A Physiotherapist’s Guide to Equine Sports - Part 2: Identifying Injuries

Linzi Fletcher-Bates
on
March 28, 2022

About the writer

With a range of equine experience from eventing to showing, polo to horseball, riding has often overlapped with Linzi’s 30+ year physiotherapy career. She has trained ponies and horses for various disciplines alongside top instructors and coaches and uses her unique experience to manage and treat equestrian-related conditions and injuries.

Why equestrianism can involve risk

Looking after our equines can involve a variety of manual handling challenges: from lifting and carrying heavy kit and feed, to dealing with unpredictable behaviour from the horse when handled on the ground, or when ridden. The White House Clinic, with locations from Sheffield, Worksop, Doncaster and Barnsley, covers a wide area that’s popular with equestrians, so we often see people at our clinics who face these physical challenges.

A knowledge of training techniques, and understanding what your options are for appropriate equipment, are invaluable for injury prevention and to aid the management of any long-term conditions.

The most common equestrian injuries

There are many different factors to think about when you consider injury prevention and a graded return to your equine sports as part of a rehabilitation package.

The most common injuries we see in clinic for physiotherapy assessment are back pain, ankle ligament sprains, knee meniscal injuries and shoulder soft tissue/rotator cuff tears. There are also more serious injuries, such as lower limb or upper limb fractures, and even head injuries from falls.

Longer-term conditions, meanwhile, such as joint osteoarthritis require maintenance and management to keep them in an acceptable range and to keep you in optimal physical fitness.

How simple rehabilitation can help

It’s important for the rider or handler of equines to feel physically capable of the task they are performing. This may require bespoke rehabilitation regimes, and short term or long-term adaptations in kit and equipment.

This can be a minefield in the equestrian world—and it can become extremely costly without the appropriate advice. This is because there are so many variables that can impact on our own and our horse’s performance and behaviour. That’s why tools like video analysis are often used, alongside work with trainers and coaches as part of a multi-disciplinary approach.

As with all rehabilitation and treatment plans, you can set both short term and long-term goals. You can start to shift the focus: rather than being solely about the horses’ performance, it’s often beneficial to really pay attention to you as a rider and handler.

We can optimise that health and performance with elements such as strength and conditioning classes, or dynamic gym ball exercises, to add a much-needed dynamic element to meet our treatment and physical goals.

In the next article in this series, I’ll explain how you can help to prevent future injuries.

To find out how we can help treat any injuries you’ve suffered as a result of riding or looking after your horse, then get in touch.

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