Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist Kirsty Haines specialises in horse health and equine clients make up about 75% of her caseload. She has been riding for more than 20 years and owns an Arab and a Shetland pony. She gives us an overview of some of the exercises you can give your horse while on box rest.
Box rest is it the end or just the beginning to better horse health? Box rest are two words that sink the heart of any horse owner. Dash hopes of the bank holiday pleasure ride, create plenty of tack and spring cleaning time, produce amazingly creative boredom breaking thoughts from worried horse owners. Yep “Box rest” have to be two of the most disheartening.
Now, many would resign themselves to a period of pony patting, picking out hooves and removing endless barrows of churned up bedding. But there is another way to ensure horse health and muscle development.
No I'm not suggesting ignoring the vet’s advice, as that would be foolish but confinement for a horse with an injury need not mean a halt to training and development. Some clients will have already called me when their horse suffered an injury for early physio treatment alongside traditional vet medicines, pain killers and anti inflammatories etc.
The aim being to get the offending bit mended as efficiently as possible, in terms of both time and quality of healing. There’s no point having a beautifully healed tendon if it won’t hold up to the stress and strain it needs to. And this is where box rest can be worked to your advantage.
It might be you’re several weeks into solitary confinement, climbing the walls and decide those little niggles might as well be sorted while the fun’s off limits. It follows that any lower limb injury could have injured tissues higher up. Since when do we suffer a single injury? And if we are fortunate to, a few days of limping and I guarantee there’s more than your leg that’s beginning to twinge.
Encouraging horse health
Whichever way, there are many activities you can do to help your horse heal and heal well while on box rest, and maintain horse health. So first thing to say is each horse is an individual and each injury is unique. That’s why Chartered physio’s don’t have a recipe for treating a particular thing. We look at what’s in front of us. Muscle development, function, restriction and potential and treat accordingly.
But, generally speaking, the following exercises can be of benefit. Maintaining suppleness, encouraging correct muscle development and healing, not to mention keeping those vital core muscles switched on and ready for action.
There are many more, all specific, not all suitable for every case.
1. Carrot stretch with belly lift. Standing at your horses flank, guide him round in a slow carrot stretch. Tap his belly with your finger tips and you should see a gentle lift. Hold the end of the stretch at least 10 seconds (a long carrot helps!) This not only gives him a great stretch down the long muscles of his back but encourages core muscle activation and opening of the vertebral spaces. Repeat both sides 3-4 times.
2. Neck stretch. A combination of stretches here gives a complete neck stretch. Don’t forget it’s a long neck with many different movements possible. First stretch down to fetlocks, then to knees, aiming to girth area, to chest then round to shoulder and round to elbow.
3. Shoulder roll. The shoulders are not attached by bone to the skeleton. It’s all muscles. Big muscles. And all capable of becoming tight sore and restricted. Keep them soft and supple. Educate, create muscle memory and build the patterns for lateral work and more. Start on the floor about a meter away from your horse’s fetlock, stood in front. Move the carrot diagonally up in the air to the opposite side. You should see your horse transfer his weight through his shoulder sling. Aim for it to be a fluid rolling movement. This is particularly good in forelimb injuries. It’s slow, controlled and graded loading of the tissues, no gym or weights needed.
Kirsty Haines MSc MCSP ACPAT Cat A is a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist practicing at Westfield Veterinary Physiotherapy Tel: 0774 8788564, email: email@example.com.
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