Most equestrians that are serious about riding have a big support team. It can include a veterinarian, chiropractor, massage therapist, dentist, trainer, barn manager, and even a saddle fitter. Double that for the rider’s support team and you can easily have twenty people helping you and your horse succeed. So why do you need to add a Doctor of Physical Therapy to that already big team?
A physical therapist who has specialized training as a Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner can work with equine veterinarians to develop and implement comprehensive programs to help increase overall strength and balance of the horse. As movement specialists, physical therapists add a different perspective on the biomechanics of the horse and rider interaction.
A physical therapist can be crucial in taking you and your horse to the next level. Equine physical therapy focuses on the health and fitness of both horse and rider. With the help of a Doctor of Physical Therapy, you can find yourself overcoming recurring injuries, moving up the levels, and becoming a more balanced athlete.
Equine physical therapy uses prescribed exercises, massage, and various modalities (such as laser therapy) to promote wellbeing and athletic performance.
This is quite different from a chiropractor, who focuses on bone alignment. A chiropractor may perform a hands-on evaluation, make adjustments by manipulating the skeletal system, and then move on. The horse or rider may need a few days off afterwards and the chiropractor would have to return periodically to adjust the team again. This leaves the team dependent on the success of treatment with regular appointments which may never address the true imbalance.
A physical therapist is also different from a massage therapist. While a Doctor of Physical Therapy may use massage as part of their treatment plan, they also prescribe strengthening exercises to solve the source of the problem. A massage therapist focuses on relieving muscle tension, eliminating pain and stress. This may also have to be repeated periodically in order to maintain results.
Equine physical therapy identifies and minimizes areas of weakness. A custom treatment plan is then drawn up to strengthen those weak spots. If they were left to persist, injuries would be more likely to occur.
For example, a horse that is predisposed to lean to the left is subjecting the joints and muscles on the left side of his body to more wear and tear, leading to an early breakdown in performance. A physical therapist could help identify this and provide exercises to rebalance the horse before the breakdown occurs.
Let’s be honest, equestrians and their equines are not good at sitting still. Horses like stall rest about as much as your average rider likes to be confined to the couch. When injuries do occur, it can be difficult to allow oneself to rest and heal. Having a physical therapist on your team can safely shorten recovery time for happier horses and riders.
Exercises prescribed by a Doctor of Physical Therapy allows you to strengthen the necessary muscle groups, while still allowing injuries to heal. This means you won’t be half as weak when you’re let off stall or couch rest and can get back to doing what you love sooner.
A proactive approach to recovery can allow you to minimize permanent damage and recurrence. By completing exercises as prescribed by a physical therapist you can regain balance and lessen the load on the injured body part.
Emily received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Old Dominion University in 2005. After graduating, she worked at MedStar Washington Hospital Center before becoming an American Board of Physical Therapy Certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Specialist in 2013. In 2017, Emily combined her passion for horseback riding and physical therapy by successfully completing The University of Tennessee Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner program.
All of this training and experience allows Dr. Shields to enhance athletic performance, reduce pain, and prevent injuries.
If you want to reap the benefits of having a physical therapist on your equine team, get in touch today to learn more about the services we offer here.
Physio Equine Solutions is here to help!
If you have any questions, you can talk to Emily directly. We’ll find the physical therapy solution that’s right for you and your horse.
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