In 2011 I was given an ex-racehorse. They say that horses come to you for a reason. That horse came to me so that Dr Kerry Ridgway would change the way I thought about whole horse health.
It turned out, that horse would also cause me to form a friendship with a man who was the most brilliant but most humble, most open minded but most knowledgeable horse professional I have ever met.
Many people have paid tribute to Dr Ridgway and his amazing work with horses since he passed away in 2016. Yet in 2012 I struggled to get 20 people to attend a 3 day clinic with him here in the UK and took a huge loss in order to meet him and see if he could help me with the racehorse.
It is testament to his brilliance that those lucky people, who attended that first clinic, went away and told their fellow equine friends. The next year 90 people were treated to a days lecture at Reaseheath College and 30 people were taught over the following two days, where Kerry talked passionately about equine laterality, equine ulcers, high heel/low heel syndrome, hyoid issues and gave me my favourite saying which is “Today’s information is quite possibly tomorrow’s misinformation”.
Kerry had a passion for life, a passion for knowledge, a passion for getting to the route of issues and a passion for whole horse health which was an inspiration to be part of. To watch him assess a horse, to then treat that horse using acupuncture and acupressure was, for me, both amazing and mind blowing.
Being quite a skeptical down to earth sort of person, to watch him locate problems in the poll of a horse and then go to the hind coronary band, swiftly insert an acupuncture needle, then see the poll issues disappear was a difficult experience to understand. I remember standing with my mouth quite literally open, jaw dropped and hitting the floor thinking it was some kind of illusion, but it wasn’t and for the horse it was clear cut; the discomfort is gone and I don’t have to react now.Remembering Dr Kerry Ridgway 'Today's information is quite possibly tomorrow's misinformation'Click To Tweet
For me, Kerry’s chest point which releases muscular and fascia tension in the shoulders, particularly the trapezius muscles, has been an enormous help when a horse is reluctant or awkward when pulling the front leg forward onto a hoof stand for rasping.
Kerry used a needle in this point but he taught us all, on that first course, to locate the correct point in the middle of the pectorals, insert a finger and use acupressure to achieve the same result as a needle. Time and again I would arrive to trim a horse, ask for the front leg to place it on the stand and either the horse would say no straight away or object by pulling the leg back or rearing. Before meeting Kerry I would either reprimand the horse or struggle on till the job was done or depending on the horse … not done.
After the first course with Kerry my first solution, for a horse who displayed discomfort with the hoof pulled forward on the hoof stand, became locating that point and applying pressure with my finger. Every single time it worked! It has never not worked when the issue has been muscular/fascia tension. Every time though I expect it not to work because I still don’t understand why it works and I still see it as slightly ‘voodoo woo woo’ stuff because that’s the kind of person I am. But every time, when the horse has willingly given me its leg after using the point, I have said out loud ‘God damn it, Kerry Ridgway I love you”
That same year Kerry helped me with the racehorse he also popped my ego bubble. I try not to have an ego. Kerry didn’t have an ego, he was a good role model for me. I used my horses during the clinic and the last horse I showed Kerry was my beautiful Chestnut Arab, CSA Mahrice who was extremely endurance fit.
For those of you who don’t know, Kerry had been a keen and very experienced endurance rider in his younger days, and had also become an FEI vet for Endurance racing. His legacy lives on in the Ridgway Test which is used to this day in Endurance vetting all over the world.
I was very proud of my horse but Kerry in the nicest possible way popped my bubble. He had talked in his lecture during the morning about horse laterality and crookedness, about horse bio-mechanics and much of it had gone over the top of my head, not because I wasn’t interested but because I didn’t know enough to know I should be interested.
There is a saying that you don’t know what you don’t know. I would add that if you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t know you need something until you know what you don’t know!
Kerry gently talked to me about the tension in my horse’s left hamstring, he showed me patiently how right fore limb dominant my horse was, he talked about the tension in the trapezius muscles and how my horse’s natural way of going and crookedness was conspiring against him so that the odds of him sustaining a ligament or tendon injury would increase over each mile we rode together.
It wasn’t something which was either easy to hear or easy to believe, as my horse had already competed in endurance rides that season and been vetted with flying colours. He didn’t push his information, he didn’t demand I do anything but he did look me in the eye and suggest I read the book written by Klaus and Gabrielle Schoeneich; Correct Movement in Horses.
When he left that first year I was popped in bubble terms but utterly inspired to do better for my beautiful horse so I bought that book and met Klaus.
What was so inspirational about Kerry was that he could have told me that his acupuncture methods would be what I needed but he recognised that his treatment was a temporary correction for a problem which was fundamentally about correct horse bio-mechanics under saddle. His techniques would help, even enhance training but they couldn’t cure unless the route cause, the incorrect bio-mechanics were addressed.
Kerry had visited the Schoeneichs in Germany and realised that their system of training horses for straightness and equal kick of both hind legs would address all the patterns of muscular tension and hypertonicity he had been treating through acupuncture. That’s pretty impressive open mindedness!
I am incredibly lucky to have had Dr Kerry Ridgway in my life and I, like many others in the horse world, will always miss him dreadfully, but he will live on in my daily life with all horses. If he is looking down on me over the rest of my life I know he will be proud that my little, project horse went to Germany to be helped further by Klaus and Gabrielle Schoeneich of the ARR Centre.
I have worked hard to improve both my riding skills and understand how to work horses in hand for straightness and correct biomechanics all because of Kerry. Because of Dr Kerry Ridgway I know what I need to know and my horses have benefitted because of this.
As for my beautiful Arabian, well he is just so much more beautiful and the little project horse continues to develop, grow blossom and have his saddle widened fro the sixth time!
My heart and sympathy still reaches out to Kerry’s family and Christine his wife who so bravely nursed him, supported him, stood by him, motivated him and fought to keep him with us so he could bless the world of horses with his amazing skills and knowledge for as long as possible.
I’ll finish with tears in my eyes and say what I always said when I said goodbye to Kerry “Kerry I love you and thank you for everything”.
Sarah Braithwaite (just an obsessed horse owner)
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