In The Saddle: How we’re getting back on track

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If I have a sore back there’s nothing better than getting into a huge bubble bath for a soak, but I tend to find it’s not that easy for my horse!

And anyhow, I doubt she would probably appreciate the candles and chocolate or my choice in music.

This week it was time to have April’s back checked. It’s an annual check which horse owners should carry out to ensure their horses spines and back muscles are just as they should be.

If used following an injury for the purpose of physiotherapy it can help to restore and maintain mobility, function, independence and performance.

As an annual check it can help work out any general stiffness and is a good way to find out some root causes to behavioural problems such as bucking, rearing etc.

I hate to admit it but my horse is like me in many ways, they do they say animals become like their owners at some point.

So, where I am right handed, April is also right-handed but in the horsey world we tend to talk about which rein (side) the horse is weaker on. Most horses tend to favour a particular rein.

Since many of you have been following our progress, you’ll know April has been recovering from lameness, mainly in her front left leg. So her annual check came at a perfect time to see if her ‘limping’ on one leg had affected her back muscles, where she had compensated taking more weight on her right leg.

I used the practice, whose main woman is the official veterinary physiotherapist to the British Olympic equestrian team as they were recommended by my vets. It’s important to use someone reputable for assessing your horse, as an unqualified person could cause complications.

A good equine physio should be registered and qualified as a physiotherapist for people first, before taking further qualifications in animal physiotherapy. They can be found on the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) website.

Paula assessed April’s stiff side correctly as the left (because she’s right-sided) and also found that she’s stiff behind her right side near the saddle area, from taking more weight on her right leg (the better of the two injured) when moving about.

The whole appointment took around an hour and a half, where she watched April walk in-hand and also trot in-hand to assess her movements, then worked with pressure points along the back using tapping movements to release stiffness. Although it was more manipulation than a nice massage, April really relaxed and enjoyed the session.

One hundred pounds lighter and a while later, Paula ensured me I’d feel a difference when next riding April and, boy, was she right.

The only way I could describe it was that April felt like sitting in a comfy armchair, less tense through her back and much more relaxed.

All I need is a massage myself, although since I’ve spent all my money on the horse it looks like it’s just a cheap bubble bath for me!