I have seen several horses over the last few days that have broken down and are on box rest under veterinary supervision.

The first was one I first started treating a few months ago. He had been un-level behind for years. It took several sessions to get his hips aligned correctly but with the help of an osteopath he became level and was able to engage his quarters as never before. The problem happened when both the trainer and the owner thought he was fixed, so they started working him in a much deeper outline than he had previously been able to produce. Unfortunately this put far too much pressure on his hind suspensory ligaments. The added flexion available was there but he was asked for too much too soon. He broke down.

The next horse had been in a badly fitted saddle for years. A new, properly-fitted saddle arrived. The owner immediately noticed an incredible difference and started to compete at a level she had not been able to attain before. The horse broke down.

The last case was a horse that had suffered so many niggly issues ever since she was purchased that she was nicknamed ‘Sick Note’! She finally came sound for a few months and started working correctly. She broke down.

My point here is that if you have a horse that has been working incorrectly for more than a few months or years, once they do start to work correctly you have to take it slowly. VERY slowly. Joints, muscles and ligaments that have seized up will take a lot of time to recover their full range of movement. Especially ligaments, which have 90% less vascular supply than a muscle does. Joints will be lacking in synovial fluid. So it is a very good idea to use a joint supplement once you get moving. Muscles will have seized and have loss in their elastile quality. A good therapist will be able to provide a course of stretches to help the muscles recover their optimal range.

So, to summarise: if you have a horse that has recently been put back together by a bunch of us therapists, DON’T DO TOO MUCH TOO QUICKLY. Do very little work with the horse – by that I mean keep it to 10 minutes per day for at least 2 weeks. Then after that do 20 in a correct outline for another couple of weeks. After a month, think about 40 mins. But NEVER do 40 to begin with. Or go to that competition you always wanted to do but thought you could never get to. Give the horse time to come ‘up to speed’ The well-being of the horse and the longevity of its career are the key concerns. Time is the best healer and patience is required.