Oesteopathy:knowing your horse's body inside and out
Become familiar with your animal's health to be able to act on, and stop, injuries occurring
As with any athlete, horses can pick up injuries, but unlike human athletes, they cannot simply tell us where the pain is. Our job is to be familiar enough with our animals that when something goes out of kilter, we pick up on it quickly and treat the problem as early as possible. By doing so, we can reduce both the time and expense required to bring our horses back to full health.
Meath-based osteopath Samantha Sherrington believes that horse owners need to make a habit of observing their own horses to become familiar with what is normal and what is abnormal for each horse.
"Ideally, you should get someone else to walk and trot your horse up in front of you regularly so that you can pick up on any changes," she says. "Irish horses are very stoic and they will sometimes keep going regardless of being injured, so we need to pick up on any problems early on."
Sam, from Australia, initially trained as an osteopath for humans before embarking on a specialist two-year animal chiropractic course in Melbourne. The course is only open to fully trained and registered osteopaths, chiropractors and veterinarians, ensuring that the graduates have a solid understanding and skill in manual therapy but also a sound understanding of the broader veterinary issues which may affect the health of your animal.
So what is osteopathy? Dating back to 1874, osteopathy is a non-invasive therapy that is used to detect and address movement disorders, with the intention of treating the cause rather than just masking the symptom. It uses manipulation of the muscles and joints to maintain health and minimise injury by addressing mild problems before they become major.
In Sam's practice, a routine call out to an injured horse involves assessing the horse's entire body by feel and then working on individual muscles and joints to relieve the problem. Following the initial treatment, the owner is given a stretching routine specific to his or her horse that can be used until Sam's next visit.
She says the type of injuries that osteopathy can help to treat include:
•Unexplained lameness, back soreness, head tossing or poll-shyness.