Around the Water Trough

Pivot Point

Shannon Habenicht

In 2018, I suffered a pretty bad fall where I lost consciousness. I still don’t actually recall what happened that day. My head injury had been severe, landing me in the neuro ICU on a ventilator. After months to heal, I had been back in the saddle for months, focusing on my flatwork, and was making great headway with my horse. I played around with some small cross rails at home and things were feeling really good. I planned to enter my first event in late Spring and leave my head injury in the past. I scheduled my first jump lesson and looked forward to stepping back into competing.

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At the lesson, I felt my heart in my chest; I was scared of the jumps before me. All at once, I realized that the process of healing my mind and confidence would be a longer process than the physical healing of my brain and fractures. For years, I had been fearless, riding everything from wild mustangs to OTTB’s. Now I hit the panic button looking at the 2’ jumps before me on a horse I knew well.

I finished most of the jumps that day, but I couldn’t let go of the fear of falling. I attempted another jump lesson and stopped early, in tears. A pivot point. A time to reassess what brought me joy in riding, and a letting go of time frames and expectations. I didn’t want to feel old and unstructured, without goals and plans of my next event, to be without the adrenaline of the next big jump. I wanted to finish the story with a win, more events under my belt, another level conquered.

Part of my past I had kept with me, the horse I rode on the day I fell. I have no memories of what happened, or even the days thereafter. I had so wanted to come full circle and for him to be my competitive horse. I sold him. I had never been extremely confident jumping my other horse, despite his saintly nature. I sold him as well, starting new. I changed the ending of my story but it ended well, I’m still in the saddle and I’m still in one piece.

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I’ve worked with a rescue called Helping Equines Regain Dignity (HERD) for the past two years. They save horses from kill pens and do everything necessary to make sure they land in great homes. Part of the process is providing training, so that they have the best opportunity possible to find a great home. To date, I’ve trained and re-homed 10 HERD horses, with more to come. Giving them their second chance has given me my second chance to find a horse that can carry me down the road to finding my confidence again.

Instead of planning my next competition, I’m planning my next horse adventure. A weekend in the mountains with my HERD horses and friends. A ride on the next OTTB that just left the track, landed in a kill pen and needs a walk in the woods. A trek through the water complex on a 3-year-old that needs to learn to walk through water. A jump lesson over the tiniest course of cross rails so that I can feel fearless for a moment and end on a successful note.

Don’t rush. Success is enjoying the moment and the process. Despite some twists in the plot, keep writing your story. Embrace the pivot point.

Align Your Spine

Shannon Habenicht

By Dr. Beth Harrill

Photo by Kirsten LaChance

Photo by Kirsten LaChance

With the Spring competitive season at its peak, we invest hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars to ensure that our horses feel and perform at their best. They are our everything. We give 110% to ensure their well-being and success. Our best horses get PEMF and chiropractic on Fridays, 5 SmartPak supplements daily, hock injections every 6-12 months, saddle fitting every 6 months, and sports a $175 set of shoes that wear out every 5 weeks. Meanwhile, we were bucked off last Tuesday, have weekly migraines, and suffer from sciatica that feels like a freight train just ran us over. No worries - we can still muck 10 stalls a day, unload the 100 bales of hay that just arrived and ride the 4 horses waiting on us in the barn!

We rarely look back and consider the effects that our body, its position on their back, and our structural inequalities have on our trusted mounts. Self-care is limited to a La Croix in one hand and a bottle of ibuprofen in the other. Just how much does your lack of investment in self-care affect your horse?

We seek balance, straightness and symmetry from our horses with every ride. In many cases, it is the rider that needs spinal balance and structural care to help achieve these goals. When accounting for mass, acceleration and gravity, we can impose quite an uneven load on our horses when our weight shifts even a few inches away from center. Problems such as one leg feeling shorter than the other, poor posture, uneven pelvis/hips/shoulders, head or shoulder tilt to one side, and muscle weakness/spasm significantly increase the likelihood that we’re at least partially to blame for our horse’s lack of symmetry. Falls compound these problems and leave us with even more imbalance.

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The soundness of our bodies affects the quality of our function. Chiropractic care examines the structure of your spine and extremities for misalignment and imbalance and works to correct these problems through chiropractic adjustments. This allows us to ride more effectively and not cause the horse underneath us undue stress and discomfort.

Pain is easily downplayed and pushed through but it is always the body’s way of asking for help. Misalignments in the spine are frequently the cause of headaches, neck and low back pain, sciatica, and numbness/tingling in our hands. Chiropractic adjustments work as the magic eraser of pain. By fixing the structural problem, the problems such as pain and muscle spasms go away.

As we’re scheduling appointments for our horses to get top notch care, let’s not forget ourselves. The struggles we have with getting the perfect bend on a 20 meter circle or a right lead change in stadium may be more on us than our horses.


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Dr. Beth Harrill is a 2011 graduate of Sherman College of Chiropratic. Dr. Harrill provides hands on chiropractic care to equestrians and athletes of all ages at her office in Matthews, Grant Chiropractic. Additionally, she owns Mobile Chiropractic of the Carolinas, and travels to many local barns, equestrian events, and businesses to provide care. If she is within sight, it is likely she has an adjusting table in tow!

Grant Chiropractic – 704-845-5150
 Mobile | Chiropractic of the Carolinas – 864-457-6990