I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of horses over a period of time, I was interested to see if using physiotherapy before working had any effect on how the horse went rather than if it was just taken out and warmed up in the usual way.
There were several different types of horses ranging from Cobs to Thoroughbreds and ages from eight to twenty all were fit and healthy and worked on a regular basis. They always had the same riders and the conditions were as similar as possible.
I set up a series of simple exercises, could they stand still to be saddled up and then mounted, could they walk in a straight line, flex left and right without force, weave their way through cones, ride a spiral, and what was their demeanour throughout these exercise? They were then repeated in trot.
One the first occasion the horses were all groomed, tacked up, mounted and taken in to the school. They were all slightly reluctant to work none of them could even manage to walk in a straight line and all the riders had to work quite hard just to keep them going. Flexion right and left was restricted and the bend in the downward spiral was nonexistent. All the horses looked slightly uncomfortable with some tail swishing and head tossing. Moving on to the trot work showed the same results but as the exercises progressed some of the horses improved. On asking the riders how long it usually took for their horse to warm up it ranged from ten minutes to half an hour and in some cases with a lot of effort from the riders.
On the second occasion all of the horses were groomed then had a ten minute massage mainly to their backs and necks, the horses were then mounted and taken in to the school. All of the horses were better immediately, they could bend and flex and almost walk a straight line without too much effort from the rider. They all looked much happier and ready to work both mentally and physically. All of the riders agreed that their horses went much better than they would normally have done, even if they had had a warm up time.