Every horse is an athlete from the Olympic eventing team to happy hackers. All of our ridden horses are expected to perform in their own capacity, push boundaries that they may not naturally do and carry us all the while. This makes them more prone to picking up injuries, niggles and areas of soreness. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make sure we keep them in the best shape possible.
Veterinary physiotherapy should form a part of your horse’s regular maintenance programme, to keep them comfortable and in the best possible shape. Just like you have the farrier and dentist routinely to keep your horse in the best health, regular physiotherapy sessions help keep your horse comfortable and able to perform to the best of your ability.
Veterinary physiotherapy can also help your horse whether they have an ongoing issue such as kissing spines or just to keep the niggles and sore spots at bay.
What areas will be addressed through my horse’s physiotherapy plan?
- Areas of tight/low muscle tone. Horses should have a general good muscle mass. If your horse is under-developed or really low toned in comparison to another, this can mean your horse is not using that area. This is putting addition strain on the tissues that are working hard and is likely to result in injury later down the line.
- Asymmetries of the musculoskeletal system. Unfortunately, none of us own a perfectly symmetrical hors; there is no such thing. What that means is that every horse is using themselves incorrectly. As a result, no horse is using themselves to the best of their ability. They all have a stronger side and a weaker side. I will need to work on the asymmetries to reduce them and keep them as close as possible
- Pain management. Like humans, horses can experience pain for a number of reasons including arthritic joints, areas of scarring and restriction and areas of extreme muscle tightness. Unlike humans, horses cannot communicate that they are in pain. I will therefore identify any areas of pain and seek to resolve them.
- Joint mobility. Again, like humans, when a horse has arthritis, they tend to be a bit like us and protect themselves by not using that joint. The result is that the joint becomes less and less mobile and when they do use it, it becomes sorer. It really is a viscous circle. From a durability point of view, we want to keep the joints as mobile as possible for as long as possible. This is something I will look to do.
- Improved range of motion. Some horse owners may think they don’t need good range of motion as they don’t have a grand prix mare or a dressage horse. However, range of motion comes hand in hand with joint mobility. Even if you are hacking over the moors once a month, you need range of motion. Horses will struggle to get their muscles up and out otherwise.
- Improved muscle bulk and strength. We all want our horses to be nice and strong to perform for us whatever they are meant to do. I will therefore work on improving their muscle bulk and strength.
All of the above add up to a more comfortable horse. The result is what everyone is striving for, a better way of going and a horse being able to perform at their best
What are the signs that my horse may need more than their usual maintenance session?
- Loss of performance;
- Ridden issues such as a disunited canter, hollowing of the back or reluctance to accept a contact;
- Grumpiness when being groomed or tacked up;
- Difficulty performing movements on one rein;
- Jumping off to one side or consistently landing on one leg after a fence;
- Behavioural issues including bucking, rearing and napping;
- Difficulty when being asked to back up;
- Difficulty going up or down hills;
- Rehabilitation from a variety of injuries such as muscle injuries, tendon and ligament injuries, proximal suspensory desmitis, kissing spines.