‘Unrideable’ horse back in work after vets identify rare condition

  • A young horse who became “unrideable” owing to head-shaking has made a remarkable recovery to spring into the new year with a bright future ahead of him.

    Claire Holliday bought the “very sweet” Frankie as a four-year-old for dressage in 2019. The pair enjoyed their first months gelling as a partnership and enjoyed much success when they started competing together in 2020.

    “When I first saw him, he was my dream horse. To have something as special as him, that moves and is so kind-natured, was just amazing,” Claire told H&H.

    Claire Holliday and Frankie, standing in an all-weather arena

    But by the end of that first year, Frankie started showing unusual head-shaking signs, tilting his head to the left, which became worse and worse.

    “You know your horse, and you know when something isn’t right,” said Claire, adding that she and her vets “tried everything”.

    “By summer 2021, he was completely unrideable. I would be riding him and he would completely lose balance. It was dangerous. I thought I would never ride him again.”

    Claire was determined not to give up, although vets found nothing on tests, X-rays and ear scoping.

    “I decided that I was going to keep going, I knew there was something there,” she said.

    In the end, an MRI offered a glimmer of hope to finding some answers. An area of grey shadow showed up on the inside of his left ear on the scan image. He was referred to a specialist and diagnosed with chronic otitis media – inflammation of the middle ear, which is uncommon in horses.

    In March 2022, he had laser treatment, along with medication, and is now doing “really well” and “certainly a happier horse”.

    Claire is riding him again and Frankie is back to enjoying his training, as Claire eyes hopefully returning to competition when the time is right, with a view to progressing up the levels with him.

    “I really think people need to be aware of [the condition],” she said, adding that this is why she is sharing her story now. “The main thing is that he is doing really well. It’s been a long, long journey and he is a much happier horse.”

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