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It's been a long journey but Joe's now a real star; Horse overcomes multiple problems and disappointments.

Byline: Anna Harris annagharris@gmail.com

AHORSE with an 'incurable' condition has defied the odds to go on and win a major championships and become a Pony Club star.

Purchasing ProJo as a four-year-old in 2010, Barbie Clarkson, from Elrington near Hexham in Northumberland, rode him twice before prolonged snow forced a lay-off.

But when she brought him back into work, he was always a little inconsistent and so began a six-year journey that was to encompass both the despair of a very poor prognosis and finally, the elation of qualification for the BE100 Misubishi Motors Cup at Badminton and a team win in the Pony Club Eventing Championships.

By ProSet, the eyecatching and athletic 17hh gelding, who is known as Joe at home, started displaying subtle problems when he was brought back into work as a five-year-old.

Barbie said: "Joe seemed always to be a little bit 'on and off',' never nasty or difficult, but a bit nappy or grumpy, although we couldn't work it out and thought perhaps that as a rising fiveyear-old coming back into work he was testing our patience.

"However he progressed to 'planting', so we started to think about pain, but still weren't sure; was he just being a bit difficult? We thought about gastric ulcers and he was affected, so treated, after which we expected his behaviour to improve, which it did a little. So we got going and even did a little bit of eventing.

"He was always happy to jump, but on the flat found it difficult to produce power. When he was six in 2013, we had started novice level eventing, were doing novice level dressage and had even done a few elementary tests, but he never progressed as expected and things 'sneaked up' on us over time."

It was the following year, in 2014, that the situation started to slide further. Barbie had planned to do three BE100s before progressing to Novice level. But bad weather meant that a number of events were cancelled, and their first run ended up being at novice level. The show jumping was on long, lush, wet grass and Joe said 'no' for the first time, resulting in the pair being eliminated.

Barbie said: "We came home and two days later we had a session with my dressage trainer. She eventually said - 'he's not sound behind', but I couldn't feel it. She said she'd watched him many times in training and had thought there was 'something' for a while, but couldn't pinpoint it.

"Our vets nerve blocked him and confirmed lameness in both hind legs. So he had around eight weeks off, because there was no obvious sign of anything wrong.

"At that time I really didn't want to know my very lovely horse was lame and maybe would be written off like others before him!

"The rest didn't work and back in work, he was quite difficult, so we did a 'bute test and he was fine, which confirmed a pain issue and the investigations became more serious. "An MRI scan revealed a problem with his suspensory ligaments, high up in both hind legs, where the ligaments attached onto the hock, but without external swelling or heat. Conformation was not the reason, treatment options were limited and he ended up having the whole of his seven-year-old year off."

With Barbie being advised that the conventional veterinary options of shock wave treatment or surgery were unlikely to be successful, she turned to a new treatment offered by ArcEquine - micro current therapy. She said: "We talked about ArcEquine as we'd got to the point where there were no other options, and started using an ArcEquine unit during a 10-week period of box rest.

Walking him out started at week two - initially for 10 minutes a day - but Joe was terrifying and eventually I started to ride my daughter's pony and lead him on a chifney, which worked because whenever Joe misbehaved, the pony would bite him, which gave me control!

"We broadly followed the ArcEquine rehabilitation plan and built the walking up to 30 minutes daily before I got back on. He has benefited from use of the ArcEquine unit ever since and fortunately we have never looked back and not had another major injury."

The following season as an eightyear-old the pair only did flatwork and dressage competitions, and he was hacked out at home.

"We were really careful and paranoid about everything to do with his limbs; he became a proper diva! When you're on that 'last chance' kind of thing, it was all about keeping him properly fit, getting him to carry himself properly, whilst ensuring he was never overusing any particular structure in his body," said Barbie.

"As a nine-year-old we progressed to doing a BE90 to test whether he would be sound! He was very silly, loved his jumping and it told me he was still keen for the job and really happy. He was sound the next day and stayed sound.

"It wasn't until 2016 when Joe was 10 that I thought I would try out a little more, but not until I knew the ground was going to be OK. I planned not to do many events, but following preseason training with Blyth Tait, at which we ended up jumping 1.30m despite my slight lack of confidence, then a confident cross country session with Les Smith over novice fences, we decided to start at BE100. We finished fourth, so he was definitely back.

"I was very careful all season, using iced boots to cool his ligaments along with the ArcEquine after every event and for maintenance each month. We had three novice runs and as I messed up, not him, we had no novice points and were still therefore eligible for the BE100 Misubishi Motors Cup Regional Final, which I entered.

"That event was at Aske Hall and the ground was appalling. Jumping in 'clart' and slippery conditions is horrible and you just get to know over the years that there are too many things you can break in a horse for no reason and you don't want to risk them. Fortunately, none of that happened and amazingly, we qualified for Badminton!" However that wasn't to be, as a freak accident lunging a client's horse resulted in Barbie fracturing her elbow. But when Barbie's daughter's horse Henry started to suffer from Hard Ground issues in July, Georgina took over the ride and Joe was an absolute star!

Barbie said: "Earlier in the year she had ridden him in the National Schools Eventing Association (NSEA) eventing at Northallerton and won the 100 section. That was their very first event together.

"She was then selected for our South Northumberland Pony Club 100 team with him - fortunately they'd done their three mandatory qualifying rallies over the winter! She ran him at Warwick Hall for a quick practise run before the Pony Club Areas there in June - and was placed again. At the Areas, the team only made it into second place but the National Championships held at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire is a different ballgame and the experience of all our riders came through to make them unbeatable, whichever combination of scores were used.

"In amongst all that, Georgina and Joe also qualified for the Pony Club Open Dressage at the Championships as individuals and finished 5th in their arena, following it up with a 5th in the Elite dressage competition too, riding the British Dressage Medium 73 test.

Following the Pony Club Championships they went on to do their first British Eventing novice together at Richmond and finished well for a first run with a qualifying score towards the BENU18 Championships for next year.

"I never thought Joe would become a Pony Club boy, let alone go to the National Championships and put Georgina on the podium but he loved his week in Cheshire. It was great compensation for the loss of my Badminton run but I think I may have to let Georgina continue to event him for me as she's doing such a great job!"

We were really careful and paranoid about everything to do with his limbs; he became a proper diva!Barbie Clarkson

CAPTION(S):

Georgina Clarkson and ProJo, who has battled back from an 'incurable' condition Pam Harrison
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2017
Words:1384
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