Horses have presented me with a variety of challenges; when things have gone wrong I have experienced stress but that's horses for you. Read about my experiences below.
My first horse was a 15.2hh thoroughbred named Sonny later renamed Honey. To give you some insight into my purchase a quote from the vetting read 'sound in body but not in mind'.
Honey turned out to be was great fun. I have fantastic memories of this quirky little horse, especially how she gave me my first experience of a true gallop. I thought I had galloped before but I quickly realised that this was not the case while charging through the field at full speed, with my eyes watering. She was certainly a handful with having severe separation anxiety. I started to realise the potential dangers when it comes to handling horses, but she taught me a lot and I discovered the special bond to be had with your horse.
The biggest problem occurred when I came to sell her. Initially it took time to find the right person as I encountered beginners, time wasters, and joy riders; and even when I thought I had finally found the right person, sadly Honey was returned within two weeks, and was not in the condition she left. With the stigma of the thoroughbred and Honey fulfilling such expectations the decision was made to retire her.
Foxelle was my second horse; a striking 16.3 bay Hanoverian mare, purchased with a view to focus on show jumping. After two weeks of ownership it became apparent that something was not quite right. She would experience a sudden onset of intense lethargy and appear to literally fall asleep. Her knees wouldn't lock so she would fall down. Her presentation baffled the vets, as most had not witnessed such symptoms before.
Over the next month she underwent investigations to explore the cause of her symptoms. In the meantime I tried to get on with things as best I could. I continued with my lessons and showed her in hand however her condition made things challenging.
Foxelle was said to have an undiagnosed neurological disorder, which cased her to collapse. She had an asymmetrical skull, which may have been linked to her problem, as this was either a developmental abnormality or an injury she incurred as a growing foal. During her collapses she was conscious so it was thought not to be narcolepsy and was suggested to be an extreme response to pain, which raised more questions. Without conducting a full body scan to investigate further, the investigations were inconclusive. I was reassured that her condition was manageable and she could live a 'normal life' however as she would fall without warning it became very dangerous. Her falls would sometimes result in injury, which was highly distressing to witness. It was upsetting to see her suffer so to my devastation I made the decision to put Foxelle to sleep.
She spent her last day grazing in the field, in the summer sun, with her companions.
I will never forget the heartbreak of catching her for the very last time and having to say my goodbyes.
R.I.P Foxelle. 'You fell asleep for the last time, sleep peacefully forever'
I purchased a stunning unbacked 16hh Han x tb youngster named Lexi and worked hard over 3 months of winter to back and break her. After implementing the necessary ground work, road work, and basic schooling I had reached my limit regarding my skills and knowledge base so I drew upon the expertise of two professionals to progress further. Their support could not have come at a better time as Lexi learnt to buck, bronc, bolt, and rear; sometimes all at once! It was then that I really learnt to ride.
When Lexi was only 4 years of age she was ready to start competing. I had a fantastic season participating in local unaffiliated dressage, working hunter, and showjumping with a goal to work towards the 'Search for a star' competition however my dreams were shattered.
Lexi started showing signs of being uncomfortable when working and although she was not at all lame vets agreed that she had an unusual gait and a shorter stride than you would expect from her breed. Veterinary investigations revealed that she had sustained a stifle injury so I made the decision to retire her as a broodmare. I was heart broken and every horse I went to try just did not match up to her. I realised that Lexi could not be replaced but I had to let go and move on.
While trying a 16.3 chestnut Irish sports to buy I found myself flying head first over the horses head. The horse had bolted towards the fence, bronced, and then put the breaks on. I had let go of the reins meaning I was falling head first, into the jump, with my arms outstretched. My left arm crumpled beneath me. I hit my head and my lower back slammed to the floor. I was taken to hospital and the x-ray revealed my arm was in five pieces so I needed surgery. The consultant said I was very lucky my radial nerve was still intact because if the shards of bone had cut it I would have lost the use of my arm. My injury required a specialist surgeon so to my dismay I had to wait until late the next day to undergo a 4 hour surgery. The prognosis was uncertain because the positioning of the metal plate was likely to restrict the movement of my elbow joint so a centimetre gap was left in the bone to avoid having to fix my arm in an 'L' shape for the rest of my life. It was later discovered that I had also broken my coccyx bone.
