Over the years we have looked to supplement our equestrian training and injury management with some form of equine body worker. Having worked in the veterinary industry as a Equine NICU Nurse I have always been sceptical of some alternative therapies and they benefit or detriment to my horses wellbeing. Also being quite new to the area of south east queensland I was unfamiliar with the local reputation of professionals which I struggled with a lot, not knowing who to trust.
So over the years I continued to work with the horses in their ridden training and daily routine where we felt things were progressing as they should be. As with all horse training we ran into some road blocks, one of significance was a reasonably serious White Line Disease (WLD) infection that saw the resection of nearly 1/3 of the horses hoof wall. Whilst this post is not really about the disease or the recovery of that infection, the horses recovery played a huge role in the importance of finding someone I could trust to help my horses be better. Needless to say there was a lot of box rest, graduating to small yard time etc etc and approximately 10 month before we were to return to ridden work. During the time of bring this horse back into work slowly I really felt like I could do more to help this horse. Aside from the fact horses aren’t designed to be in a stall 24/7, there was muscle wastage, loss of flexibility and strength and I also felt he had developed a favour to one side of his body. Which in reality makes perfect sense given his prior condition. So the hunt began, I needed to get serious!!!!
I found Mitchell Carney, who is a fully qualified and practicing Physiotherapist. Mitch owns and operates ECH Physiotherapy (Equine, Canine, Human Physiotherapy) and I remember the first phone call I made asking about his qualifications and practices with horses.. I decided to bite the bullet and I booked an appointment, the initial consultation was very pleasant and Mitch’s skills and mannerism where very kind and informative. Firstly the horse didn’t object to any of his treatment, there was no pulling or riffing, no magical tricks or quick fixes. I felt I got an accurate assessment of my horse (to which I will add I tried not to give to much away) which fitted with what I was feeling, I was kept informed of the “what” and “whys” as he was treating my horse. Then before Mitch left he had given me a treatment plan and ensured I understood what I was to do. Now before I got inside for the evening and a lot of you fellow horse people will understand that comment. I sit down to check my emails and I have an email waiting for me from ECH Physio!!!! No it wasn’t the invoice cause I had paid cash at the appointment but yes it was a report and written exercise prescription that we had discussed earlier that day… Having had the vet nurse training this was very impressive and a valuable resource for me, having multiple horses in work at one time i sometimes need reminding of things that need doing. Over the coming weeks and after I had invested so much time and money and not only into this Physiotherapy but the entire recovery of the horse. I decided I was to do the exercises as prescribed, looking back over the written report from time to time to jog my memory, giving it my proper attention. This is when things started to really change, I not only saw a physical difference in my horse but a behavioural difference too his work ethic changed.
Low and behold just when i thought things were starting to get back on track we get another WLD infection, not as serve as the previous time but still bad enough to curb our ridden work!!!! Gutted…. This is where the real value of having other professionals involve with the care and maintenance of what really are our “Equine Athletes” has shined. We didnt need to confine the horse to box rest but he did have to have a smaller paddock and discourage any high impact movement which meant we had to back off his training as well, until this 2nd resection grew out with health hoof again!!! Much to my disappointment I was thinking another length of time of no work which meant muscle wastage etc all over again… Back to square one!!! Well that was not the case I spoke to both my farrier and my Physio and we came up with a plan to keep the horse in some form of work. My main concern was not to push the horse before he was ready but to have the horse ready to resume work once his hoof had grown. I didn’t want to waster another 6 – 12 months of building strength and suppleness from when he could ridden again.
Myself the farrier and the Physio discussed the options to achieve my goal and we came up with a plan. A plan that’s proving to be beneficial and has really changed my thinking towards the therapy this particular horse has been getting. We introduced a lot of low impact exercises and have a weekly program for this particular horse and he continues to get stronger and more supple, things like hydrotherapy, core strength exercises, hand walking incorporating hills and poles have all kept this horse looking fantastic. It’s actually frustrating, I see this horse moving around the paddock and walking in and out of the stall, standing tired at the wash bay and he is a very different picture. Its a picture that makes you want to ride, one that you get excited about, the horse looks amazing !!! I cant actually wait to be back in the saddle on this horse to see what the real results are…
Never the less I have restructured my training program and involve Mitch with the rest of my team, not because they have injuries or “problems” but because I want them to perform their best. I have also substituted a ridden day for a core strengthening session and are all improving so well. We are currently working with ECH Physiotherapy to develop some programs and packages to offer through CLM Equine for our students and training horses. Its a very exciting time and I can not wait to share more and more results as we produce them.
“Treat your horse like a Champion and they’ll become one”