I seem to have been getting a lot of messages asking how I went about becoming a Vet Physio!
So to save individual replies I thought I’d tell you all!
In 2003 I qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist (human) I worked NHS, in private practice and in sport for many years.
During this time I learnt how to ‘be a physiotherapist’ sounds ridiculous but coming out of uni you realise very quickly how much you do NOT know!
You need to learn to ‘Feel’
You need to learn to ‘listen’
You need to learn to ‘Clinically reason’
You need to learn to ‘set achievable short term and long term goals’
◼️ You need to learn how to ‘treat’
One of the best parts of being human trained is that people can talk! Over the years through In Service Training and treating people the amount of feedback I received changed my practice!
From Maitland Mobilisations to trigger point release having the ability of someone telling you how it feels, whether you are on the right spot, right pressure, correct technique really does improving be your technique!
Post graduate human training has involved Acupuncture, Mulligan, Cyriax, Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Release, Respiratory, Equipilates, Kinesiology Taping and many more sport related courses!
I then went on to study Veterinary Physiotherapy at Hartpury (UWE) for 2 years, this took a lot of time, money and dedication!
The course allowed me to take my Physiotherapy knowledge from my human work and translate it to the animal work!
It may surprise you to know that I use many of the same treatment techniques on animals which I use on humans!
The learning never stops, from reviewing latest research, to external courses (too many to list!), peer review with colleagues, the more I learn the more my practice changes.
But fundamentally Physio is Physio, whether your patient has 2 or 4 legs!
I can only advise on the route that I took to achieve my dream job! There are many other routes out there, but one of the most important things is that you even if you only choose to treat animals you will still by default deal with humans!
One of the things I pride myself in is the ability to treat both horse and rider!
I still work part time in the NHS along side my Vet Physio business!
Unfortunately I am unable to take work experience students due to insurance so please don’t be offended if I decline requests.
#ACPAT #Charteredphysio #equinephysio #caninephysio #riderphysio#wirralvetphysio
So it’s the time of year that our horses often come in wet and muddy! Time is precious so how many of us do the quick flick where the tack goes before we ride? I am definitely guilty of it!
So it got me thinking about why grooming is so important, especially in the winter!
Naturally in the wild, horses groom each other. Domesticated horses that don’t have that option specifically need more attention in that sense. Horses are social animals and love the contact.
The ground is slippy, horses become hungry and this can cause inter-herd arguments in the field, as well as horse becoming distressed at bringing in times. Slips and kicks can cause low grade pain or discomfort in the horse that often goes undetected by owners when workload decreases during the winter months
We often find we swap one rug for the other in the dark without fully considering the well being of the whole horse!
Varying weight patterns during the winter months can also be responsible for poor saddle fit, some horses gain with being stabled, whilst others will lose through stress or the colder climate.
So I thought I would have a think about why it is beneficial to groom our horses.
Daily health check
- Looking for any new lumps, bumps, kicks or swelling
- Checking for physical signs of discomfort (breathing, abdominal pain, heave line)
- Looking for any signs of rubbing caused from rugging
- Increase blood flow to the skin surface and muscles
Improving blood flow to the tissues will help keep muscles functioning effectively.
- Often horses can lose their topline and muscle bulk during winter when stabled for long periods, or with reduced work.
Brushing the horse can highlight any areas of spasm or soreness
- You may find a sensitive area or the horse may dip away when brushing their back.
- This could be the result of a low grade lameness, where the horse is compensating by bracing through their back.
- There could be pain around the withers or where the back of the saddle fits caused by the saddle.
- Or could even be the result of a slip or fall in the field, where the horse is sore through their back or hindquarters.
Improves the bond with your horse
Ensures that they are used to ‘hands on’ from yourself, your vet or your therapist.
Alternative to ridden work – It’s a great time to incorporate some ground exercises, dynamic mobilisation exercises or range of movement exercises.
- Research has proven that simple dynamic mobilisation exercises (carrot stretches) work to stabilise the intervertebral joints by activating specific muscles.
- Joint stabilisation is important for both improving athletic performance and preventing back injury.
- Research has shown that performing regular dynamic mobilisation exercises over a period of 3 months stimulated enlargement of the muscles that stimulate the horse’s back.
- Dynamic mobilisations can be performed on a cold horse, whereas passive range of movement exercises should only be carried out after exercise.
If they are rugged through the winter dead skin and hair can build up which can cause discomfort and skin problems, a bit of time unrugged can allow the skin to breathe.
So next time you go get to your horses stable in the pouring rain,
spend some quality time with them one to one.
Why not try to make a once or twice weekly full groom part of your winter routine?
This is Misty, she has been one of many successful rehab stories this year at Wirral Vet Physio!
When I first assessed Misty she was significantly lame behind, and generally very sore, she had already had cortisone injections into her hocks with short lived results!
After speaking to the vet involved it was decided that rather inject again Physio was worth a go!