The injury took two years to fully heal and through physiotherapy I regained full use of my arm. I still experience pain and swelling and suffer arthritis.
I purchased an impressive, newly backed, black 17hh hunter who I named Pandora.
As I was recovering from a horse riding accident I could only manage the groundwork so my instructor schooled her until I was fit enough to get on. It was a pleasure to watch her being ridden and exciting to think I was going to be back in the saddle after a year off.
When the day came for me to hop on I got up to get my hat when she spooked. The saddle slipped and she went Rodeo. My instructor was thrown to the ground and she kicked out striking him in his chest and knocking him unconscious. The incident was terrifying. He lay there unconscious; stiff and struggling to breath. He regained consciousness as the ambulance arrived. We went to hospital to discover his ribs had been broken puncturing his lung. He also had concussion and did not have any recollection of what had happened. I was devastated that he had sustained such injuries while riding my horse and was worried about riding her myself.
My instructor recovered well and did not let his injury get in the way of his profession. He took Pandora for professional schooling to ensure that I was safe to get back on. Pandora returned to me and in no time I was back in the saddle.
Without doubt Pandora had the potential to be a top competition horse. She was enthusiastic about her work but appeared to get bored easily and be mischievous. It became apparent that working at my level of ability was no longer stimulating enough for her so following a change in personal circumstances I sold to a competition home so she could reach her full potential. She now regularly competes at dressage.
I purchased a 15.3 4 year old coloured warmblood named Ezmee. When it came to hacking she was very straight forward and mature beyond her years; nothing fazed her.
I was later told that Ezmee had started chasing people out of the field, which understandably, was causing some friction at the yard. Ezmee then started to show an unwilling attitude to work in the school. She would just stop and buck, refusing to go forward. I decided to take her back to basics. She displayed mareish behaviour when on the lunge or free schooling. She demonstrated aggression through rearing, charging, biting, and even striking out with both her front and back legs. I had experienced such outburst with other youngsters before but had not encountered a horse that did not seem to response to natural horsemanship techniques.
My only defence during the attacks was my lunge whip but making any threat would only provoke her further. As the problem escalated I was not prepared to continue without seeking professional advice. The trainer agreed Ezmee was 'not textbook' and deemed the situation to be dangerous. She advised that Ezmee would need to be professionally re-started. We discussed physical causes for her behaviour and I had Ezmee thermally scanned which highlighted abnormalities, but her challenging behaviour made it difficult to assess her movement. In the short time I had owned her I did not get out as much as I had put in. Sending her away would have lead to financial difficulty and there was no guarantee that re-starting her would eliminate the behaviour. I therefore rehomed her for re-breaking or breeding.
I did not have the finances to be able to replace Ezmee so in the meantime I was offered a horse on loan with view to buy. Having a local trial opportunity seemed flawless however the horse turned out to be a bolter and upon discussing this with others it became apparent that this horse was well known for it, so, without question I retuned the horse to the owner. Just before loading the mare, while walking her in hand, she spooked knocking me the ground. I was trampled and I cracked my rib.
Since this incident I am enjoying loaning and participating in both dressage and show-jumping lessons.
I am not on my own when it comes to horsey mishaps. The experiences I have been through are what has led me to set up positive-strides so I can help others. My education, qualifications, and training has enabled me to develop self help for horsey people and establish the Live to Ride programme. Such material is continuously being developed and improved with your help. Your feedback is therefore crucial to assist me to maintain a quality service that meets your needs so please do share your experience of positive-strides in the testimonies section.