Equishop: What made you interested in osteopathy?
Anna Bajko: I have always loved horses and I have always ridden horses. I have been taking part in dressage competitions on ponies and big horses since I was a junior. Sometimes there were situations in which I was able to notice that something is wrong with a horse. That they weren't working like their natural motor activity should allow them to. Then I had a break.
After university - I studied pharmacy - I came back to horse riding. Then my back problems begun. It was osteopathy that helped me solve it.
I wanted to take care of horses in my life and so an idea of combining my love for horses with my professional life was born.
Equishop: In a few sentences, could you familiarize us with the term "osteopathy"? In your own words, speaking from experience.
Anna Bajko: First of all - self-repair abilities of the organism, regaining hemostasis. Balance in every aspect. Health issues show in a variety of ways. My job is to harmonize the horse's movements with his biomechanics - to prevent obstacles that make the horse unable to fully use his potential.
Equishop: When an osteopath is needed?
Anna Bajko: Sport horses simply deserve one! [laughter]
No, but seriously, it's very important not to allow for any harmful overloading. Contractions add up until they lead to an injury. Then you can only call a veterinarian and get treatment.
Which is why I emphasize - prevention and control of horses that are subject to strain, training, also regeneration and removing blockage and tension.
You definitely need an osteopath when you notice that your horse is not working like he should be. When you feel that something's changed - e.g. your horse used to be better to his left, and now he's better to the right and his left side is much worse. When you notice that something is out of ordinary.
Despite proper care of your horse and genuine good will, I often encounter unawareness and ignorance. We reach out to people, and soon there will be courses on which people that have to do with horses will be able to learn a lot. I hope that it will allow them to see the horses' functioning and work in a new light.
Equishop: You've spent a lot of time abroad. In your opinion, what is the difference in approach to osteopathic treatment in Germany and in Poland?
Anna Bajko: Osteopathy is definitely more popular in Germany. I was a little afraid how people will approach it in Poland. I think it was taken very positively, though. People turned out to be very open and focused on their horses' well-being. Most horses I take care of, are sport horses that take part in competitions. We're talking about valuable animals. I have more of those clients, because those horses take larger loads (trainings, competitions). But I also have many regular customers, who don't ride very often, but simply they love their horses and take care of them.
Very often it seems to me that osteopathy is not seen as different from mere massage. The most important for my customers is the visible effect. It is a completely different branch and it is absolutely impossible to take it for massage. It often happens that people schedule a "massage" for their horses and then only during the treatment do they see the difference. Those horse owners, who don't take part in competitions, and who are "by the house" - they only go out on a meadow and don't work - treat my visit as it happens in Germany. In short - as a step before a vet's visit.
When the horse is stiff, dirty, sometimes even a little limping (usually in hind legs), it often turns out that it's the effect of the pelvis rotation, or issues with the sacral spine. I am able to correct it and the owners really see that their horses stop limping. It feels amazing and I think that people started believing it. Such things convince them. When I say that the horse "is moving better and using his back more," the owner not always can see it. Especially when the owner doesn't ride. When we have a situation in which the horse is limping, doesn't turn into a side on the parkour or doesn't land on a certain leg, he doesn't do it out of spite. They are blocked, restricted. The difference is that in Poland people have to learn it, but I can see that we're on the right path. I'm nicely surprised that osteopathy is seen so positively in our country.
Equishop: What kind of cases do you like the most?
Anna Bajko: My favorite cases are the ones, where we get an immediate effect, e.g. the limping is eliminated. Often, after fresh injuries (pelvis relocation etc.) the horse stops limping immediately and that's amazing.
When the homework we do - massage or stretching - has an effect.
I love foals [laughter :D]. There were cases of injuries such as getting hit while leaving the stall. It has to do with pelvis rotation. I managed to correct it, relax all the contractions, and the horse stopped limping.
Another case - a big foal from tiny mother was born stiffed and contracted. I was working with him softly. You know, you cannot use intense manipulations on a young organism. I showed him how to exercise and he became flexible and quickly came to shape.
Equishop: What do you consider a success?
Anna Bajko: I think that my biggest success is that I never had to sell myself. I was recommended to each of my clients. I never had to advertise. I manage an account on Facebook and Instagram, but not very intensely. I am starting to show now e.g. through sponsoring prizes in competitions, I stared doing some "marketing." Advertisement per se is not necessary for me yet.
Equishop: Do you have more clients from a particular equestrian discipline?
Anna Bajko: I definitely have more horses from jumping. I guess it's because people pass on information among a particular group within one discipline. I also visit big dressage stables, so I have clients from this discipline too. I think that horses from those two disciplines are subjects to greatest loads. It's not easy to compare the obvious effort of a jumping horse that works on a parkour with exceptional concentration and collection of a dressage horse that works on a manage. In case of a jumping horse, it's much easier to see symptoms, e.g. he jumps to a right obstacle. With dressage horses it usually takes longer to notice an issue. Shortcomings can be worked over, I know this from my own sport experience. Range of horses is large, from high-performance through school horses all the way to pet horses.
Equishop: How do veterinarians approach your job?
Anna Bajko: Very positively! I'm nicely surprised by this, because it's not that simple to find the happy middle.
I'm really happy about it, because I'm not radical in my views either. I'm not set only on natural methods. The best effects are obtained by well-balanced cooperation. I finished pharmacy and I believe that medication is needed and that in the right place and at the right time, we should use proper means. Don't always stick to soft methods such as osteopathy or massage - always act accordingly to your and your horse's needs.
I know a few vets in Poland, who are great to work with. I can always call them when my job is done. And it works the other way round too. Some clients call me, because a vet recommended mi, since the horse needs an osteopath, not a vet. Such cooperation is beneficial both for the horse and the rider. But the most important here is the horse's well-being.
Equishop: What are the main advantages and disadvantages of your job?
Anna Bajko: Advantages - I love horses and when I'm in contact with them, I don't really feel like I'm working. That I can help them. I see how good it is for them when at the beginning they're tense, and then they are visibly better. With every visit they like me more. By the first visit, they are a little surprised. Things I do to them seem a little weird and they get stressed. But then they understand that I'm trying to help. I like doing something that has meaning. I have never gotten negative feedback.
The only disadvantage of my job I can see now is that Poland is so big [laughter] and I have to travel a lot. I hope that when I realize my plan to move to Warsaw, it will be a bit better from the very center. Commuting is the worst...
Interviewed by Karolina Borys-Piotrkowska