the HORSEBACK VET
Assessments and Manipulations
A standard assessment includes observing the horse standing, then moving in-hand in both walk and trot, and on a tight circle. The way that horses move gives an enormous amount of information as to areas of discomfort and parts of the body that are not functioning as they should. Asymmetrical appearances to the musculoskeletal system when standing and (crucially) during movement can prove of great significance in building a picture of what is going on.
This is followed by a specialised palpation of the major muscle groups to identify spasms, tension and postural abnormalities. Combining this information with the earlier movement analysis provides a comprehensive view of the state of the horse's functional musculoskeletal system and informs the plan for performing manipulations.
Manipulations are employed to address areas where the body is not moving appropriately. Affected horses may have a single site of abnormal posture/movement, or may have multiple areas of concern. The great majority of manipulations, even when there are multiple issues, are performed without sedation; most horses will stand quite happily during the process, which is respectful to the animal.
Following manipulation the horse is generally seen moving again in order to establish the results of any work performed, and the post-manipulation aftercare is discussed with the horse's owner. More often than not, a single session will be sufficient - with the right aftercare - to allow the horse to return to normal levels of work.