The horses I have for rehabilitation I either buy for a nominal fee or am given as they are usually going to be put down. This page shows the techniques I use in their rehabilitation.
Time is the greatest healer and although we can stimulate change in the body we can not force the time issue. Healing after an injury is a process and not an event. Most of the horses I have in take 6-12 months.
Every horse I have had for rehab has already been through extensive veterinary investigations but with no obvious condition found. This rules out for me any permanent problems that are not reversible.
Obviously I start by treating each horses back. Treatment sometimes has to be intensive and more frequent than with normal horses. I use massage, McTimoney manipulation and stretching sometimes on a daily basis to help alleviate spasm and misalignments. I may then feel it is necessary to also use energy healing or EFT to help heal other issues such as emotional ones.
Many of the horses problems are deep seated and long standing and so postural problems have also developed. I make sure all the horses are well shod or trimmed as it is important they have a comfortable base to start with. Their teeth are also rasped every 6 months.
I start working the horse from the ground. No horse is sat on until it is ready and this may be months rather than weeks. The type of ground work I use depends on the individual horse but I usually use a mix of lunging and long reining. If I use a training aid it is usually the Pessoa as this encourages engagement of the hind quarters not just pulling the head in. It provides a framework for the horse to work with in and does not restrict the horse laterally. The strap behind the horses back legs also make the horse more bodily aware and can help improve proprioception.
I then progress to pole work which helps in several ways. It makes the horse concentrate on where he is putting his feet which helps his brain as well as his awareness of where his feet are. By having to alter his stride to step over the poles the muscles are having to lengthen and shorten and so they learn to use themselves. Various patterns are used with the poles but I usually start with a single pole as horses in this poor a posture are not capable of anything more. The exercises then progress until the poles are used in differing combinations and sometimes are raised also.
When appropriate small jumps may be used. The horse may be asked to only jump 1 or 2 jumps in a session but a huge amount of praise is given to make training fun as most of these horses come to me sour or shut down as they try to cope with their pain.
When ridden work begins it may be for only a few minutes at a time. This is gradually increased so the horses get to hack around the roads as well as go around the fields and in the school. It is important for me that each horse learns to stretch when under saddle. A muscle can not be correctly strengthened if it is already short and held in tension and so this is the first step in their ridden work.
To start with I check the horse understands each rein and leg aid individually. It is interesting how many ridden horses do not have this understanding. I find the techniques I use here especially useful in rehabilitation of ex racehorses who have been ridden in a different way and more in just straight lines.
Before rehoming these horses I usually take them to a few shows or travel them for lessons or even for use in lecture demos. This is so I can then rehome them into the most suitable type of home.
Rehabilitation takes time and patience but is hugely rewarding when you have a happy horse and know you have given him a second chance at life.
Prevention is always better than cure. Below is a list of ways to help prevent back pain occuring in your horse.
- Use a mounting block
- Warm up and cool down for a sufficient length of time before and after work
- X-Train your horse to fitten the whole body
- Have regular McTimoney treatments (3-6 monthly)
- Have regular saddle checks (6 monthly)
- Regular shoeing (5-6 weeks)
- Regular teeth rasping (6-12 months)
- Feed a joint supplement
- Make sure your horse has a balanced diet and is not over or under weight
- Learn to massage your horse
- Develop a suitable stretching routine for you and your horse
- Improve your riding fitness