Who Has the Best Therapist – You or Your Horse?


Well? It’s not such a daft question. Many therapists double up for horse and rider and some even work on riders while they’re on their horses.

There’s a saying that holds that how we treat our animals reflects how humane we are as a society. Bringing that down to a more individual level, the nature of the care we give to our animals often mirrors the care that we arrange for ourselves.

For horses and riders, that has certainly changed over the years – and it’s still changing.

And it’s getting more complicated.

Have you heard people saying how simple it used to be keep a horse? Maybe you’ve said it yourself, while giving a wry smile. You’ll even hear some people saying that they never did ‘all these things’ for their horses and that their horses never had anything wrong. (I find there’s often an older lady at the back of a saddle fit demo who’ll come out with that line.)

Well, until around the 1980s, it was much simpler. In just the same way that many people would see a doctor and a dentist and very occasionally a specialist such as a chiropractor, most domestic horses would only ever see a vet and a farrier. Just occasionally an owner might call in the equine chiropractor, but it certainly wasn’t a routine practice.

And were the horses physically OK ?

There’s no doubt that some of them were. Some always are, no matter what life throws at them.

But I imagine a lot were running around holding it together, busily hiding their problems, as horses do. As an evolutionary food source, they’re very good at hiding their weaknesses, having no wish to be first option on the menu at the Wild Dog Diner.

When I hear people pointing out the OK-ness of horses in decades past, my response is that it’s unlikely many people were checking horses’ backs in those days. My experience is that considerable numbers of present-day owners can’t tell if their horse has a sore back, so what were the chances of the ‘average owner’ spotting it then?

Admittedly, from the saddle fit point of view, it’s a discussion that can go on and on, taking in types of riding activities and styles, breed variation, changing use of horses … there are many reasons why fitting has become more complex over the years. But I’ll still firmly refute the notion that horses didn’t have problems.

But let’s return to modern day therapists.

If you use any horse therapist at all, you’ll know that there’s a directory full of professions to choose from. This really does reflect how things are in our own world of personal physical care. Instead of just going to a doctor, many of us listen to the advice of other professionals as well. Some people take complementary practitioners’ advice ahead of their doctors’, the reasoning being that it’s specialist knowledge. Other people leave out the doctor altogether. It’s all a matter of personal choice.

And there’s a thing – we do have the luxury of such choices now.

We’re more aware of our needs – and those of our horses too. The internet has helped us to identify problem areas and solutions, although there’s a lot of inaccuracy and outright misinformation out there, too.

That’s why we ask our friends what they think and tell our friends what we think.

And when we research online, we ask our online acquaintances too (although it’s as well to be cautious of new online friends, at least until we know more about them.)

Now there are online courses for us to develop our knowledge too. We can gain qualifications without leaving our front rooms. One outcome is that many of us take more aspects of horse care upon ourselves – hoof trimming, massage or nutrition, for example. And many of us are more aware of when we need to call in a professional, because we’re becoming more accomplished at reading the signs of need in our horses.

Which brings me to the point …

I’d like to open a bigger window into the world of not just bodywork for horses, but saddle fit as well. This is not to do away with professional saddle fitters or therapists (or, heaven forbid, vets), but to help horse owners recognize when a problem is present or emerging. That really is the key to knowing when to call in a professional.

Lots of physical problems are obvious when you have an idea what to look for… it’s not that hard.

And I reckon that maybe 8 out of 10 saddle fit problems come down to a few basic issues. Again, in themselves they’re quite easy to figure out. When the basics are easy to learn, why not talk about them? I reckon that if a bunch of the most obvious problems can be addressed on pages such as this, it has to be a good thing.

What do you think?

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Bodywork for Horses, Australia


  1. Well said Jane – it’s great that we have so many talented therapists to help our horses as well as ourselves. I find people are becoming more pro-ative in the the care of their health instead of the complacency of past times. When you begin to ask questions, you will find the answers.

    • Jane @ THB says:

      Pro-active is great, isn’t it? That’s why awareness-raising is so important to me. Early identification of problems or, even better, preventative measures can only be a good thing.

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