Saturday, 16 September 2017

Equine Physio & Rider Balance with Lee Clark

I'm a big believer in equine physio sessions. Some people aren't and ask why I have a session for Louie every 6 months when I don't do the same for me. My answer is simple - Louie can't tell me his aches and when he's a bit stiff or sore. We all know that muscle ache feel that we get when we've gone a harder session in the gym, or when we've used a muscle we don't usually...

So for me, equine physio is as important as the farrier and vets visits, and has long been a part of the routine of having a horse.


Louie last had his physio in December, so mid summer he was due, but without a correctly fitting saddle, I decided to wait to make my appointment. My physio is also trained to treat humans, and runs Rider Balance session, looking at the way a rider sits and rides their horses. It also considers the saddle fit on your horse too. I booked in for both.

Monday morning, Lee Clark arrived bright and early at the yard. I've used Lee for about 8 years now, and think his attitude to his work is second to none. Not only do I see on his Facebook page that he's somewhere in the world giving lectures or attending lectures to learn new techniques and research, but he is always very good at explaining the points he makes. He's very thorough and almost methodical in his approach to the horse and its treatment.

Equine Physio Assessment


We started with a basic assessment of Louie in the stable, standing on hard and a walk & trot up on the hard ground. Lee uses an app that records the trot ups and allows him to watch back in slow motion, as well as adding graphics, lines and such like to show the gradients and movement of your horse.


I then popped my saddle on, and Lee added a couple of sensor balls - one to the back of the saddle and one to the top of Louie's quarters (in the middle on his spine). When repeating the walk and trot up, it allows you to very easily see if your saddle is swinging in any way. Carefully looking at the two sensors when the horses head and neck are straight you should see them align and any movement of the back of the saddle will move the alignment of them.


Rider Balance Physio Session


Lee treats Louie after the Rider Balance session, so we head back in to get tacked up and left Lee to setup the arena. I walked in to three lines of blue cones - up the centre line and one on each quarter line. Lee asked me to put a Visualise jacket on - it's a navy blue lightweight jacket, with lines up the arms, back, front, and over the shoulders. It allows Lee to see how your upper body sits straight and upright while riding. Again, using his app, Lee asked me to ride in walk up and down the centre line cones, before trotting up and down, and around the three quarter line cones. Finally, we did it in canter too.





Throughout the riding, Lee asks you to dismount and looks at various elements to you or your saddle. Easily for me, Louie had no issues and moves very straight & even, and with a newly correctly fitted saddle, it was super easy to say any imbalance was coming from the rider!! It was easy to see - my right stirrup was about 4 inches longer, yet taking them off the bars, they were perfectly even....


Lee did some muscle work with me to test the strength I have on both sides of my body - the left is significantly weaker with almost no strength. He used a couple of exercises there and then to activate these muscles before getting back on. He filmed before and after and there is a notable difference, although only work and building up these muscles is going to correct my problem over the next few months!! Hopefully, at the end of the year / start of 2018, I'll be able to show you a before and after of the weakness.

Equine Physio Treatment


After, we'd completed the Rider Balance session, which lasts about 30-45 minutes, I untacked Louie and it was his turn for treatment. He has a little bit of soreness behind his saddle on the left and at the back of his quarters on the same side, mostly likely to be caused from me sitting so over to the right & him compensating, but also they are quite typical for young horses, and that we are working on creating more action from the hocks in our flatwork training.


Using a TENS machine, Lee looked to release some of the muscle tension in these areas, and it was really interesting to see the different muscles respond - some bounced like jelly, some moved the whole joint (indicating tightness) and some Louie curved away from (soreness). This takes about 20-25 minutes for Lee to complete and he stressed that it is the only way to relax these huge deep muscles on a horse - some of which are 6 inches thick and no human can manipulate muscles that size!!

Equine Exercises and Stretches


Before he went, Lee gave me some exercises for Louie

  • Traditional carrot stretches, only lower to activate the abdominal muscles
  • Hock flexions to help keep them nice and mobile
  • Hamstring stretches, bring the hoof to the back of the front knee (after exercise)


I've been keeping up with these since Lee's visit and especially the hamstring stretches have now become a part of Louie's untacking routine.

Half a day off work and £65 per session is a very good use of time and budget in my opinion... I'm planning to see Lee again in 3 months for my own issues, and book Louie in for a 6 monthly check in the spring.

3 comments:

  1. We actually bought our own TENS machine in the spring because it's just so useful to be able to do it by ourselves in between the physio visits!

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    Replies
    1. I'm thinking of doing the same Roosa. Have you found it helps a lot?

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  2. Lovely lovely lovely! So interesting to see what Lee does and using the sensor balls is awesome. I will definitely have to check him out. It is so important to have regular checks and adjustments whether muscular or more. I'm also a big fan of stretching, for any horse but especially as they grow.

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