Misty’s 15 year old owner Jess was 100% dedicated to the mare and followed her rehab programme to the letter….not that exciting for Jess, but every physio session Misty had made improvements and was able to be progressed with her exercises!
We released muscular compensatory patterns that she had adapted before building her up again to ensure normal movement patterns were achievable!
With manual therapy, electrotherapy, polework and graded ridden work I am pleased to say Misty is doing Great!
Misty is very lucky that Jess has taken the time to rehab her, and the results are now obvious, she is sound!!
They are now back schooling and hacking and looking forward to an eventful 2017!!!
#teamwork #equinephysio #wirralvetphysio #rehab #acpat
Hello Winter! The season we all dread as horse owners, cold, rain, ice and even snow!! Well lets hope Winter 2016/2017 is a mild one!
Over the last few weeks I have seen more and more horses on restricted Winter turnout, if you are lucky enough to have your horses living out then your main worry will be correct rugging and making sure they have enough forage/hay to eat during the day and night!
Many of my clients are now on restricted grazing of some description, every yard has different rules and it is important to find a yard that suits both you and your horse. Every horse owner has a different priority list of what they look for in terms of location/facilities/cost/turnout.
As we know horses tend to lose ‘topline’ and ‘condition’ over the winter, I often find that horses stabled for prolonged periods of time are the ones most affected. This has got me thinking what can you as an owner do to try and help keep your horse in the best shape over winter.
We all know correct feeding is an important factor, I had a lecture from independent Registered Equine Nutritionist Claire McLeod whilst I was studying at Hartpury. One thing that I personally took away from her talk was that a good quality feed balancer is key! This is the only way (bar having your hay tested) that we know the horse is getting all their key vitamins and minerals needed for their diet. This is something that I always pass on to my clients, if you are not feeding a balancer, or the recommended amount of feed for the horse then why are you feeding at all?
In humans it takes just two weeks of physical inactivity for those who are physically fit to lose a significant amount of their muscle strength new research indicates. In that relatively short period of time, young people lose about 30% of their muscle strength, leaving them as strong as someone decades older. Meanwhile, active older people who become sedentary for a couple weeks lose about 25% of their strength.
So think about the stabled horse… in the wild horses graze 16-18 hours a day and travel up to 100 miles a day during a 24hr period! Yes I know that our horses have been domesticated and are now far removed from their wild ancestors. Horses also naturally only stand still to sleep, and move to graze typically every 3-5 seconds.
So what can we do to try and recreate a more natural environment when stabled? We can make sure the horse has access to forage; being without food for even a few hours can lead to frustration, behavioural problems and even risk gastric ulcers!
- Try to feed a choice of different forages at ground level
- I’m not a great fan of haynets, but they can be useful when placed at different heights and locations around the stable to encourage the horse to move and add variety and interest.
- Place the water bucket away from the hay to encourage movement away from the haynet.
Stretches to maintain suppleness
- Carrot stretches are not over-rated, they also do not need to involve carrots!
- A little tip is to fill a small plastic mug with some nuts to keep your horse interested,
- Bring the horse round to their hip,
- Round to their hind fetlock and
- Down between their knees –
- Be careful not to allow the horse to lift a leg or bend at the knee to compensate, only work to the point that your horse can achieve comfortably.
- Remember if your horse is on restricted turnout they may benefit from a walk around the yard, or a hand graze for even 15 minutes a couple of times a day to allow them to stretch their legs out of their stable. If you are able to turn them out in the ménage take the opportunity whilst you muck out!
- Riding/lungeing regularly will also maintain fitness and maintain muscle bulk
Stable toys are a great idea..
- Treat balls
- Hanging a swede in the stable is easy to do
- Even try a toy box filled with horse safe toys – large dog toys are ideal
- Stable mirrors can be great for some horses
And lastly, ensure that your stable is big enough for your horse to lie down comfortably, horses generally do not sleep well unless they feel safe in a her environment, in the wild they will have their equine friend stand over them to guard from any potential danger.
Did you know that to achieve REM sleep horses need to be able to lie flat on their side?
Roll on Spring!!
This is something I am hearing a lot at the moment, and i am happy to hear that so many of my clients have had saddle professionally fitted to their horses!
However there is a but…. and that is the saddle only fits that horse if the said horse does not change shape! By shape I mean muscle up – develop a good topline, or even lose topline, gain or lose weight, or develop a low grade lameness which can cause muscular asymmetry affecting the saddle!
This time of year I tend to see horses drop weight and topline, usually due to the cold weather preventing work, lack of winter turnout, or bald winter paddocks with a lack of grazing.
The last couple of winters have been extremely mild, in terms of the cold that is, not the mammoth amount of torrential rain we have endured this winter. Maybe we have been riding more, feeding more with many winter grazing fields being closed due to flooding, but I can honestly say that the horses of Wirral have never looked better coming out of winter!!
