The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

27.5.2022 Excerpt from ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

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

7. Walk and trot in straight line

What to do: Ask a handler to walk your horse in a straight line away from you on level ground for about 30 paces or so, and then back towards you. Repeat in trot, both on a loose rope. Note whether your horse is on a soft or hard surface. Stand directly behind your horse as he’s walking away from you, and directly in front of him as he’s walking towards you. Watch how he moves, particularly noting how straight he moves, and whether he is sound.

The ideal: The horse walks and trots calmly away from you and back towards you. The hind feet follow in the tracks of the front feet, and the left and right quarter muscles move up and down an equal amount.

Check: Do one or both hind feet land to the side of the track that the corresponding forefoot is making? Can you see your horse nodding his head in the trot? Do the quarter muscles on one side move up and down more than those on the other side, or does he hold his pelvis higher on one side? Does he drag his hind toes, or stumble in front? (Note: you may spot conformational or movement issues here such as dishing or pigeon toes, or you may notice that your horse holds his tail to one side. These are not direct indicators of current discomfort, and so are not discussed here.)

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 27, 2022
Sue Palmer