Fulfillment in mending horses proves an unexpected pleasure

Horse trainer and rehabilitator Vicky Easterby with her horse Victor.
Horse trainer and rehabilitator Vicky Easterby with her horse Victor.
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When your surname is Easterby and your income revolves around working with horses it’s virtually impossible for others not to assume your career may have had a nepotistic leg-up somewhere along the way.

Vicky Easterby treats and trains horses. She is the eldest grand-daughter of Peter Easterby, her great uncle is Mick Easterby and her uncle is Tim Easterby. With a lineage like that her vocation was surely never in question but Vicky doesn’t take anything for granted and her achievements have come from her own effort and enthusiasm mixed with life changing moments that have moulded the person she is today.

“When I was a little girl I always said I wanted to train horses but life has a way of taking you down its path to see where it goes and I only fell into training by accident five years ago.

“My first pony was a little Shetland called Nancy who was just like you see in the Thelwell drawings and I used to feel sorry for her in the winter when it was cold, so I would bring her into our kitchen in front of the Aga to keep her warm. Mum was horrified!”

Show jumping, hunting, eventing, cross-country and point-to-point have all been disciplines where Vicky has competed. She also won county honours playing hockey and netball for Yorkshire and represented Team GB in vaulting, otherwise known as gymnastics on horseback, as a junior.

Having been educated at St Hilda’s Convent School, Vicky studied for an HND in Complementary Therapy Management at Bradford University before working as a sports injury physiotherapist on players from Leeds Rhinos, Bradford Bulls and cricket legend Brian Lara and then setting up her own beauty therapy business in Kirkbymoorside. She followed that by taking a teacher training qualification before studying equine physiotherapy in Geneva and starting up Equinenose2tail specialising in sports performance and rehabilitation in horses.

The catalyst for Vicky’s first move into training came when she went to Ireland to look at a horse that could have been destined for her cousin Jacqueline Coward, the point-to-point champion.

“Victor had loads of problems, needed physio and ended up coming to me for treatment. For various reasons he never left and became the first point-to-point horse I have owned and trained, but it was a long, hard road getting him there. When I first got him his body was in such a traumatised state that I couldn’t do more than two to three minutes of manipulation on him at a time.

“Usually I get to spend around 30-45 minutes but his muscle structure was all over the place. The more I fixed him the more broken he was because as I unravelled one problem another appeared. It took me six months to get him right as his muscles had built up in the wrong places.

“It’s like if you have a weak right shoulder you will naturally use your left shoulder more and that means the left becomes bulkier than the right as it is compensating for the weakness. You have to get rid of the compensatory sides so that you can deal with the problem that led to the weak right shoulder in the first place.

“Victor was eight-years-old at the time and horses don’t usually grow any larger from being about four-years-old but that summer he went from 15.2 to 16.2. He’d had mouth and stomach ulcers that had clearly affected his appetite.”

Having remedied his faults and now able to work with him as a racehorse Vicky trained Victor back to fitness and he ran his first race five years ago. It wasn’t a happy experience.

“He fell at the first fence. I was mortified thinking he’d broken his neck but he just got up and galloped away! It was my naivety and lack of training experience that had caused it by putting him in the wrong race, but we worked again on fixing his soft tissue and he was back racing within nine weeks. We ended up running him nine weeks out of 10, which is unheard of and his body dealt with it all. His first win was at Hexham. He likes the undulating course as he has a dust and pollen allergy and when he goes downhill he takes natural inhalation without having to put the effort in. He also prefers the left handed track.”

Vicky has trained five point-to-pointers in the past five years and would like to train more, but she also very much enjoys rehabilitating and improving the performance of any sports horses.

“If I was lucky enough to have the right horses and owners I would love take on more training roles. I fell into it by accident with Victor and it’s a real passion but so is my work in fixing horses. They are both very fulfilling jobs.”

Vicky’s 17-year-old daughter Katie is ready to follow in her mum’s footsteps and starts studying at Askham Bryan College in September.