A (livery) debt well paid!……. Beeston pony to dressage superstar!

A (livery) debt well paid!……. Beeston pony to dressage superstar!

Helen Dutton our sponsored rider has had such success with her 14 hand welshie Bobby over the last few years!  He continues to go from strength to strength, but its the back story to this unlikely dressage superstar that always makes me smile!!
So I’ll hand over to Helen to tell us how she ended up with Bobby and how she has achieved the unbelievable
“Bobby’s story starts 10 years ago when he first came to our yard as a 2 year old.  He was on DIY livery having been bought from a local dealer who had bought him through Beeston sales.
His owner was unfortunately unable to pay his bill and it was agreed that Bobby would be payment for that amount.  I had recently moved from ponies to horses and wasn’t overly keen on the idea of him but went along with it. He needed time to grow and mature so he was turned away for a year or so.
When it was time to back him we realised it was going to be tricky.  He was wild to handle,  untouchable with brushes,  rugs and petrified of everything.  I clearly remember telling my mum that ‘as soon as I’m in that saddle this pony’s going to kill me’ slowly but surely we began to win his trust but it took nearly 6 months to be able to get on him.
To ride he was very ordinary, but well behaved and honest.  He had a small walk,  a rather wooden trot, no medium trot whatsoever and a flat out canter with no real clear rhythm, he almost trotted behind. A notorious local judge referred to him as ‘your pony that can’t canter’ and was quite sure he never would. But under all this he had a lovely trainable mind and was a brilliant hack.
He competed at prelim level gaining low to mid 60% scores and did a prelim regional coming second to last with 58% having done nothing wrong but that’s just what he got. After this he was put up for sale, a few people came but decided he wasn’t for them.
I carried on with his training and from here everything started to change,  he began to get stronger and more balanced. His became more powerful and his scores improved.  We went to regionals one year later again at prelim and he won!! From that day there was no stopping him, that result gave me confidence and belief that judges could take him seriously.
He moved through novice and elementary, after winning the novice national championships Trailblazers finals.
Each time he started at a new level his scores would dip a little for a while until he was more confident. Soon he was winning most times out,  still becoming stronger and more established but still only schooled about once a week and hacked and jumped the rest of the time. That’s just what worked for him. Medium became his most successful level, he loves the challenge but it does require him to be schooled 2-3 times a week so he has the fitness and strength but he’s more that happy.
If he ever struggles to learn a new movement I tend to teach him it when we are out hacking.  He did his first flying changes on the beach.
He has won 4 regional championships, 2 reserve regional championships, 2 area festivals and qualified  for the Nationals or Area festival finals a total of 13 times from prelim through to advanced medium.  Culminating in his 3rd place at the Nationals this year at medium level which was beyond anything I could have hoped for. 
I hope to carry on training him through to PSG level, the most amazing thing about him is he never stops trying and is still getting better with every training session,  there’s nothing he isn’t willing to try.  His attitude has allowed training to make his basic paces into big horse-like paces and movements that were totally unnatural to him are now second nature.
Some things will never change, he is still awful to clip, will knock you into next week if he’s scared and at shows he’s known as the high maintenance child. No one wants to hold him because he’s so rude and boisterous. If he was 17hh it wouldn’t be funny but he’s just such a lovely person and tries so hard for me in the arena that he can get away with it.
I’m very proud of our relationship,  he has taught me what you can achieve with patience, trust and partnership. And that any horse at all can be successful with training. He has made so many dreams come true and I will be forever grateful to him for that.  He’s my horse of a lifetime and I adore him.”
More than just the ‘Back Lady!’

More than just the ‘Back Lady!’

New clients often ask what a Physio assessment consists of, so I thought it might be beneficial to tell anyone who doesn’t know…

As Physiotherapists in the human world we routinely work on restoring function, whether that be in an elite athlete with an acute knee injury wanting to return to high level sport , or an elderly patient that is struggling to get up from a chair, the clinical reasoning is the same, assess, identify potential problems, formulate a treatment plan and treat accordingly. Treating horses is very similar by observing and palpating the animal the problem list can be formulated specific to the needs of that animal – a veteran hacking horse will not need to be rehabilitated to the same level as a top level eventer,  But this isn’t to say that the end goal is any less important to either animal, or owner.

Of course the obvious difference between my human and equine clients is that only one species can tell me where the pain is located!  Although saying that we cannot discount the important information we can gain from the owners or riders of the animal.

I start by getting a full subjective assessment on the horse, in basic terms this means that I ask about the horse’s problems, medical history, routine, ridden work, general behaviour, diet, saddle, feet and dentistry!  Have there been any changes to the animals husbandry however subtle?

Observations.

We then look at the horses comformation, looking at how the horse is put together, length of neck, back and hindquarters, leg correctness, general muscle tone ‘topline’ and abdominals. Here I am observing for any asymmetry and/or muscle atrophy.  This can be one shoulder ‘built up’ more than the other, muscular imbalance over the hindquarters or a subtle difference in bony landmarks in the pelvis.

Gait Assessment

Seeing the horse move is imperative to the assessment.  Here I look at walk and trot in hand, rein back, small tight circles, I will sometimes see the horses on the lunge, and even ridden if needed – here I’m looking for track up, lameness, and general straightness.  The ability for the horses to move freely through their back and use their hind-quarters effectively.

The ability for a horse to use itself correctly is very important for soundness, are the hind quarters active? does the horse move on two tracks or three? is the horse able to cross over with his hind limbs on a small circle, or is there a restriction in the cervical, thoracic or hind quarters affecting this? looking at quality of movement is the key here – exactly the same as in our human work, pain and restriction results in minor compensation in the way out bodies function, identifying these compensations, however small can be key to keeping your horse fit and functioning at the intended level.As Physiotherapists in the human world we routinely work on restoring function, whether that be in an elite athlete with an acute knee injury, or an elderly patient that is struggling to get up from a chair, the clinical reasoning is the same, assess, identify potential problems, formulate a treatment plan and treat accordingly.  Horses as very similar by observing and palpating the animal the problem list can be formulated specific to the needs of that animal – a veteran hacking horse will not need to be rehabilitated to the same level as a top level eventer,  But this isn’t to say that the end goal is any less important to either animal, or owner.

Palpation

Next is palpation of soft tissue from head to tail -looking for pain, spasm or tension.  Touch is such an important part, this is where I find my human training invaluable, being able to feel subtle changes in the tissues is vital for deciding the plan of action when it comes to treatment!

Then I look at range of movement of the head and neck, thoracic and lumbar spine, forelimbs and hindlimb – looking for quality of movement, symmetry or pain in the joints and any restriction in range of motion.  Horses as very good at compensating, I often find the most ‘bendy’ horses actually lack movement in specific directions, carrot stretches are great….but horses know how to cheat, lifting legs, snatching or twisting through their necks to achieve the goal of the treat!

Saddle

I then check the saddle, I can normally get an idea of the saddle fit by the palpation of the soft tissues around where the saddle sits! I do not confess to be a saddle fitter! But I am competent through training with the ‘Society of Master Saddlers’ to tell whether the saddle needs addressing urgently, believe it or not I see a whole host of the good, the bad and the ugly out there! and you have to remember that horses change shape…. a lot! How would you like to wear a pair of shoes 2 sizes to small?   Saddle fit IS important, and the days of one saddle fits all are long gone,

From ALL this I then formulate an individual problem list, treatment plan and set goals for any rehab that is needed or that specific horse….
Then treat the horse accordingly!

Basically a thorough assessment of the whole body to highlight any current or potential issues!

And you thought the Physio was just ‘the back lady!’

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