Equine back problems are one of the most common injuries these days, it can be the root of some major problems, from behavioral issues, to jumping problems you name it, the list goes on. Dante has had a few falls in his time & to be brutally honest, physio is something I should of gotten a lot sooner rather than later for him. The majority of Dante’s problems were all in his back end, The first time Ruth Boland seen Dante he was on the walker, and she straight away she noticed how badly he was using his back, he pretty much wasn’t using it correctly at all, it was hollow and well he just looked uncomfortable & quite stiff, so with that I booked him in for a session with Ruth two weeks later.
At the beginning of his examination, Dante was walked up and down in a straight line & then trotted in hand up and down whilst Ruth had a look at his movements. Not to my surprise, she basically said everything was out of place, nothing was flowing correctly. After his in hand examination, I Brought him back into the stable and Ruth jumped straight into work! He was slightly uncomfortable in parts of the physio session to begin with but overall he was very good, he stood there & towards the end he was definitely relaxing a lot more into the idea!
Signs Your Horse May Need Physio
- They ride with their head elevated & with a hollowed back
- Trailing their hind end, rather than stepping in under themselves
- Resistant to any lateral work
- Having a sour attitude to being ridden
- Behavioural issues
- Refusing to go forward or to jump
- Resistant to any contact
Causes of Equine Back Problems
- Ill Fitting Tack
- An Imbalanced rider
- Too many pads under a correctly fitted saddle
- Footing that is too hard or too deep
- Over Jumping your horse or over exercising
- Bad Shoeing
Points of Interest on Dante
Dante’s Lumbar’s were the main point of focus. Followed by some work on his stifle & his neck & shoulders. As Dante begins to work himself correctly, the more work his lumbars/glutes are going to have to do, putting a slight bit of pressure on his stifle area also. In turn making regular physio sessions more frequent to keep on top off his ever growing self! To my surprise, Ruth seemed very impressed with his improvement from our first session 3 months prior, his right side was noticeably a lot stiffer up around his neck, but I had noticed this myself whilst riding, getting him to flex to the right, was something he never could properly do, bending himself around correctly always seemed very restricted, hopefully I will see a massive improvement when I hop up on him again!
Both times Ruth suggested giving Dante the day he had the physio off & the day afterwards off. Trying to get him out & about in the field also, getting him to have a feel for his new rubbed out muscles! Luckily for me I have his turn out paddock & a walker that I can use daily.
Exercises to help him improve
Like in my most recent post Dante’s Diaries – Back To Flat, the exercises I have been working on are ideal for Dante, adding in trot poles & raised trot poles to get him using that hind end even more. Unfortunately it will probably take a few years to get him to the machine he is going to be, but he is so big & quite a long horse, he has an awful lot of muscle still to gain & a bit more filling out to do, But we are on the right track. Grid work will also help him, getting him to work from behind is the key to all his exercises, making him use his back correctly.
When our Next Visit Should be
From the first visit to our second, two weeks prior to Ruth coming back I could begin to feel Dante slacking, I am not saying that he will need physio out every three months for the next few years, but if I can feel his bum struggling to do the work, I know a bit of a rub out is all he will need to set him straight again. Leaving issues until they are bad is not ideal, I for one don’t want to give him an excuse to start acting out, but I don’t want the issue to continue for him to be in pain. Trying to work a horse out of a pain related issue even when it is fixes can be a nightmare.
At the end of our physio session, Ruth asked to check Dante’s Saddle again. The first time she had suggested I get a new one as she felt it didn’t sit properly in behind his withers. But to my delight & to my bank account’s delight after Dante’s first physio session, & with a week of recommended physio exercises he really began to fill out, making his saddle a little more fitting & comfortable for him. (Bearing in mind, he has shown no signs of discomfort towards his saddle) Come the new year the plan is to replace his current saddle with something slightly more reliable, something I can use a bit of padding underneath & gradually remove as he grows into himself that bit more. With such a big gangley horse, looking to the future with these kind of purchases is a lot more practical that having to buy a saddle ever few months!
What I learned
I was asked by the physio what feed he was on & if it had changed for the winter, I was very proud of myself when she told me not to change a thing, its not everyday you get told your doing something right, the biggest change to his feed over the winter was adding in oils, not only for his coat but for his joints too.
We should all aim to work with our physio, and saddlers as best we can especially with a younger horse. Keeping Dante in regular exercise, not to over do him with certain exercises is key. Keeping his exercise routine & his feeding schedules persistent.