The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

2.5.2022 Excerpt from ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

From Chapter 12: Does your horse score 10/10 for comfort?

6. Picking up tail and tail pull

What to do (Safety note: It is your responsibility to decide whether it is safe for you to do this exercise with your horse. The author takes no responsibility for accident or injury):

1. Picking up tail : Standing directly behind your horse, place your hands under his tail as though you were going to put a tail bandage on, and lift his tail slightly.

2. Tail pull: Standing to one side of your horse, pull on his tail as though you are trying to pull his quarters towards you. Increase the strength of the pull gradually over two or three seconds, until you are leaning all your weight on it. Stay there for a second or two, then gradually release the pressure again.

The ideal: You lift the horse’s tail with no resistance, and he stands relaxed. He stands still and braces his muscles against you to keep his balance when you pull his tail to the side.

Check: Does your horse clamp his tail down? Does he move away from you? Does he clench his muscles and tuck his bottom under? Does he kick (in which case you shouldn’t be doing the exercise as it’s not safe!)? Does he lose his balance a little (or a lot) and step towards you when you pull his tail to one side, and does he lose his balance more in one direction than the other?

For the rider / trainer / instructor

If you’re an instructor with a client who’s struggling to achieve what you’re asking of them, you can suggest these exercises and help them to find the right treatment for their horse. They’ll get more from their lessons with you on a horse who’s physically better able to cope, and your obvious care for the horse’s wellbeing will help to build greater trust and respect. If you’re a professional rider and one of the horses you are riding is finding something overly difficult, or not performing as well as you would expect him to, these exercises could help his owner see that his performance might improve further with extra help from a vet or physical therapist. This would allow you to improve your scores, or work or compete him at a higher level, and owners will appreciate your breadth of feel and understanding for the benefit of their horse.

For the therapist

As a saddler, dentist, farrier, or other equine paraprofessional, you can point owners in the direction of this book and these exercises to help them recognise when their horse needs help from another professional as well as yourself. This will make your job easier since you’re not trying to multitask and cover work that others could do more easily, and it further improves the service you are offering to both client and horse. Increasingly clients are (quite rightly) expecting service over and above ‘the norm’, and with so much information freely available on the web, they expect every equine professional to be the fount of all knowledge. Since none of us can possibly know everything (and if someone claims that they do, perhaps they are not the right person to be working with), one priority is to point people in the direction of the right help. The trick is to know when and how to do that, and where to point them. I sincerely hope this book will help, for the sake of ridden horses throughout the world.

“A horse doesn’t care how much you know, until he knows how much you care.” Pat Parelli

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© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

May 2, 2022
Sue Palmer