The Horse That Broke Two Legs
by 3-Star Parelli Professional Zoe van Kruiningen Coade
In the early summer of 2013 Zoe discovered the devastating news that her horse (Mia) had broken her left hind leg, literally having snapped off a piece of her knee bone. During the recovery process Mia also fractured her right front hoof from over compensating her weight to let the left hind leg heal.
Check out this informative interview with Zoe about her book where she shares her personal story of the process and all the elements leading up to how this event unfolded in the hope to help and inspire others, in one way or another.
The book is obviously very personal, how has this affected you in your everyday life with and around students and their horses?
Positively, you know it is one thing for people to know something and create and make their own ideas of how something happened, but to give them the information first hand was quite therapeutic in its own right. It is also very unusual for a horse to have such extensive injuries and still be here today. It has helped many of the people I interact with on a daily, weekly or monthly basis understand that you have to work for the things you want. If you let somebody tell you no or that what you are doing is not right, you will never be your own person or have your own life experiences and opinions. It is not easy, but it is also not as difficult as our minds can lead us to believe and the book focuses a lot on that too and not just the accident.
You mention very clearly that the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program is one of the reasons Mia is still here today, can you elaborate?
You know it is funny how things work out sometimes, simply because you never know what you know until you know it and you know what you don’t know when you know it! You hear Pat and Linda phrase this in many shapes and forms all of the time. I knew when I started the program that it was going to set me up for many things, especially with this particular horse. She was not easy in character and is what I like to call one of the special few who had enough confidence and self-preservation to say no when she did not like or understand something. It is very different today because we have matured into the promise of the program but sometimes you can see her old character mildly pop up in the presence of people who know no different.
Most horses that have to go on rest for long periods and especially in isolation have troubles simply because the environment and the people handling them have an attitude that does not necessarily match the horse’s needs. The first thing the Parelli Program teaches you is to have the correct attitude and constantly remind you that they are indeed horses and not humans. I state clearly in the book that if we treat an animal that is sick, like it is sick and especially like it is a human baby that is sick, you are only asking for trouble. The fact that we were already quite far in our education helped immensely, but one of the things that stood out the most for me was that if she had half as many troubles with a human’s questions and suggestions during the accident as she had in the past, she would surely not be with us anymore. I made some mistakes sure, but I had a way to bring myself back from a path of almost self-destruction by following what the program taught me. She had also learned how to become a great puzzle solver and what is equally as important is that she knew that she was allowed to solve them. I observed her do this during the most difficult of situations and come out of it feeling successful, knowing that I knew she knew that I knew.
If we think about the genius behind the Seven Games* and especially the first three, the primary games, and get to the point where we understand the why and not just the how it can already explain a lot of what made this story a success. With that said if all horsemen and women could also understand that if they really win the first three games and I mean really put them to use in their daily communications with the horse, you will find you do not need much else; also because the final four games are advancements of the first three. The secret is to not just practice them when you go to the round coral or only when you put that halter on, or only today, because today you are going to practice Parelli.
Can you give some examples of how the Seven Games helped?
There are many of course but some examples that stick the most in my mind were times like the day I had to trailer her to the vets because she was so incredibly lame and we did not really know that her leg was broken so badly yet; she let me help her on to the trailer using the Porcupine Game, lead-by-the-leg*. In Europe most of the trailers are one way in and one way out, where the horse goes in forwards and has to reverse out. She allowed me to help her lead her legs to secure her footing both into and out of the trailer, it was incredibly moving!
Another time was leading her out of her stable which I must mention at this stage in the process she had not left, not even for a minute, for three whole months and loaded straight into a trailer as if she did it only the day before, calmly, connected and responsive. How was this possible? I believe it was the first three games and a mutual understanding. She also knew what I needed from her because my attitude* projected that to her and nothing else.
Also visiting the veterinary practice meant she had to stand in a stock and to get in there she had to walk forwards about three meters into a very small and claustrophobic room and then maneuver a sharp right sideways into the stock. If it were not for the Porcupine and Driving Games*, this would have been a struggle for sure, not forgetting to mention the Squeeze*.
Finally, at various check-ups during and since the rehabilitation process, the veterinarian has to see the horse lead in walk and trot on straight lines on hard ground and in circles on hard and soft ground. This of course is part of the program and I saw the vet in question scratch his head a few times in disbelief at how we could do that with almost invisible aids and no voice ques.
The head vet told somebody once ‘she is small girl, with a big horse and I don’t know how she does it, but the horse cooperates with her on another level’!
Wow, that’s pretty amazing and how is Mia today?
I am incredibly proud to report she is fully recovered and back in play and work. I would also like to say much better than before simply because I am always learning and am better than I was before. Mia is a suitable Finesse* horse; she is so very big, powerful and impressive. The information that Linda is constantly sharing with us to get dressage back on its feet and preserve the horse’s dignity is a big part of our continued rehabilitation. The Finesse Training Sequence has been the stepping stones for this horse’s success and as we move onto more collected exercises I always keep that old fracture in mind. By that I mean that gymnastics and keeping the surrounding tissue strong and healthy is paramount and exercises like backwards, sideways and a Million Transitions* have also been a big key in this too. The x-rays look incredibly positive but there is no way of knowing how strong the bone that grew back really is. But if there is one thing for sure, I think Mia knows; sometimes she will have a playful jive, buck and a kick showing her airs and graces with pleasure and I think if that bone was weak, she just would not do that.
There was unfortunately one set-back where in 2015 she was diagnosed with Cushing’s also known as (PPID) Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction which is a disease that creates a hormone imbalance in the brain. The diagnostic tools for this disease is so advanced today, even compared to three years ago that we should now be able to breed it out of horses, instead of breeding it into them. Some new research today also shows that the disease can be triggered by stress, so if that is true it makes a lot of sense. There are many symptoms of Cushing’s disease and not just a curly coat as it is mostly commonly known. The plus side is that managed with a good diet, exercise and some medication she leads a pretty normal life.
What are your future plans?
Apart from sharing Mia’s story and writing a further three books about our friend the horse, I look forward to continuing our education and I hope to join Linda again at a Master Class somewhere in the near future. There are somethings we will never be able to do together again like show jumping and long distance trail rides but as for the rest she can pretty much do everything and it is more rewarding than ever before. I am also developing my younger horse and have plans to ride with Pat at least two times this year.
More information about the book can be found here:
Currently there is a paperback and eBook available in most countries on Amazon and you can view pictures and see updates at:
The book will be available in both Dutch and German this summer!
*If you want to learn more about the following topics that Zoe mentioned in this blog, and you are already a Savvy Club member, sign in then find these lessons by going to your Dashboard and then following this pathway:
Seven Games: Level 1 On Line The Seven Games: Principle and Purpose Games lesson
Lead by the Leg: Level 2 On Line Porcupine Game: Lead by the Leg lesson
Attitude: Level 1 On Line Theory: Keys to Success lesson
Driving Game: Level 1 On Line Driving Game: lessons 1 – 5
Squeeze Game: Level 1 On Line Squeeze Game: Squeeze Game lesson
Finesse: Level 3 Finesse Theory: lessons 1 – 4
Million Transitions: Level 3 FreeStyle Improving Patterns: Million Transitions lesson
If you are not a Savvy Club member yet and would like to be a part of the world’s leading horsemanship education community CLICK HERE to sign up! Need a little more information? Visit SavvyClubInfo.com to learn about member benefits and features within the Savvy Club then come back here and use Zoe’s link to sign up!