How long does a session last?
In order to ensure a thorough and comprehensive assessment and therapy session, I always conduct a consultation, assess the horse's gait and carry out a whole body therapy session including stretches (as appropriate). Initial consultations normally take around 1.5 hours. Follow-up sessions usually last for around 1hour. Ideally sessions should be conducted in a calm and quiet atmosphere, free from interruptions.
How many sessions will my horse need?
Each horse is an individual with its own unique problems so there are no hard and fast rules. It may be that initially a course of sessions are required at regular intervals to alleviate the problem followed by checkups several months apart. Or the horse may only need one or two sessions a year. It really depends on the horse and their workload. It should be remembered that muscle spasm is progressive and the longer it remains untreated the more the horse compensates for the problem and the longer it may take to resolve the problem.
Can I ride my horse after a physical therapy session?
I recommend that your horse is not worked on the same day following a physical therapy session. As part of the session I will discuss what work is suitable on the following day(s) which will vary according to what I find during the session.
What about feeding?
Opinions are divided on this issue. Massage increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles (and therefore away from other parts of the body) and also activates the part of the nervous system which controls processes such as digestion. Unlike humans, horses have evolved to trickle feed - they eat on the move. However horses did not evolve to eat large meals in one sitting or to eat hard feeds. Therefore, as a precaution I recommend no hard feed either one hour before or after massage. The horse should be allowed access to hay and forage and to water.
One very important point is to avoid feed time - a horse that knows it is always fed at 5pm (or sees the other horses on the yard being fed) is less likely to settle and focus for a massage session at that time.
How long should I leave before a competition?
For an initial session at least 1 week should be allowed between a physical therapy session and the next competition. If a session alleviates muscular tension or soreness this could alter the horse's range of motion and way of going. Both you and your horse will need time to adapt to this - the showground is not the ideal place!
When can't a horse have physical therapy?
Massage is contra-indicated if the horse has had a vaccination in the past 5 days, is suffering from weight-bearing lameness, acute azoturia, an acute injury less than 7 days old, any undiagnosed condition, any unexplained heat or swelling, elevated vital signs, is lethargic or not eating, is dehydrated or is suffering from a skin condition. If your horse is lame or appears to be ill, call your vet!
Physical therapy should only ever be done with the permission of the horse's vet (this is a legal requirement). Physical and complementary therapies are never a substitute for veterinary treatment, they are complementary to it.
*PLEASE NOTE The field of physical therapy (including massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, physiotherapy etc) for horses is unfortunately poorly regulated and terms such as 'veterinary physiotherapist' are not subject to any legal protection or definition. As such, not all practitioners have undergone appropriate training or work with proper insurance. Always ask your practitioner where they trained so that you may check for yourself the rigour and requirements of their course. A properly qualified and insured practitioner will always conduct a thorough consultation and watch your horse move (gait analysis or dynamic observations) prior to every session and will always view your horse's tack at the initial visit. They will only ever work with veterinary permission (a legal requirement). *
How much will it cost?
Initial session is £50 (approx. 1.5 hours) Follow-up sessions are £45 (approx. 1 hour).
A nominal mileage fee may be applicable please ask at time of booking