8 months ago, Jane Jennings was desperately researching why SF Vancouver II had started demonstrating symptoms similar to head shaking. The beautiful bay warmblood, nicknamed “Teddy,” was only eight years old. Despite the odds, on July 23rd, 2023, Jane and Teddy finished on their dressage score to win the Novice division at the Eventing Academy at Stable View.
Head shaking is a frustrating condition that is still not well understood and is difficult to diagnose. It can have a serious impact on the horse’s quality of life. Teddy wasn’t just head shaking under saddle, he was also shaking his head while in his stall and paddock. According to the UC Davis Center for Equine Health, “Research performed at UC Davis confirmed the involvement of the trigeminal nerve, a large nerve that runs across the face. In affected horses, this nerve has a very low threshold for activation, meaning that it fires spontaneously or with minimum stimulus. This causes the horse to experience tingling, itching, or burning sensations.”
As a dedicated horse mom, Jane started researching how she could help Teddy.
“Head shaking can be a very debilitating situation. It was clear there was something wrong and it was getting progressively worse. So, I tried a nose net and different bits, bridles even riding at different times of day and weather conditions trying to figure out if his hyper-sensitivity was related to light/shadows or even insects. My equine dentist performed a thorough exam, but we couldn’t find any answers. I went through the whole gamut researching online constantly, trying to figure out what could be causing this,” Jane said. “My equine acupuncturist, Shelly Onderdonk, suggested that it was time to pull out the big guns. So, I made the decision to bring him to Tryon Equine Hospital.”
After a full workup with Dr. Emilie Setlakwie at Tryon, the team made the decision to bring Teddy to Dr. Amy Johnson at the New Bolton center to get a robotic CT scan. Getting a CT scan of a horse is no small feat; only a few top veterinary centers in the country have the equipment necessary for the procedure. It requires general anesthesia and comes at great cost to the owner. Still, Jane was unperturbed. Her willingness to go the extra mile for Teddy paid off. After four months of trying, he was diagnosed with a deep inner ear infection called Otitis Interna. While a very rare condition for horses, symptoms can include head shaking, head tilting, and a lack of balance to name a few. Drs. Johnson and Setlakwie put Teddy on a four-month course of strong antibiotics.
“Slowly but surely, his whole personality changed,” Jane said. “He’s now affectionate. He’s still a little cautious, but he wants to be loved now. He’s more engaging and he’s such a sweet horse.”
Once Teddy was back at the top of his game, he and Jane tackled the Novice division at the Eventing Academy. Jane says that it was the perfect event to get her and Teddy back in the swing of things. The Eventing Academy follows a unique format that allows horses and riders to school the cross country course on Friday, school stadium or dressage on Saturday, and then compete on Sunday. The format is perfect for green horses and riders and allows competitors to get their horses used to the atmospheric venue before the pressure of competition day. For Teddy, it was the perfect way to re-introduce him to competition after eight months off and a four-month course of life-changing antibiotics.
“Teddy schooled the cross country course on Friday, and on Saturday I did the stadium round. And then on Sunday he did the actual event,” Jane recounted. “So it was fun. It was a good outing. It was a good test to see where he was at, if he was ready for the level. It’s just nice to get out and practice and see where the horses are at. It’s a really nice format for horses that are coming back from a little bit of a rest.”
Competing at Stable View’s Eventing Academy wasn’t just about bringing Teddy back into work. Jane says that she also goes to the Eventing Academy to support increasing accessibility to the sport for new riders. “It’s less expensive than a traditional recognized event and whenever people can save a little bit of money, it absolutely helps introduce new riders to the sport,” Jane said.
The Eventing Academy doesn’t feel like an unrecognized or starter event, in either appearance or difficulty. “The courses are decorated really nicely,” Jane said. “It’s very well-maintained and manicured. And the courses are definitely up to level. So if you’re out there schooling at training, the training level course really feels like a true training level course.”
Despite the beautiful decorations, true-to-level divisions, and atmospheric venue, Jane says that she still feels the Eventing Academy is extremely welcoming to all levels of horse and rider. On cross country schooling day, you can expect to see some riders with trainers clustered around specific fences, while others will be riding the full course and calling out fences as they go. While it sounds chaotic, Jane says it really doesn’t feel frenetic.
“You definitely see all levels, and you have to remember that it’s training level and below. You’ll have your very inexperienced green horse and rider combinations there with their coaches on the ground,” Jane said. “This is a great way for people to learn about the rules of eventing. So, as experienced riders, we all support the lower level riders.”
Jane bought her farm in Aiken in 2016, but has been coming to the area since 2007 and has been actively involved in the local eventing community. She runs a boutique equine sales business and also offers training and boarding at her facility. As a long-time competitor at Stable View, the venue plays a large role in her competition season. “I can’t imagine this eventing community without Stable View,” Jane said. “Barry has done such a great job promoting the sport and offering a world class facility for horses and riders.”
Jane and the resilient Teddy have big plans for the future. “I’m very happy and thrilled with Teddy’s recovery and subsequent win at Stable View,” Jane said. “So the Eventing Academy was a good little test and then if things continue to go well, then we’ll move back up to training level. I’ll just keep continuing up the levels as long as Teddy’s game. He’s very talented.”
Keep an eye out for Jane and Teddy at Stable View’s Oktoberfest at the end of September.
EN is proud to work alongside Stable View throughout each year and enjoys highlighting the many offerings this unique venue and its dedicated team provide. Stay tuned for more Stable View Stories all season long!