It is a very special day as it has been exactly 10 years that Acaliena came to my life - and it also happens to be her birthday! I was told she would not survive, but she is already 8 years living on borrowed time and more horse than ever. It has been an incredible 10 years that have shaped the course of my life. Acaliena breathes through me in everything I do. Our anniversary marks a time of reflection and gratitude - something I'd like you to be part of as well. Enjoy our story below and join me in celebration!
Acaliena came into my life when she was 5 years old. Little did I know that she would literally change EVERYTHING. So how did we meet? In that time, 10 years ago, I was working a student job at a local riding school. I was teaching children's lessons and in between I rode a horse of someone else for competitive dressage. All good, I was happy. The riding school needed some new horses and I heard there was a local breeder nearby who was about to quit and sell all his horses against a cheap price - riding school horses are cheap people. However, when I called, only one horse was left and by now you should be able to guess: that was Acaliena. I made an appointment. The situation was a bit sad. She was the only one left and had to live in uncertainty in a dark stable in isolation. In fact, I didn't even see here it was that dark. When she touched me with her nose I kinda felt sorry for her. The owner wanted me to jump her as he said she was a good jumping horse. However, I had zero experience in good jumping so I was a bit scared. I can only remember the feeling of pity throughout the entire visit. I thought it would be nice if the riding school would buy her and then I could help her in daily care. However, they had no interest in her. What they did offer is that if I would buy her, she could have stabling for free if I allowed her to run lessons for 3 days a week. It stuck in my head and with help of my parents, I could buy her for just €1250. So I did. Not because I liked her or because I intended to buy my own horse. After all, I was happy with what I had. Only know I can see that it was simply meant to be. As soon as I took her in, she was a nightmare. She threw off all the kids and everyone labeled her as ''difficult'' and a ''bitchy mare''. It went that bad that she'd literally didn't move for more than 2-4 steps with bucking excessively. I had zero experience with that, and after all, I didn't really consider her 'my' horse but just more of a 'pity' buy.
Then fate happened. Just two weeks after I bought Acaliena, the competition horse I
was riding suddenly died from a bad colic. He had never had any health problems and I competed him up till two days before the attack. Naturally, I was devastated and left without a horse. Since Acaliena wasn't really the dream horse for the riding school, I spent more time with her to grieve over my past horse. In a matter of time, she helped me come over my grief (such a selfish action from her as she must have suffered herself so badly from pain and discomfort). I grew closer to her, but the riding school told me she needed to 'go'. As I never intended her to my own horse, I simply did not have the money to move her elsewhere and pay monthly costs and livery fee. But letting her go?? No way. Again, with help of my parents and working on the side ALL OF MY FREE TIME I could move her to the stable close to home where I had also ridden the horse that just died. She could move into his stable.
And there the journey towards change began. Initially, I thought I could quickly bring her up to the level of my past horse so I could pick up competition again. However, she also bucked with me of course. I had blisters on my hand and often cried out I would just quit. However, somewhere in my brain I couldn't let go: why didn't she just 'do it'?
Just like most of you I first asked my riding instructor who said 'she is just naughty, ride her really fast and she will learn'. Well, that didn't work out. The next thing was to be-friend google. From the internet, I learned that I might have to consider taking her to a range of professionals such as an osteopath, veterinarian, dentist, saddle fitter etc. Okay...mmm...I didn't have the money but I also didn't have another horse. So...I worked my ass of and took a student loan. From this, I really experienced first hand that if you really want it, you will find a way because people we see are honest and willing to do that bit extra. From all these professionals, I figured out that Acaliena had many problems: high heel low heel syndrome, teeth problems, inflammation in check ligaments and really bad spinal and pelvic issues. On top of that she was also suspected of arthritis and/ or OCD [I didn't have money to get that confirmed but it was logical due to compensation] was also positively tested to insuline resistance as well. Oh and did I also say had sarcoids all fo a sudden [fully gone now though for 6 years] Yeeeey.
So then what? To me, I already put in too much effort to just put her to sleep. On the other hand, money was really tight. So I decided to not give her any medical treatment, but only went for dental work, trimming and regular osteopathy combined with laser and lymph drainage and then give her a rest of a couple of month to see what happened and that I could think as she also was a nightmare in the management as she was getting quite anxious (understandably). For example, there was this time she ran into the pile of feces and couldn't get out anymore as she didn't have grip with her legs.
I can't count the number of times I called my mom while crying. At her work they already knew 'oh is it your daughter's horse again?'.
So giving her a bit of rest seems the best option and as such I went abroad to Hong Kong as by that time I was studying Political Science and I had to do an internship. It seem like perfect timing.
When I returned after 3,5 months she seems a bit happier. But then, the worst thing happened: she got an accident and fell unto an iron plough!! The spikes fully penetrated her left hind legs and quarters. She was in incredible pain. The vets had never seen anything like it and advised to put her down on the spot - which I considered. And then, the unthinkable happend: Acaliena softly nickered to me and..PULLED HERSELF UP. What the f****????? How could she even get up with all that damage? I took it as a sign and said the vets I would give her one more day. I didn't want her suffering, but somehow, I had never felt anything this strong as her showing me she wasn't ready to die. The next morning, the same thing happened. As soon as she heard me coming, she pulled herself up with all her strength - it was obvious to see it as some of the last strength she had left. Her look in her eyes was clear: she wasn't ready to die. Not like this. Not without having known love and being understood. I heard her. I decided to listen. Not because I couldn't let her go. She was asking me not too. It wasn't her time yet.
From that moment on, I became a sponge and decided to not look for a job within political science, but to spend all my time with her. I ordered every book that I could find, watched every video available to learn more about rehabilitation and attended all courses possible.
Now, to tell you that process of finding the right way forward is too long to put in this post, but now, I can tell you we have triumphed. I made many mistakes, I chose the wrong professionals, the wrong training etc. but we have made it. Several vets said she wouldn't survive. And here she is still standing!!
As of today, she is the leader of the herd. I think she knew. I think that is why she didn't want to die yet as she is an amazing lead mare. From submissive and depressed she is truly a queen - with a lot of personality but I like that.
Because of her, I completely reschooled myself. Because of her I found my calling. Because of her I met amazing professionals such as Zefanja Vermeulen. Because of her, I am travelling the world full time. Because of her, I can prevent others the same fate. I BREATHE ACALIENA. There will never be one like her. So, on a personal note: happy anniversary Accie. I can't put into words how much I love you, but you know right?
From depressed to proud as a horse: I don't care about all our training achievements. This is what it is about!!
I am sorry in such that I couldn’t help you soon enough. The problems in your body had manifested for years before I started to recognize them. And even when I started to recognize them, I had to learn how to manage and improve, making a lot mistakes. With the knowledge and experience she taught me, I am now able to help my student’s horses to a better extent than I could ever do for her simply because I recognize things sooner and know better how to deal with them. I am sorry that nobody could help you sooner, but as a human we can only act with the knowledge and experience we have at a certain time. And therefore I am immensly greateful that you were willing to be my biggest teacher. Your lifestory and our journey is helping many other horses around the globe. How cool is that? You have been changing people’s perspective over and over again as a demo and professor horse. You let more than 60(!) people world wide practise with you.
From overweight and poor posture to standing square and looking fit
To others you might be ‘just a horse’. To me, you’re my soulmate. I also want to thanks all amazing people around me who helped alongside the journey. Her 15th birthday wouldn't be possible without you! So, see you tomorrow Accie, let's chase rainbows together and have fun!