move. Its easy to blame the saddle/saddler but you have to look at the bigger picture. A saddle is a static object on a living being which moves and fit has to take that into account. A horse and rider can affect the fit just as much as the fit can affect the horse.

So in December, Dean and Gini from the Saddle Exchange came to check the girls saddles and re-fit my Reactor Panel Saddle to Annick. Anyone that has read my story about the Reactor Panel will know how much I not only highly recommend these guys but my opinions on the Reactor which change our lives way back in 2013 and the reason that I needed the Reactor fitted to Annick is because the Reactor is much more stable on a horse due to the flexi panels covering a greater range of area and it provides much less pressure under the load bearing surface of the saddle area across the horses back meaning that Annick would be able to move without the hinderance of a slipping saddle caused by her.

Having told Gini of my challenges with Annick, she called Felicity Wilson whilst at my yard and together they performed Flow on Annick and Felicity pinpointed the left Psoas muscle causing restriction and discomfort! Felicity asked if Annick was ‘Banana-ing’ to the left and she was! It explained exactly how she felt when she moved and what Felicity found tied in with Joanna had said Annick had told her. I was finally getting some answers to complete the puzzle!

And Then There Was Lockdown

Lockdown was announced and the planned visit from Felicity, plus the follow-up from Nick had to be put on hold. I left Annick really, just ticked her over every now and then as I wasn’t comfortable moving forward without having her treated in-between.

Over Christmas I started to think about it more in depth about the missing pieces of the puzzle. I noticed that Annick had a slight dip behind her last rib on her left side. Initially what I thought to be a sub laxed rib. When Nick came back in March 2021, I pointed this out the dip and he agreed, it could indeed be a sub laxed rib but without doing an Xray, there was no way to tell but he did some work on the diaphragm with the aim of helping Annick to release the rib herself and we agreed to follow up in 1 month.

On The Path to Improved Recovery

Since March Annick has continued to make improvements and in my opinion is 75% better than she was. Now it is about rebuilding the strength through her back and hind, helping her to use her body correctly and I will continue working with ‘Team Annick’ until we get her where she should be. This will take time. Whilst in a year she has come far, I don’t envisage her returning to full strength. At least for a minimum of another 6 months. Though the bigger picture is Annick being sound, strong and happy in her work

As a rider I play a very important part in her rehab. And again, I think this is something that many don’t realise. When bringing a horse back into work or developing a young or green horse we as riders MUST help our horses. They have enough to deal with without us adding to them by not being in control of our bodies. Collapsing or shifting our weight excessively in the saddle with changes of speed and/or direction. We need to be able to offer support and take it away without changing our posture or using our hands.

During her road to recovery it is essential that when I ride that I am helping her, not contributing to her challenges. No matter what she does. Whether it be lose her balance, change speed, throw her head up, drop her shoulder or lack energy. I MUST remain balanced, stable and offer her the support of my leg when needed and take it away when she doesn’t.

Help Your Horse by Being in Control

I come across so many riders who don’t believe that they need to improve their rider fitness because they are active around the yard and/or because they just hack a few times a wee. But you see, Rider Fitness is more than not feeling out of breath its about being in control of yourself to help your horse. If you are not in control of your body, you are a passenger, not a rider no matter what level or discipline you ride.

So this is Annick’s road to recovery so far. We have a way to go but believe we are on the right path. I wanted to share this with you all to just show that sometimes horses will be horses and like any living being, things can just happen. Her road to recovery isn’t a straight forward one but it is achievable, as long as we work together as a team, myself, Annick, Nick and Dean & Gini.

I hope reading this has helped you in some way to understand:

  • Lameness, unsoundness, challenges happen. Sometimes we contribute (see my blog about Rana) sometimes its just when horses are just being horses
  • Find a team you trust and respect and work together (think outside the box if you need to)
  • Understand that Rider Fitness is ultimately about helping your horse
  • See the bigger picture, there isn’t always a simple answer
  • You know your horse, trust your instinct and keep searching for answers

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