Drive, dedication and a love of bush communities will see Queenslander Madison Forster become a chiropractor to both horses and humans.

Story by Mandy McKeesick

Madison Forster decided on her unusual career path early in life. “When I was 11 or 12 Dad had this crazy horse,” she says. “I was never allowed to ride him and I was always a bit scared of him. You could hold him, but he would walk laps around you and tie you up in the lead rope. We thought he was loopy. Then we took him to the horse chiropractor and within minutes he was almost asleep. I thought, ‘This is weird, he never ever does that’; and from then on I was hooked.”

With the help of a Connellan Airways Trust Scholarship, Madison has embarked upon an arduous nine-year journey to become a chiropractor for both people and animals.

Madison grew up across northern Queensland as her father managed pastoral stations from Julia Creek to Georgetown. “There are photos of me as a baby on one of Dad’s stallions,” Madison says of a childhood punctuated by mustering, pony camp, campdrafting and polocrosse. “I think I was eight when I started polocrosse and since then there have only been one or two years when I haven’t played.” 

Her education began with homeschooling. “Mum didn’t like teaching us kids because we rebelled. Why would we want to sit around the house when we could be out in mustering camps with Dad?” she asks. 

A stint in mainstream school at Ravenshoe preceded boarding school, but it was her enduring love of animals, and horses in particular, that kept her career aspirations burning, even when teachers and a career adviser questioned her dream occupation. “They would tell me: ‘Madison, this isn’t a thing. You need to stop living in the clouds’, and I would reply: ‘I’ve seen it happen. I’m telling you this is a thing and you know what, I’m just going to do it anyway’.”

As Madison completed her final year of high school in 2014, her family moved to the south-west of the state to manage the Francis Hotel in Thallon. “Dad has always had bad knees and back problems, and even though Thallon, with a population of about 70, was big compared to some of the places we have lived, he still had to travel a long way to see the local chiropractor,” she says. Madison therefore began to think she should treat people as well as horses.

The chiropractic care of animals is a growing area. The credibility of the profession gained a huge boost when RMIT University developed its world-leading Animal Chiropractic program, which ran for 12 years until 2009. This led to the formation of Animal Biomechanical Medicine Australia, which requires potential students to be initially qualified in veterinary science, chiropractic science or osteopathy before they continue with studies to become qualified as an animal chiropractor. “It was disheartening at times because I found out to be a qualified chiropractor I needed to practise for two years after university before enrolling in further studies. I will have to study for seven years, but it will take nine years to get there. But that’s okay because I will get there eventually,” she says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #110

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2017