Have you ever over done it during a training session, or felt a little sore riding again after taking a break? Now add a rider to that equation and you can see why any horse be it a happy hacker or a top performance horse would benefit from regular physical therapy sessions. In addition horses have to compensate for their riders imbalances - how many lop-sided riders have you seen, and are you more supple on one side? Furthermore, farriery, saddle fit and dentistry all have an effect on how a horse carries itself and can result in physical compensations when things are not quite right.
Horses can’t talk to us in words but through their behaviour they can let us know something is wrong, it is up to us as their care givers to recognise these signs and take steps to alleviate any pain or discomfort.
These signs may include some or all of the following (this list is by no means exhaustive!)
- tactile defensiveness either to the touch or whilst being tacked up
- unwilling to move forward
- refusing jumps or knocking poles
- unable to back up
- not tracking up
- working with quarters in or out
- unable to execute lateral work
- changing canter leads behind
- not striking off on correct canter lead
- unwilling/unable to work up or down inclines or hills
- change in disposition
- change in eating or sleeping habits...
- carrying head to one side
- tilting head
- unwilling to bend one or both ways
- excessive shaking of the head
- reluctance to be touched around poll/ear area
- excessive stretching of head and neck
As there could be many reasons for any of these signs, the horse should be seen by a vet in the first instance. On their permission, physical therapy can then be carried out to help alleviate and remove the underlying problem