When I meet a new client, my job is never taken lightly. Most likely I’ve been called out to a barn to see a horse who’s having issues (which is quite vague – the scenarios I’ve encountered are endless), and it’s my responsibility to get to the root of the problem, educate the owner, and help them transform their horse into a healthier, happier version of themselves.
My clients may not expect the amount of homework they get, but it is ample! Stretches, exercises, down to very specific conditioning programs. In extreme cases, I’ll take videos and pictures and start a file for that horse, comparing each visit to the last, but here’s some tips and tricks to help you track your own horse’s progress!
When I say take pictures, I’m not talking about a cute selfie of you and your horse, both making the duck face. That’s great – you can do that too, but let’s take some pictures that we can use to track progress and changes in the body.
Comparative to conformation pictures, I start with a picture of each side of the body, with the horse standing as square as I can get them. I’ll get lower to the ground to get a shot of their legs standing square if I can too.
Pictures of the front and the back of the horse is important too, at the height of the legs as well as at the height of the body. I will also stand up on a stool behind the horse (with caution) and take a picture of the horse from above (especially when spinal curvature is present).
Remember, good lighting is key! Save those pictures somewhere safe and name them with the date and the name of the horse so you can reference the difference a few weeks from now.
2. VIDEO ON THE GROUND
Put away your headcam, you won’t need it here! When I take videos to track progress, it’s different than the videos I make for a sale video, for example. Raw footage – the good, the bad, and the ugly will help you compare later on how your horse’s biomechanics and movement has changed.
If I’m dealing with a lameness case, I usually get videos on the lunge line where the lameness is more noticeable. Lunging with and without contact is important when videoing, as the difference in the horse’s head carriage can alter their stride significantly.
Have someone else do the videoing so you can focus on your horse – it’s pretty difficult to get a sturdy shot yourself, and if you’re thinking about using a tripod, think again – we want to follow the horse’s motion to really see their stride, instead of watching them go by. If you have one of those cool tripod devises that follows you as you move, this is a great excuse to get it to the barn!
*Don’t use any devices that could alter the horse, such as a surcingle, bungies, reins tied to the saddle*
3. VIDEO UNDER SADDLE
If your horse is a riding horse, get some footage every few weeks of your ride! Same as on the ground, keep all the raw footage instead of cutting out the bad parts. Some owners will get homework to do only on the ground for the first few weeks, and be instructed to take time off from the saddle, but once you’re back on your horse and you’re changing the in-saddle program, you should start to see positive differences. Whether it’s a more open stride, a more relaxed head position, or a more powerful jump – we want to be able to track all of it!
*Don’t use any devices that could alter the horse, such as a martingale, tie-down, draw reins, etc*
4. DOCUMENTATION FROM EACH VISIT
When I started seeing so many horses in a month that I couldn’t remember who was a bay and who was a paint (just kidding that doesn’t happen), I began writing reports for each massage visit. I complete them within 24 hours following a massage so the information is fresh in my mind. Then they travel to a password protected page on this site that only the owners can access. I highly suggest printing off a copy of each massage report for your horse and keeping them with all your vet/health records. If your horse is being seen by a chiropractor or any other practitioner (even your farrier, especially if they’re doing corrective footwork), ask them to write a summary report of their visits too. It helps especially during diagnostic processes to know what everyone has said and done, and what has been ruled out as a cause for concern.
5. ASK OTHERS!
Your friends in the barn who you frequently ride with should start to notice differences in your horse! It’s hard if you’re seeing your horse every day to notice things like weight or muscle gain, but maybe those who only see you once a week will! I had a client who was being told by everyone in her barn that her horse looked taller (he was 9 years old so she thought they’d be crazy to think he had grown). Sure enough, when she sticked his height, he had grown two inches! This wasn’t a freak growth spurt, this was his body standing straighter and stronger and filling out properly. She had been very dilligent with his rehabilitation program, and it sure paid off!
Your barn staff see your horse every day, but they may notice differences too! Maybe your horse walks out of his stall in the morning with less stiffness, plays more in the field, doesn’t rest one leg in particular as often as he used to. This is all important!
It’s my aspiration to get a message or phone call saying that a client’s horse is suddenly getting the lead changes that they couldn’t do before, or beat a personal best at a show this past weekend. Please update me as you go along, and remember all these tips or tricks to tracking your horse’s progress!