Credit : Jenny Abrahamsson
Friday 28 September - 16h22 | Stephanie Sieckmann
A legendary osteopath, George Oduro has proved his undeniable talent over and over. Over the years, some of the best-known names in show jumping, including Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Scott Brash, have vied for his services. Below, a profile of this magician for horses, one of 50 people shaping the equestrian world today featured in Grand Prix's inaugural GP 50 list this summer.
George Oduro with France's Roger Yves-BostCredit : Queymon McLoughlin
Sweet, jovial and kind, George Oduro is nevertheless reserved when it comes to talking about himself. And yet, Oduro is transformed as soon as he touches his equine patients, focused entirely on his task, sensitive and attentive. Muscles, tendons, ligaments: the specialist scans the animal’s entire body with his skilled hands. The horse follows him out of the corner of his eye, nervously aware of the man’s slightest movements. Finally, the breakthrough. The equine relaxes and accepts the care offered to him – a priceless, emotional moment. It’s why George became a veterinarian and then an osteopath after completing his studies in Great Britain. In the palms of his hands, a horse can metamorphosize in minutes – and that after seemingly trivial manipulations.Crowned Team World Champion in 2010 with Lambrasco (Holst, Libero H x Coriolan), the German rider Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann knows the osteopath well, the latter living for 15 years near his parents in Hamburg. She remembers an experience that marked her, when she was worrying about a lame horse in her stables: "Our veterinarian suspected that the horse's withers was the cause of the problem. To avoid onerous examinations, he advised us to call George. Our friend arrived, looked at the horse, and then he applied a very slight pressure with his thumb on the withers – at least that's what it seemed to me. He stepped away from the horse and said, 'It's good.' I laughed and asked him if he was serious. He told me yes. Honestly, I did not believe it. Yet, the next day, it was a miracle! The horse trotted and galloped along without any problem. Two days later he was ridden and was not in pain anymore. Yes, George Oduro is a real magician!"
Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann riding Buettner's Minimax in 2018Credit : Scoopdyga
Oduro has been displaying these qualities for 35 years, which makes him a privileged witness to the evolution of sport horses. "Today, breeders produce horses with a lot of blood, which makes them fast and able to turn very quickly," he said in a fascinating interview with Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping in 2017. "Many are also very powerful. That forces us to pay close attention to their bodies. In the past, they were built like elephants, able to jump Grand Prix by the age of six. Nowadays, they are very soft and fluid, like cotton, with really weak ligaments and tendons, which makes them unable to cope with major classes before at least nine years of age. Their body is not developed enough; you have to take your time with them." The osteopath is said to have already treated some 50 thousand horses, with memories of each of his consultations! And cracks like Shutterfly (Han, Silvio I x Forrest, Ps), European champion and three-time winner of the World Cup Final with Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the stallion Casall (Holst, Caretino x Lavall I), winner of about 20 events at 1.60m during his magnificent career with the Swede Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Hello Sanctos van het Gravenhof (sBs, Quasimodo van de Molendreef x Nabab de Rêve), Olympic champion and Europe team and laureate of the incredible Grand Slam of Grand Prix in Aachen, Geneva and Calgary with the Brit Scott Brash, Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II), Olympic champion with Switzerland Steve Guerdat, and Lintea Tequila (Holst, Campbell x Corrado II), winner of the CSI 5 * Grand Prix of Miami and Doha with Australian Edwina Tops-Alexander, are not the only lucky ones to have benefitted from George's expertise. Indeed, numerous riders and grooms have also been relieved of a backache or stiff neck thanks to his talented hands.
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ASK, a patient of George Oduro, at the 2014 World Equestrian GamesCredit : Scoopdyga
Traveling the world for competitions, always attentive to the well-being of the athletes, George is very much in demand. In fact, it is often difficult to schedule an appointment with this dexterous osteopath. "We’re visited every week by a physiotherapist. She is excellent and is very aware of George's reputation. If she has a question about anything, she knows she can always count on George's expertise to help solve the problem," comments Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann.And if one is not lucky enough to cross paths with George Oduro at a competition, there is always the option of a group consultation: "Sometimes we get together with several riders from the same area for more convenience. If any of us finds out that George is passing through, we all jump for joy!", says the German, smiling. Having celebrated his 62nd birthday on July 17, Oduro has reached an age at which many of his peers begin to take it easier. But the osteopath continues to visit stadiums and stables far and wide, looking to train his successors."To be honest, most of my students are a little lazy," Oduro says. "They would like to do this job but only work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, which is impossible. At competitions, I start most days at 6 a.m. to see the horses, and then I watch them warm up and compete during the day. Then I look at them again after the last class, which may cause me to finish my day at midnight, or even later. When you take care of world-class athletes, you have to be really dedicated to your work.” And it’s a safe bet that George Oduro will eventually find himself some worthy successors.
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