At a young age, I was besotted with animals big and small. Every Christmas or birthday became an opportunity for me to try and bribe my parents for yet another pet. I was crazy about horses and dogs and spent every second of every day obsessing over them.
My thoroughbred, Riki, was my life. Every weekend was spent waking up at the crack of dawn and traipsing all over NZ to compete in events. He had the sweetest nature and tried his best at every event we went to.
It was when I was 16 that I noticed something wasn't right. Riki started bucking me off when I turned him out for a few weeks, he also threatened to buck me off if I rode him down hill and he looked like he was struggling to stretch forward to urinate.
I told my parents and after months of searching for the right answers my parents finally sourced two locals from Rotorua (who had a gift that was passed down through the family line) who said they could help Riki.
I was skeptical but I was willing to try anything and everything to help him. When they came and assessed him, they told me his lower back was 'out' and proceeded to grab Riki's hind leg and rotate it quickly out to the side which let out a huge crack. I was mortified, but then the most amazing thing happened. Riki hung his head low, then proceeded to stretch out and for the first time in months, urinated without breaking stream and without effort.
He rode perfectly for months after that and never bucked me off ever again!!
As fate would have it, 1 year later I also injured my own lower back which stopped me from riding for three months. I was desperate to get back on Riki again and a friendly physio helped me rehabilitate my back so that I could ride once again. It was then that this strange concept started in my mind. I somehow knew that I wanted to help animals, and I wanted to provide the same treatment to them that was given to me and my back.
Back then, there was no course that was available to me in NZ to merge what I wanted to do so I went on to complete my Bachelor of Physiotherapy at Otago University in 2007 and moved to Australia in the hopes to bridge the gap between human and animal physiotherapy.
With the development of further courses that became available to me in Melbourne, I was finally able to further my education and career and I successfully completed my dream and opened Canine Kinetics in 2019. First as a mobile business, and then as a clinic offering canine hydrotherapy as well.
I wish I could somehow find those two men that helped
Riki all those years ago and thank them for putting me
on a pathway from which I have never looked back. Being
able to help dogs and assist and educate their owners
is incredibly rewarding and I'm so happy to work in an
industry that is continually evolving
Joanna Whitehead ; Physiotherapist, Canine Physiotherapist & Hydrotherapist