NHS Key Worker Karen Barnet taking her care to Maisie, her horse, an ongoing story of success.
This month I am going to tell the story so far about a horse riding friend and client of mine who is a frontline NHS, District Matron. Her name is Karen Barnett. I met Karen at a talk I was giving on behalf of that wonderful group of people over at The Mid Cheshire Bridleways Association, about 18 months ago. Karen came to me and told me she was having issues with her confidence when riding Maisie, her 13 year old Cob cross mare. The story is of how Karen is extending the wonderful help she gives to people in the community to her horse. It is a grand project.
The first thing I did was ride Maisie to assess how much confidence she had in herself. Once I established that Maisie had more mental strength than she was showing I knew we could progress things with Karen too. Maisie was prone to arching her back and bucking but was otherwise well behaved. She did not use her left hind leg properly either. However Maisie felt sound to me.
The physical issue for Maisie.
Maisie had a tendency to under use her left hind leg and this was one cause of her lack of willingness to go forward calmly. When asked to lengthen her stride she became tense. She was a little crooked at times, and it was an ongoing challenge to straighten her way of going out, once we had established that issue. The leg felt stiff to me rather than injured in any way. However, with Karen being totally committed to Maisie and her welfare we agreed it would be a good idea to have her checked by a vet. So this was completed and the Vet basically agreed we could carry on with the programme we had with a trace of caution concerning the left hind, which we had already figured out but it was grand to have a second professional opinion. It was also immediately apparent when I watched Karen riding Maisie that she was being pushed to the right side of Masies’ back and drawing her left leg up. Horses do this to protect themselves, however sometimes they need to work certain limbs, particularly, when ridden in order to improve. This had to be sorted out as it was not doing the left hind any good as it was not working correctly, was only going to get stiffer and it was also causing discomfort to Karen and having a bad effect on her position. This was only going to make things even worse for them both if we did not fix it.
The mental side of things for Maisie
As with a lot of horses when confidence is an issue I can lean on my training of young nervous police horses over many years as well as my private work with horses that need a boost to make progress. When I assessed Maisie she did have a worry about certain things. Cows in fields were one, flapping things on windy days were another, however there was one thing about Maisie that gave me hope. Whilst she was and in fact still is a horse that can worry these worries can be significantly improved by the confidence of the rider and the application of certain riding skills.
Physical and mental issues for Karen combined.
As can be seen in the picture Karen was sitting in a position that was not level or balanced and this was undoubtedly leading to a number of issues, one of which was pain on Karens’ left side in her leg and pelvic areas. This is where Karen who is an extremely dedicated, intelligent and caring NHS professional was being a little too proactive, in the wrong way. It was obvious Karen was brave and committed but this was sending a mixed message to Maisie. Basically Karen was raising her left knee, twisting her upper body, leaning forward and putting herself into an braced position. Maisie was clearly beginning to realise that when Karen adopted this position something was going wrong or was about to go wrong. It was like an early warning by Karen to herself but also to Maisie. It was as if Karen was saying ‘brace for impact’ but Maisie was not sure what if anything was the problem but went with the script being set so joined in with the fear and tension. It wasn’t good. It is important to emphasise here that Karen had suffered an horrendous fall from Maisie in the past. The fall resulted in Karen suffering a fractured pelvis, three broken ribs and two herniated discs. Yet here was this lady not only prepared to give things another go. Now what I will say is that Karen tells me off if I refer to her as a hero. She is a hero in my estimation for two reasons. Not just to the people she helps with such unswerving commitment in her professional role but also to Maisie. To support and help somebody who has suffered such terrible injuries and to carry on regardless is certainly something for me that is both a privilege and an honour. That’s all I am saying or Karen will tell me off. Such a modest caring woman.
Where we are up to today.
Being an intelligent and focussed professional Karen set out on this project with clear, achievable objectives in mind. My orders were… ‘Brian sort out my riding and I want my confidence back’… which is grand with me because all riders should have clear, achievable goals. Honesty goes a long, long way with me and riders often lack honesty with themselves, this can happen at all ability levels too, interestingly. Honesty gives clarity and makes for a lack of confusion. Clarity promotes clear thinking and supports focused, educated concentration, qualities Karen always had in abundance, things just needed a tweak.
So over the months we have worked on Karens’ skillset as a rider, with a specific focus on the skills that will assist Karen in sending positive message to herself as well as Maisie. Karen even had a major health scare recently, which has now passed thankfully but we stayed positive and whilst Karen was unable to ride I did some schooling on Maisie to keep things ticking over. Karens’ improvement has, in all honesty been transformational.
In the second positional picture it is clear to see how much more level Karen is sitting. This has taken time and a lot of effort. The importance of maintaining a much better and still improving position is that it sends a critical key signal to Maisie that Karen is comfortable and in a position to maintain control, with physical and mental balance when things go wrong. One massive goal for Karen has been not to just ride out again along the highways of Cheshire but to do so with confidence in three crucial aspects of her riding; one, Karen’s self belief in her much improved riding abilities, two, the confidence this gives to Maisie and three, to do it when things become a little more challenging when the are out and about hacking. Just last Sunday Karen hacked out with Maisie on her own and it went extremely well. What a brave lady, a grand horse and a wonderful shared achievement, all set against the backdrop of Karens’ tireless and totally committed work to her community as a district Matron, we, in the horse world should be proud of what one of our own has achieved here, as should the NHS, to have such a person within their ranks. What a comeback.