I don’t know where this year has gone!! I’ve been looking back at our headline events of 2014 and I can’t believe that some of them happened months ago. We’ve had some wonderful horses through our doors and met some fabulous clients along the way. There have been some incredible results and great successes to celebrate with our connections.

This time last year I was only a few months into my new job as centre manager and so this autumn saw my first anniversary in charge come and go. In any job involving horses, I believe that you never stop learning: you will always meet one that surprises you. Hence why I’m so lucky to be surrounded by people who know so much more than I do!

My boss, Dr Kathryn Nankervis managed our centre since it opened in 1999 and grew it to what it was when I took over the reins last year. Kathryn and I still share an office and I couldn’t be without her. She always tells me to “take the emotion out of it” when I’m trying to figure out what to do in tough situations and her ability to rationalise things is incredible. I can’t thank her enough for the support she has given to me and the rest of our team during the past year.

This year has seen a huge increase in the number of horses who have come in following Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy surgery to correct kissing spines, and the results have been very promising so far. It’s really insightful for me to speak to the vets about common traits across our caseload, and one who refers to us regularly confirmed how virtually unheard of it is to find a horse with a back problem of this nature occurring in isolation to the rest of the body. Sacroilliac joint medications are regularly required post-surgery, and we find that many of these cases also require medication of at least one hock, if not both. A link between back pain and hind limb lameness is nothing new, but it will be interesting to see if further epidemiological research on this area continues to emerge in the future, particularly in light of the advancements in the options for surgical correction.

Our superstars

We have been very privileged to work with some wonderful horses during the past 12 months, and were well represented at the major championships, events throughout the spring and summer seasons, and the big international shows which came with autumn and winter. It never seems real when I see horses that we work with now (or have done so in the past) on TV – I think I’m a bit of a geek to get star struck by our four-legged clientele, but I can honestly say that that has happened to me on more than one occasion this year!

It’s not all about the high-flyers though; some of the horses who have meant the most have belonged to owners who have just wanted their best friend back on form. This year I’ve had clients in tears of joy when riding their horses again for the first time, and others who just couldn’t wipe the grin off their faces. One lady who recently took her charge home called me over the weekend: “Fizz, I’ve just ridden my horse for the first time in six months and he feels amazing! He’s so happy, so on his toes, he feels like an entirely different horse. Thank you all for everything you’ve done”. And the owners think it’s only them who cry.

This year has seen changes in our workforce also, welcoming in new staff members and saying fond goodbyes to old ones. The team I have now; Kerry-Anne, Hannah, Jess, our graduate assistant Kathryn and all of our casual students workers, are fabulous. They make my job a pleasure every day and I value them all hugely. Hopefully they know that they always have my full support – even when I’m nagging them!

FM-team

There are so many other people that we work with regularly that it’s hard to name them all, but in particular osteopath Liz Launder, who needs no introduction but so many expressions of thanks. She has been, as ever, at the heart of so many of our successful cases. Sarah Price too, along with Jim Slimmings, Kelvin Lymer and Alan Bailey have steered some fantastic results and we are always so happy to have each of them on board.

A gift of a horse

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a couple of wonderful horses of my own this year, and I head into the New Year with the lovely ex-racehorse Flaming Charlie on my hands. Great thanks to Trish and Peter Andrews, who have so generously allowed me to take him on. My great friend Alan Davies came to bash a bit of dressage diva into us last Saturday and I can’t thank him enough too for all of his help this year. He has made me ride like I never knew I could and made my legs hurt in ways they never have!

I love Christmas and am preparing to head back up to Scotland to spend some time with my family. I still get as excited as I did when I was young and love wrapping presents by the fire on Christmas Eve. I will no doubt have a glass of sloe gin thrust into my hand by my dad as soon as I step through the door – I think it’s the only time of year where my parents actively encourage me to drink!

My mum is a Macmillan nurse at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and she only has Christmas day itself off. So we have taken to descending en-mass to her and my stepdad’s house on the Sunday before Christmas. Christmas curry and lasagne is an alternative tradition true enough, but it works for us! The rest of the week will be spent between there, my dad’s house and my grandma’s also – so I get to have about three different versions of the big day! My nine-year-old niece, Shannon, is pony mad and so I’m sure there will be much updating of what she’s being doing since I last visited.

So it only leaves me to say to all of you, from all of us here, may you have the most wonderful Christmas and our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Happy Christmas from Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre team!

Fizz