Team work makes the - equine - dream work!
A bit cliche but very relevant for me as a veterinary physiotherapist. I do not make progress on my own. I do not rehabilitate your horse on my own. I cannot improve your horses condition on my own. I think you get the idea... it's a team approach!
So, who's on your horse's team?
You have the biggest influence on your horse's rehabilitation, muscle building, weight management, maintenance and injury control. You are at the centre of every treatment plan and every exercise recommendation. No matter what the professionals can do in their sessions, we rely on you to carry on that care at home. I can relieve pain but I will then rely on you to make certain adjustments at home to make sure they do not encounter unecessary pain again. I can promote muscle building but you will need to keep doing the prescribed exercises to see a difference. I can help with flexibility but you will need to keep doing the stretches in order for them to work.
So when you notice after a couple of months how great your horse is doing and feeling, don't just praise us - give yourself a pat on the back, you did it too!
2. Veterinary Physiotherapist
Obviously I had to throw this one in there! But we can be a crucial part of your team. Not only are we there to help when horse gets injured, but we can also help to prevent that injury in the first place. If you know your horse is going to run a pretty tricky cross country course next season, then we can condition them to not only perform at their best, but also give them the best chance if they do take a tumble.
Exercise plans and muscle building is a huge part of what we do and we have a whole toolkit of equipment and targeted exercises to get the results we want.
Find a FULLY QUALIFIED and FULLY INSURED veterinary physiotherapist here:
-NAVP (National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists)
-AHPR (Animal Health Professions Register, subgroup veterinary physiotherapists)
-ACPAT (Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy)
-IRVAP (Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists)
-RAMP (Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners)
I am a member of the NAVP and AHPR so I cannot speak personally about the other registers or associations, however I have tried to include them all for anyone who may be looking for a physiotherapist to make sure you are finding someone qualified and insured. Never use a physiotherapist who cannot provide you with those details.
There are also other professionals in this field such as osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and sports therapists. Make sure whoever you decide to use is fully qualified and insured.
Your vet should be a crucial part of your team in regards to making decisions about all the other components. When you have a worry or concern about your horses behaviour, management, diet etc. your vet should be your first port of call. Not only do they have the knowledge to help with a lot of scenarios but they also know a lot of good reputable people in your area that can help you.
Vets fees aren't great, but don't try to cut corners by going to somebody else first!
I think good nutrition is often overlooked when we are caring for our horses. We can focus on trying to build muscle and condition and get good performance but we often forget that we need to provide the nutrition to support this. Human athletes have a very planned diet with the correct proportions of protein suitable for them and their activity, whereas we rarely do this for our horses. We feed the amount on the packet even though it's not targeted to our horses needs as an individual.
Finding a good nutritionist that can give you some tailored advice on your feeding regime could make a huge difference to the results we see.
Now a lot of physiotherapists also provide hydrotherapy so this could come under that. Unfortunately I don't have my own hydrotherapy premises so I rely on a hydrotherapist to be part of my team. Having physiotherapy alone is good, having hydrotherapy alongside my physiotherapy sessions is great! I honestly notice such a difference in fitness, muscle bulk and the quality of movement. I'm always really keen for my clients to start hydrotherapy as well as I know it will bring the best out of our treatments.
Not only are they vital for improving you and your horses performance, but they can also sometimes be the first ones to detect an issue. Your instructor can see you and your horse going around the arena from all angles, and they watch all your transitions and jumps. Pair that with them watching all kinds of horses move for years and they've got a pretty good eye for good movement. This means they'll also have a good eye for not so good movement, and may be the first person to pick up on a little niggle. When these little niggles are picked up on early, they can often be sorted out quite easily, so its great to have a knowledgable person on the ground that knows how you and your horse move.
I'm sure most of us at some point have had a tooth ache, and I'm sure we know how debilitating they can be. Something as little as your tooth can cause you so much pain that it can actually make you almost incapable of doing anything else. Now imagine if our teeth took up more room than our brains, and that they grew constantly unless wore down in the correct way. Yep, that's horses for you.
There's quite a lot of room for error in horses dentition, as there are so many teeth, and they can easily wear down incorrectly causing sharp edges and ulcers. A horse with a painful ulcer and a sharp tooth is not going to want to have a bit shoved in his mouth and be told to work, so he's probably going to refuse his jumps or transition poorly.
Dentition is also important for food intake, as obviously they may not eat as much if their mouth is sore. If they're unable to chew, then they'll eat less and may not get the nutrients they need for good condition. Not only that, but they'll also produce less saliva, and can end up with stomach ulcers.
So find yourself a good dentist and get your horses teeth checked regularly.
There is a common phrase - no foot, no horse - and that's because horses with bad hoof conformation can get a whole party of other issues that can basically make them unfit to work. Finding a good farrier for what you and your horse need is essential. A good farrier for one horse may not necessarily be a good fit for another especially if they have different hoof care needs. Some farriers are great at remedial shoeing and can make shoes of all different shapes and sizes using different materials that are completely targeted to that horses problem. Whereas others specialise in hoof trimming and can take really good care of a bare foot horse.
Make sure your farrier can talk you through what they're doing and why, and ask them what you can do in-between trims to help with your horses hoof condition.
9. The groom/livery yard worker
This won't apply to everyone but if your horse is kept on a livery yard where other people may be caring for your horse while you're working or on holiday then they can become a key part of your horse's rehabilitation or maintenance. For example, I may prescribe some carrot stretches or a partcilualr leg stretch for your horse to do after every ride, but if somebody else rides your horse then they will also need to do these. Or I may tell you to get your horse to walk over a couple of poles on his way out to the field, therefore if someone else is turning your horse out for you they become part of the team.
Make sure that everyone who handles and works with your horse knows about their physiotherapy exercises and routines so that we all keep up with the treatment plan.
Hopefully you can now see how your horse has a whole team of professionals working around him! It can all be a bit daunting finding a team that works well for you and your horse but it really makes a great difference to your horses performance. Asking around can sometimes be helpful for finding recommendations on certain professionals, but also find the regulatory associations websites to make sure you're using someone legitimate.
Thanks for reading!
Harley :) x