One of the parts of my job that I love the most is working with horses and riders to achieve the very best athletic performance, and reduce the risk of injury. This involves working closely with the horse and rider, making regular checks, both pre and post competition to ensure that the horse is at his athletic peak. No human athlete would dream of competing without a sports physiotherapist, and rides and trainers are also beginning to appreciate the vital role that the physio can have in the training and support of the equine athlete.
A horse and rider combination I have been working with for 9 years is Sarah Stretton and Lazy Acres Skip On (or Bobby as he is known at home). Sarah and Bobby have been members of the GB Young Riders event team and have competed internationally.
Sarah bought Bobby as a 4 yo. He had been labelled an unsafe horse, and his owner had sent him to Sarah to see if she could make any difference to his perceived bad behaviour. He would buck and bolt for no apparent reason and his owner had several falls from him, finally breaking her ankle seriously. However, Sarah took to Bobby immediately, despite his problems, and she bought him.
Sarah asked me to look at him, because, having worked with me for some years, she knew that very often it is pain that is causing the behaviour. My examination revealed that he did have a number of painful issues which needed to be rectified, and Sarah and I worked together for some time to correct his poor posture, and treat his symptoms. After that his behaviour improved considerably, and they rose through the rankings together, eventually becoming part of Team GB.
I see Bobby regularly, to make sure that there are no issues which might lead to injury or the recurrence of pain. Bobby has not had a cross-country fault in over 2 years, and that includes runs at Badminton and Burghley. Not bad for a horse that had been labelled as unrideable!