Is your horse stiff on one rein? Has there been a recent change of behaviour? Is he bucking? Or perhaps he is recovering from an injury, has recently had surgery or is just 'not quite right'? Now may be the time to book a physiotherapy appointment.
An equine physio assessment can be nicely divided into a three step plan.
All about you and your horse
On my first visit to you, I will want to get to know you and your horse. So we will start by having a chat about what you get up to together and how I am best placed to help you. If your horse is under investigation or treatment by your vets, I may have already spoken to them to get an idea of their clinical history. However, it is also important for me to hear from you about your understanding of your horses condition and how you feel I may be able to help.
I will also ask you about your horses history, for example how long you have had them, if they have had any previous injuries or if they have any ongoing, chronic problems. I will want to find out if you are experiencing any problems, or if you have any difficulties during your ridden work, or if you have noticed any behavioural changes in your horse. This way, I can start to build up a picture in my head of how I can best help you and your horse.
I like to discuss your goals and what you would like to achieve. This may be as simple as getting back on board, keeping your horse comfortable, or you may be planning for a big competition. Either way, together we can build a plan to make it happen.
Observation of your horse
Observation starts with a static assessment of your horse. Here we will look closely at your horses posture, confirmation and muscle symmetry. Are they more developed in one area than another? Do they hold themselves in a particular posture? are their muscles symmetrical?
Following on from that we will assess your horses gait. You will be asked to walk your horse away from me and then back towards me, and then trot away and back. Here I am looking for lameness, symmetry and strength. I may use slow motion video footage to further analysis your horses gait to ensure that I do not miss anything that may not be visible to the naked eye.
After that I may also ask you to lunge your horse, often in walk, trot and canter, but this will depend on the point of rehab your horse has reached and how balanced they are. In particular I like to see how your horse copes with transitions, what their way of going is like and how balanced they are. I will also observe their facial expressions to further understand if they are experiencing any pain.
If you have a particular problem only when ridden, I may also ask you to show me so that I can see exactly what is happening. If you have video footage this may also be useful.
I will then want to see how your horse turns on a tight turn, I will be looking to see if that are able to effectively bend through their spine, how they cross over their limbs, and if they are comfortable doing this in both directions. Likewise you will be asked to demonstrate a rein back, so I can see how well your horse is able to flex through their back and co-ordinate their limbs to make this happen.
Following on from the dynamic assessment I will want to assess your horse’s passive range of movement. This will include looking at the available range of all four limbs, their pelvis and their spine, from cervical spine through to thoracic and to lumber. Here I am assessing for the quality as well as the quantity of movement.
Finally I will palpate. I am looking for areas of muscle spasm, fascial tightness, joint stiffness and any specific areas of tenderness.
Once I have completed my assessment I can bring all of the available information together to clinically reason why you may be experiencing the problem's we discussed during the subjective assessment and how we can best go forwards with treatment of your horse.
The Treatment Plan
The final step is the treatment plan. As I am working through the assessment I will be formulating a plan in my head on the best way to treat your horse. So as an example here is a hypothetical problem list with the associated treatment plan;
Problem List Treatment Plan Goal
1. Weak Gluts Hill work Strengthen gluts
2. Poor Core Strength EquiBand/ ground work Improve core stability
3. Muscle spasm Reflex inhibition Reduce muscle spasm
through epaxials Myofascial release
4. Tight thoracolumbar BioMa
g/LASER Ease fascial tightness
fascia Myofascial release
5. Stiff T18-L5 Spinal mobilisations Increase spinal mobility
So the first two on the list are your long term goals, these are things that you, as the owner and rider can work on at home on your own. Points 3-5 are our short term goals, so things that I can help out with on the day. In my experience points 3-5 are often associated with points 1 and 2. Sort 1 and 2 out and points 3-5 will resolve. So whilst I can help out on the day, ultimately
its you as the owner that can make the biggest improvements.
More often than not I will leave my clients with ‘homework’ to complete. I want to empower owners to work with me to help their horses. Physiotherapy is a two way street, I can help with the short term changes, but in order to achieve the long term changes. . .well that’s all on you.
A follow up appointment is recommend for first time client, usually between 2-6 weeks depending on the problem. After that I usually offer 6 week checks for horses in heavy work, 3 month maintenance checks for horses in medium work and 6 monthly checks for horses in light work. Non-ridden companions will vary depending on their age and generally mobility.
Following on from your appointment you will receive a detailed report on the assessment and treatment of your horse and I provide full email support for any ongoing questions or concerns that you may have.
So I hope that helps you to understand what to expect from your appointment.
If you have any questions or you would like to book a session please get in contact.