I get asked this a lot!
The answer is different for all horses but I thought I would do a quick post to explain my thoughts!
Some horses I see weekly, some I see monthly and some I see yearly!
Lets start with why I see some clients weekly!
I have several horses that require intensive rehabilitation, this can be due to sacroiliac problems, kissing spine, post surgery or injection or other musculoskeletal problems.
These horses are initially seen regularly to try and relieve any muscle spasm so that the horse is able to begin working correctly, the owners will often have a strict exercise regime that may include ground based exercises, pole work and ridden work which I monitor closely and increase the difficulty when the horse is able to achieve the goals set! These horses will generally only be seen weekly for the first few sessions to optimise the rehabilitation process, then the treatments will be drawn out slowly as the owner is able to progress the horse at home under guidance.
So who do I see monthly?
I have a number of high level competition horses that I see monthly, from eventers to dressage horses it’s amazing how these horses adapt and compensate to be able to carry out what is asked of them!
Eventers are asked to work exceptionally hard, often in the space of a day (one day eventing) they are asked to collect during dressage, turn on a sixpence during showjumping, then pick up speed over some pretty impressive fences over the cross country. If they knock a pole then it may hurt, if they knock a cross country jump then they can cause serious damage!
As for the dressage horses, they are asked to work correctly from their hind quarters and collect themselves in a way which allows them to perform lateral movements with ease as well as being responsive to the riders leg and be flexible through their mid back! Also remember that these high level horses are ridden at sitting trot which transmits more weight through the saddle to the horse than rising trot (this can be uneven weight distribution in some riders!).
These competition horses are seen routinely for maintenance due to their heavy workload and the pressures put on their joints and muscles. Physio can be very useful to highlight any potential problems or reoccurring issues!
So who do I see 6 monthly?
These are the riding club horses, or horses in medium work.
Again it tends to be routine maintenance work – back pain, hamstring spasm, saddle issues and general stiffness are all problems that I highlight regularly, often these horses are out competing regularly and never actually show signs of discomfort. It is amazing how stoic horses are and what a great work ethic they have as they just want to please their owners! A lot of these horses require treatment as a one off session every 6 months to address these minor musculoskeletal problems, these are the kind of small issues that can cause major behavioural problems if left untreated!
And lastly….those seen yearly.
These tend to be the horses that attend the occasional show, happy hackers, retired horses, or those that I see that have no issues! (rare I know……but it does happen!!). These horses are in light work but we still often find minor issues with them, obviously if the horses is only used for hacking we can’t expect it to be super flexible, but there are lots of exercises you can do both mounted and on the ground to improve flexibility! I often find with these horses that they lack hind quarter musculature and often have quite weak abdominals, once we release any spasm over their back, neck and hindquarters their homework is generally pole work (to increase hind limb activation and to engage the abdominals as well as to improve flexibility through the mid back), lots of transitions during riding and lateral work (such as leg yielding or shoulder in) whilst hacking!
Obviously there are exceptions to every rule…. if I assess a horse, treat and feel he/she needs a follow up then we will book another session to make sure that the spasm is relieved and that both horse and owner are happy. There are some horses I see that don’t actually fit in these categories, but as every horse is treated with an individual treatment programme specific to their needs they can be easily catered for!
So, how often does your horse see the Physio?