I would like to share a personal message with you, straight from my heart.
I have over 15 years of experience as a veterinarian and during the last 13 years, I specialized in rehabiliatation and sports. Biomechanically appropriate training is an important part of a succesful rehabilitation. In those 15 years I have seen a lot of different problems where horses were out of training for a short or long time. I regularly encounter horses that have unrecoverable damage to their bodies. I often speak to owners who have been struggling for months or years with all kinds of problems with their horses. I’ve been in this situation myself.
During the final phase of veterinary school, I owned a beautiful dressage horse. When I bought him, he was a 2.5 years old stallion, I trained him myself and prepared him to compete. Everything went very smooth in the lower classes (dressage tests), but I got stuck at M level. The horse became stronger and stiffer and actually it was no longer fun to ride him. I always got off with pain in my neck, shoulders and arms.
The way I learned to ride was very focused on the head position. The head was supposed to stay “in the right position”, no matter what. And the “right position” was round and deep. My horse did not agree with that and resisted by making himself strong and stiff.
After the dip in the M it went well again in the competitions. The picture was beautiful, but it did not feel nice. It felt like struggling and fighting and I learnt to ride my horse during the dressage tests in this way.
I have had this beautiful horse for 7 years and in those seven years I had to walk next to him for 3 years because of all kinds of injuries, all of which seemed bad luck. Now I know better. With the knowledge I have now, I know that these injuries were the result of an incorrect way of training. A way of training that was not in accordance with the biomechanics and physiology of the horse.
At the end of my study I wanted to start competing at a higher level (ZZ licht) , but every time I prepared my horse for this, he started to show a subtle lameness. Eventually I decided to give him to someone who wanted to ride him in a recreational way. I found a great owner for him and that went very well.
After a few years his new owner started to have problems with this horse and asked one of my colleague trainers, to work with him. He had all kinds of physical complaints. The trainer had a lot of experience in rehabilitation training and because we knew each other, I was asked for advice. What I saw was a very unhappy horse. He showed that he was in pain. He was lame on one of his hindlegs and his once so beautiful strong muscles had disappeared.
I could not find the cause. I found a lot of problems, but no solutions. Ultimately I advised to euthanize ‘my own’ horse.
Now many years later, I know what the cause was. The cause was the incorrect training all those years he was with me. Those years had caused damage in his body. He compensated for a long time and his new owner trained him on a lower level. This way the load on his body was less and he could keep going for a while. Eventually he also could not handle this low level of work anymore.
And the worst thing is that I could have helped him when he was feeling so bad, if only I knew what I know now. The solution was simple; bodywork to release his fascies, balancing his feet and training him in a correct way. It would have been a long road, but we would have succeded! Later I have seen this happening with so many other horses that were sometimes in a worse condition to start with than my horse.
This ignorance has cost me a lot. Financially, because we visited several clinics for several times. Emotionally, because it was disappointment after disappointment. When I thought we found the cause and the solution and I was allowed to start training the horse again everything seemed to go well. But this was always just for a few months and then we ran into the next injury. And above all the pain I felt when I had to say goodbye to a friend. It hurts to know that this was caused by my own ignorance. But thanks to all these hard lessons I started looking for solutions. Because of this beautiful horse and all the trouble we went through, I gained a unique package of knowledge and skills. This package turns out to be very effective in the rehabilitation of horses.
I also know that there are many horses with problems. That many owners struggle with the same problems. I often get patients who have seen every clinic in the country in the past years and have been given up. 70 – 80% of these horses we get through. I don’t do that alone. I do this together with the team of Equicare-Plus. These horses often become functional again and can have a pleasant life, but they do not get their optimum performance and vitality anymore.
I have met many sad owners over the years. Frustrated by all those years searching for causes and solutions. Only to run into the same or new injuries. In a few cases a year I can not find solutions anymore. Then the horse is so bad, that it is no longer fair to continue. In these cases we have to be honest and choose not to let the horse suffer further. If this is a horse that is 25-30 years old, and has been with his owner for a long time, it is still very sad, but the owner often has peace with it. This is a nice age for a horse.
It’s completely different when a 7 or 8 year old horse has irredeemable damage in his body. A horse that actually should have been in the prime of life. The grief of the owner then goes many dimensions deeper. It is so hard to understand. How can this happen? Why is this happening to me and my horse? Future dreams fall apart.
I know how that feels and deep inside you also wonder what you did wrong. Nothing at all, sometimes you have bad luck. A horse is big and strong, but also very vulnerable. Sometimes they make a strange jump or sliding in the pasture, but in the vast majority of cases, ignorance is the cause of the injuries.
As long as you do not know, you can not help it! As soon as you know, you can make the difference. Make sure you gather as much knowledge about correct training and everything else that is needed to keep your horse healthy. The reason that I share this with you is because I was ignorant and therefore experienced a lot of grief.
I transformed my feeling of guilt to my horse into gratitude. I am grateful that he has been a huge motivation to start searching for answers. And I am grateful for all the answers that I have found. I like to share this with everyone who is open to it. Together we can prevent a lot of suffering in horses and desperate owners.
The last thing I want to share with you is; do not wait until your horse shows a clear lameness or other physical problems. Correct training matching the biomechanics and physiology of your horse, is essential to keep him healthy and to prevent injuries.
Even if it seems that your horse is completely fit, horses are masters in hiding their discomfort and pain. That is an instinct for survival. A prey animal that shows pain is vulnerable to attacks from predators. So pay attention! If you have doubts about your way of training or the soundness of your horse; ask for advice, increase your knowledge! You know your horse best! Every small change or subtle lameness can be the start of a big problem. At the moment your horse actually gets clearly lame, rehabilitation is often possible, but then you have a long way to go.
It is my passion to help owners to regain the soundness of their horses and to make sure that their horses STAY healthy and fit. To enable a horse to perform optimally with confidence and pride. The best experience is an owner riding her horse with a big smile on her face. This usually happens when a rider experiences the feel of a light contact and the horse’s willingness to follow the rider. Only a relaxed and confident horse can show his true power. The experience of harmony between rider and horse is beyond any words. This way rider and horse benefit from the training!