Jockey, Horse & Hound: Horse & Rider Physiotherapy Services
Sports specific rehabilitation
It is important that your physiotherapist has an in depth understanding of the unique demands placed upon both you and your horse’s body by the various disciplines under the umbrella title of equestrianism. Regardless of what level you are participating at, it is important to work with a physiotherapist who understands your chosen sport. As a lifelong horse rider herself, our principal physiotherapist, Eilís, understands the equestrian world and appreciates the different nuances and physical demands placed upon both horse and rider in each equestrian discipline.
Our physiotherapist, Eilís, is qualified and insured to apply her physiotherapy skills to both humans and animals. With a degree in Physiotherapy and a Masters in Veterinary Physiotherapy, you can be sure that the well-being of both you and your horse is in the hands of a highly qualified physiotherapist who has the expertise and experience to care for both of you.
What to expect from a Horse & Rider consultation?
Physiotherapy: assessment of the rider
An unmounted assessment of the rider allows the physiotherapist to assess how the rider moves without the influence of the horse. A subjective evaluation (verbal discussion, questionnaires) provides the physiotherapist with a history of the rider’s health and gives the rider an opportunity to describe their main problems and goals. The objective evaluation involves both observation of overall quality of movement and screening of neuromuscular control, assessment of joint range of motion and muscle strength and dynamic control. In addition, depending on the presenting condition, more specific orthopaedic or neurological tests may be completed. A comprehensive picture of the rider’s physical health is developed, keeping in mind that psychological and social factors may also have a significant impact on our overall well-being.
Physiotherapy: assessment of the horse
An unmounted assessment of the horse allows the physiotherapist to assess how the horse moves without the influence of the rider. The rider / guardian of the horse will be asked a series of questions evaluating the horses past history as well as current management, training and competition routine. An objective assessment includes observation of conformation and posture as well as gait analysis, in hand and potentially on the lunge. Hands on assessment will provide the physiotherapist with information regarding joint and soft tissue health and function. Depending on physiotherapy findings, more specific orthopaedic and neurological screening may be completed. In addition, tack can have a significant impact on your horse’s heath and may also be evaluated as part of the assessment. A comprehensive picture of your horse’s health is developed, before considering the impact of the rider on the horse’s movement patterns and function.
Physiotherapy: ridden assessment
The ridden assessment – sports specific physiotherapy at its best. Quite often, a skilled equestrian physiotherapist will be able to predict how the rider will affect the horses movement and vice versa, after completion of the unmounted horse and rider assessment. Observing the horse and rider together in motion offers insight into how each member of the equestrian team affects, and is affected by their partner. After observing static posture at rest in stance, your physiotherapist will observe you and your horse moving through a variety of paces and in a variety of directions. In addition, after anatomical markers have been placed on both horse and rider, photography and videography may be used – not just as an outcome measure (by which to measure future change) but also as a teaching aid for you, the rider. Your physiotherapist might seek to observe you at your chosen discipline (e.g. dressage or jumping) at your property or even at your local club or event, or perhaps by video footage after the event.
Physiotherapy: problem solving and treatment planning
A problem list is drawn up following completion of the rider, horse and ridden assessments. The list will detail the primary issues identified that affect the rider, horse and the horse and rider team. In collaboration with you, the rider, a treatment plan is developed taking into account your own personal preferences and lifestyle. Treatment commences following the assessment, for both the rider and the horse. The consultation is usually wrapped up with a final ridden session, in order to evaluate outcomes post treatment. You will be given a report detailing key assessment findings for you own records and most importantly, don’t forget your homework! You will be sent an individually tailored home exercise program via email by the following working day.
Discipline specific training programs
Dressage - do you continuously score lower on one rein? Perhaps your or your horse’s laterality needs to be assessed and optimised.
Showjumping - does your horse tend to clip the rail when a fence is approached at a particular angle? A lack of range of motion in a limb may make it difficult for your horse to cope with particular approach lines.
Eventing - does your horse tend to tire by day three? Perhaps their endurance and stamina needs to be optimised? When fatigued, proprioception and coordination declines and injury risk increases.
Racing - routinely beaten by a nose? Did you know that shoulder range of motion and limb protraction has a significant impact on stride length? Would you like to learn more about exercise physiology for performance horses?
As an allied health member of both you and your horse’s healthcare team, we work alongside the various other professionals involved in both you and your horse’s healthcare. Regarding your healthcare, we work alongside and regularly communicate with a wide range of healthcare professionals such as G.P.’s, orthopaedic surgeons, sports injury physicians, rehabilitation specialists, pain management physicians, psychologists and podiatrists. Regarding your horses healthcare, we collaborate with your veterinarian, farrier, trimmer, Master saddler and your riding coach. We understand our scope of practice and know when to refer you to another professional for further investigations and appropriate specialist care.
Evidence based practice
A commitment to continuous professional development is one of the cornerstones of the physiotherapy profession. As registered physiotherapists with AHPRA, in addition to being APA and ACPAT members, we commit to evidence based practice and lifelong learning. It’s a good thing that we love to study, read and learn about all things equestrian physiotherapy!
The horse & rider: a team
“There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse.”
―Robert Smith Surtees
In team sports, the team physiotherapist will look after all members of the team, from those injured on the sidelines to helping minimise injury risk and optimise performance for those on the playing field. Choose a physiotherapist who can care for all members of your team.