Well, unfortunately nothing much has changed since the last time I posted regarding being able to return to work for anything other than very urgent cases at the request of the vet currently and that will be the case until at least after the next government review on May 7th. Therefore, the 'pause' button is still firmly pressed for most for now, and yet in the last few weeks, perhaps understandably, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of videos and articles online demonstrating exercises and stretches you can do whilst either not riding or until your practitioner can come back out to you.
Now I'm sure that the intention with these is only ever the desire to be helping of course, but I do think it is really important to say that you MUST remember that every animal is different and that not all stretches or exercises will necessarily be appropriate for your horse. That important piece of advice is unfortunately missing from most of the sources of information that I've been seeing. In some circumstances, the 'wrong' exercise may very well actually do more harm than good in fact, particularly if your horse has any underlying issues or is still fairly recently recovering from injury or surgery. To add to that, exactly the same exercise could potentially be used for totally different reasons in two different animals, and how well the animal actually performs the exercise is also crucial as to what effect it might end up having on their body.
Just to try to demonstrate that last important point a little further the best I can for you from my archives at the moment, below are two pictures of the same horse doing the same simple exercise over a raised pole on the same day and with the same handler. Although the camera unfortunately captured slightly different moments in time to prevent an identical comparison, hopefully it is still quite clear that the horse's topline, posture, and muscle recruitment in one attempt is completely different to how it appears in the other and this can have a HUGE impact on how effective any exercise is and whether it is in fact ultimately going to do what you might be hoping it should....
Therefore before you try anything you have seen or another person has suggested, PLEASE always consult with your own practitioner first to check what is applicable to your horse. As discussed in my previous blog post, I am always happy to offer advice remotely to any of my existing clients because I have got their case history, and know their gait, conformation, posture, and any previous specific issues inside out. Therefore even though we might not be actively progressing rehabilitation programmes at this time for the reasons outlined in the last blog post, I have the background knowledge (and vet permission) for my clients to be able to provide them tailored help and advice on anything they might have seen online or elsewhere, and ensure they are not going to come to any harm or set their horse's progress back potentially. Over these last few weeks, some of my clients have been sending me little video clips of their horses doing the exercises that I had already prescribed and demonstrated to them prior to the lockdown, so that I can indeed confirm they have been performing them correctly without any little cheating strategies. Even in ‘normal’ non-COVID times, this serves as a really nice triple check for any exercise prescription following initial demonstration and then practice in person.
Easy access to information truly is a wonderful thing in our modern world and this new virus has made our online 'world' even more central to everyday life. As ever though, before you leap to trying something someone has written or posted on the internet in your desire to want to do everything you possibly can be doing for your horse(s) right now, always first consult those professionals you trust to advise you on what is truly appropriate. Your horse will certainly thank you for it.
Take care and keep safe!