Fizz Marshall’s therapy blog: all taped up and equine Jimmy Choos

  • We’ve had lots of different things happening here at the Equine Therapy Centre at Hartpury College during the past couple of weeks, which has certainly kept us busy.  Lee Clarke was with us last Friday for a 2-day Kinesio taping course, attracting participants from all over the country.  Lee is a chartered human physiotherapist and is accredited to train other practitioners in the application of Kinesio tape on horses.

    The tape is exactly the same stretchy sticky stuff you’ll see being worn by human athletes and the horses looked very sporting in their shades of shocking pink and electric blue (see top)!  Lee uses the tape to either facilitate movement or to restrict it, depending on what the issue is.  Kinesio tape also works to lift the dermis layer of the skin which in turn aids lymphatic function, meaning you can use it to reduce swelling or the accumulation of fluid too.

    It’s really cool to watch Lee work and we drafted in a number of our work experience students to assist throughout the practical sessions over both days.  It’s great for us and our students to have events like this here; I think it’s really important to learn about different ways of addressing problems and taping is a technique we use regularly in cases referred to the centre.

    Practicing what we preach

    Last Tuesday saw us undertaking the latest part of a study looking at the effects of water height on horses working in our Aquafit water treadmill. The brain behind our research interests is my boss, Dr Kathryn Nankervis. Tuesday’s horses formed part of an undergraduate dissertation project of final year Hartpury student Pauline Finney, which in turn will also contribute to Kathryn’s larger scale study.

    They collected data via our ProReflex 3D motion capture system, which is a set of cameras that is able to track markers on the horse to provide measureable angles and degrees of movement.  This means we can establish and rationalise what we are seeing in terms of how a horse is moving, and contextualise it against the variable being tested, which in this case was varying water heights.  There isn’t much Kathryn doesn’t know about equine therapy and she is my first point of call when I need the benefit of her experience.

    Dissertation fever has struck here at Hartpury and there are a lot of rather stressed looking 3rd year students around as their hand-in date rapidly approaches.  Our assistant manager Meaghan is in the midst of her post-graduate dissertation looking at the effect of rider sponsorship on product sales.  She’s looking to get as much data as possible so please fill in her questionnaire if you have 5min to spare!

    Jimmy Choo’s anyone?

    We had a new horse arrive at the end of last week, a little thoroughbred mare who has come for rehab following stifle surgery.  Before starting her work we needed to stabilise her movement and this very much started with her feet.  The job was referred to remedial farrier Alan Bailey, who is resident at Three Counties Equine Hospital and has been shoeing horses for us for a very long time.  His eye for detail and ability to improve a horse by trimming and shoeing is quite astounding.

    Reverse graduated shoe with heart bar and lateral extension

    Reverse graduated shoe with heart bar and lateral extension

    He described the incredible bits of metal work he fitted to her hind feet as “reverse heart-bar graduated shoes” (see right); we call them an Alan Bailey Special.  She was unshod on arrival due to her surgery and not only did the angle and balance of her feet improve dramatically after shoeing, but her whole posture changed almost immediately. These really are the Jimmy Choo shoes of the equine world!

    You only have to look at a person creeping over stones in bare feet, or girls on a night out in punishing high heels (why do we do it to ourselves?!), to remind yourself of the effect shoes can have on our own posture.  Horses are no different.

    A different perspective

    I’ve been seeing life through the eyes of our clients of late, having had a horse of my own to get ready to go eventing since December.  Very kindly loaned to me by Ibby MacPherson, ‘Donkey’ has competed at 3* level and we went to our first BE event together at the weekend.

    I’m in such a fortunate position to have the expertise around me to best manage a superstar horse like this, and the result was an awesome day having a pop round the Open BE100 at Swalcliffe Horse Trials in glorious spring sunshine.  It’s days like that which bring perspective to what we do here on a day-to-day basis.  Our job is caught up in the details and the finite adjustments to get a horse back in business again and it’s great to be reminded of what comes after they leave us.

    I don’t know who was beaming more as we pinged around the cross-country course on Sunday – Donkey or I…  Bring on the next event I say!


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