By guest blogger, Sue Palmer
I couldn’t help it, the title of the article caught my eye!
I don’t have full access to this article, which was published in 2010, but the basic premise is that attaching accelerometers to a horses neck could provide early warning of lameness. I’d add that learning to listen to the horse more carefully, understand his behaviours, and become more aware of the feel of his movement, would all help. Although the title could be taken as a bit of a joke, I do actually believe that using technology where it is useful is an excellent idea, and the reality is that if technology could provide early warning of lameness (i.e. if it could predict when a horse was just a little bit lame, rather than waiting until it’s hopping lame), then further more serious injury could in many cases be prevented. It’s all very well to suggest that we listen to our horse, get to know him better, etc. But as the saying goes, ‘common sense isn’t all that common’, and there’s a huge pressure to somehow develop ‘common sense’ around horses within a short time of owning your own, which in my mind is impossible unless you have been around horses for many years beforehand. It’s impossible to know what ‘normal’ is if you only get to see / feel your own horse, or perhaps yours and a couple of friend’s horses, and that’s why it’s important to gather a team of experts (vet, physio, farrier, equine dental technician, saddler, nutritionist) around your horse to advise you. When I was 32yrs old I studied for my Masters in Veterinary Physiotherapy at the Royal Veterinary College. I had been riding since I was 3yrs old, working with horses since I was 12yrs old, and competing all my life. And yet I still struggled to ‘see’ the asymmetries (sub clinical lamenesses) that others could apparently see. I’ve developed this skill over the years watching literally thousands of horses move. And even now I find it easier to trust my findings from ‘feel’ than from vision. So actually I’m a great believer in the technology that has been and is being developed around measuring lameness in horses. As a great friend once said, ‘If I can make it easier or better for my horse by ‘cheating’, then why wouldn’t I cheat?!’.
Many vets now have technology that helps them to assess lameness in the horse, and if you’re interested in applying the techniques to your own horse, why not give your local vets a call and ask them about it?
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By Sue Palmer
A paper has recently been published in Equine Veterinary Education, by ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist Gillian Tabor. Routine equine physio (and for that matter, routine physio for people!) is something I’m passionate about, as anyone who has heard me on my ‘soap box’ will know! I’m so, so pleased to see this subject being brought to the forefront in the scientific field, and I really hope this encourages the lay person to consider whether or not this would be something their horse (or themselves!) would benefit from. And please don’t let me hear the “I spend all my money looking after my horse and there’s none left for looking after myself”, I hear it every day – you’ve only got one body, and there’s only you who’s going to look after it! Well done Gillian, and thank you!
The abstract doesn’t appear to be available online, but Gillian has given us permission to share it (see below). For the full article, you must have a login to Equine Veterinary Education, or you can purchase it through this link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/eve.12940
“Equine physiotherapists work within the team of professionals supporting horses at both the national and international level of competition. In the non-elite equine population, physiotherapists are also commonly involved in the management of musculoskeletal injuries in partnership with the veterinary surgeon, as well as advising owners on regular assessment and treatment schedules for their horses. Routine or maintenance physiotherapy has yet to be defined fully for the management of horses but translation from human rehabilitation would suggest the aims are to prevent objectively measureable deterioration in a patient’s quality of life and or to optimise the patients’ functional capacity. For a horse in full work, demands on the musculoskeletal system may predispose the horse to minor tissue injury that left unchecked, could affect quality of life, welfare and performance capacity. Therefore routine physiotherapy might be indicated to manage these issues. To support the increasing demands of equine clients to manage their horse’s health and welfare, as well as supporting rehabilitation cases, a close working relationship between the veterinary surgeon and physiotherapist can be recommended.”
To find your local ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist visit www.acpat.co.uk.
To find your local Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner visit www.rampregister.org