Unless you are one of those poor horse owners that looks at your horses now, and is dreading summer grazing!
So back to the point of this post…..
Over the last few weeks I have been asked to see numerous horses displaying abnormal behaviour under saddle, anything from bolting to bucking! As you know from my previous blog I routinely check saddle fit as part of the assessment.
I have seen numerous saddles over the last few weeks that have been professionally fitted, or even made to measure that simply put do NOT fit now! I am sure once upon a time they fitted perfectly, but not any more, this isn’t to say that they will never fit again, or cannot be adjusted to fit at this moment in time.
So how does poor saddle fit affect the horses?
What I am seeing at the moment with horses carrying excess winter weight is saddles that are tight across the withers, (imagine wearing a shoe 2 sizes to small then being asked to run 5K! ouch!!) when riding the horse the rider may feel like they are slipping or being pushed to the back of the saddle. On palpation what i generally feel is pain or spasm through the withers and a degree of tension through the back where the panels of the saddle end, this is due to the weight distrubution of the rider not being even, and the weight actually being pushed to the back of the saddle which can cause pain and bruising as well as reduce the engagement of the hind quarters. The tightness over the withers can restrict scapular movement and result in a shortened, choppy stride in the front.
So the horses may respond to the restriction by hollowing through their back, taking shorter strides, refusing to take up a contact, an inability or reluctance to bend as well as any host of out of the ordinary behaviour issues!
While I’m talking about saddle fit I may as well tell you how a saddle which is too wide can affect the horses and rider too! The rider may feel like they are being pushed forwards when riding, this is due the tree, or gullet being too wide. The front of saddle will dip in dig in behind the shoulder causing pinching as the rider rises in trot, the back of the saddle will often lift up and down and can cause soreness and soft tissue bruising.
There are a multitude of other saddle fitting issues that I could address but we could be here all day!
So how can physio help….
Physio can relieve the pain caused from poor saddle fit, this is usually cleared in one or two sessions for low grade pain, I tend to treat with a variety of manual techniques, electrotherapy and home exercises to stretch out the sore muscles. But of course there is no point me treating your horse if the same saddle is going straight back on!
So if your horses has put weight on recently take a minute to have a good look at how the saddle fits, if in doubt seek the help of a professional!
Any questions regarding Physio for your horses, or how it can benefit your horse give me a call!!
With winter looming, horses are now being stabled more! I often get asked about haynets and feeding from the floor. So I thought I would post my thoughts on the matter! I don’t profess to know everything and as always there are exceptions to every rule, so bear that in mind when reading my rationale!
From a physio point of view thinking about the horses’s biomechancs I often advocate feeding from the ground, tub or Haybar (even with a small holed haynet tied inside to slow feeding), I understand this is not always possible but it certainly has it’s benefits!
So if we think of horses in their natural environment, they spend hours grazing in a downward ground level position, therefore we should think it important to try as best as we can to replicate this position within the stable environment to benefit the horses well being as posture.
Horses are foragers/grazers who in the wild, would travel over great distances to obtain food and water as the wild grasses are low in nutrition. In it’s natural environment the horse grazes for approximately 18-20 hours per day. The relatively small stomach and large gut are perfectly suited for this. If the stomach is left empty for prolonged periods (as often happens with stabled horses) the stomach lining can become damaged leading to ulcers.
Muscular and Joint Benefits
So my pet hate is haynets tied up high! Yes I know for safety we want them away from the floor but think of how the horse’s biomechanics are affected by high level haynets? not to mention the position allows debris to fall in the eyes.
So the emphasis we work towards is long and low, why? To obtain minimal tension through the neck and back; therefore working a natural stretch of the horses top line keeping the joints and muscles supple. So when we feed from high hung haynets it encourages spinal extension and epaxial (muscles along the horses back) activation, the muscles around the poll and base of the neck can become overused and become sore leading to ridden or behavioural problems as the horse finds difficulty engaging the hindlimbs.
Feeding at ground level allows the respiratory system to work naturally and most effectively as there is a decrease in exposure to respiratory irritants. A lowered head and neck position encourage natural airway drainage, this is their natural defence against deep inhalation of food and dust related particles that can lead to chest and lung infections, other respiratory effects and even choke.
Horses in their natural environment eat with their heads down. This permits them to see almost 360 degrees and being a flight animal it is important that the horse has this span of view whilst eating to ensure complete relaxation. Believe it or not even while in the “safety” of a stall the instinct is to survive.
If the hay is placed at the back of the stall, so the horse’s hindquarters face the door, a stressful situation is created. A horse may spend a lot of time grabbing a mouthful of hay and turning toward the front in order to face perceived danger which can lead to stereotypical behaviours in horses such as weaving or box walking.
So if you are facing a long winter of prolonged stabling for your horse have a think about how you can create a more natural environment to aid posture, digestion and well being!