A horse that was left with severe neurological issues after an electrical storm is now being ridden again thanks to a therapy and rehabilitation programme by Writtle University College students.
Euthanasia had been considered for Pride after she suffered neurological damage following a fall during the storm in July 2017, as well as a tendon infection during recovery.
But a rehabilitation programme designed by third year BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation students Emily Barker, Emily Hughes, Rosemary Lawrence and Charlotte Hall has seen her condition vastly improve and she is now being ridden again.
Pride came to Writtle University College after a vet from House & Jackson, Writtle, assessed her and gave approval for her to start rehabilitation with the students, who designed the programme as part of their module on Equine Massage and Remedial Exercise.
Emily Barker, from Cornwall, explained the initial stages of the programme, which was all carried out at the University College’s dedicated equine facilities on the Cow Watering Campus: “The programme began with simple controlled exercise in walk and trot with regular episodes where we requested Pride to back up a few paces. This targeted and challenged her proprioceptive skills in order to develop and strengthen them.
“This was further enhanced with the use of a small incline encountered when moving in and out of her stable block and a variation of surfaces and surface qualities.”
Emily Hughes, from Hampton, London, explained how the programme progressed: “We gradually moved on to incorporate poles. To begin with, this was just one or two in a straight line but Pride showed great improvement so this was able to be quite quickly increased.
“It was not long before she was able to complete more complex arrangements of pole work, which included the maze and fan formation. These worked to strengthen her hoof-eye coordination and it further provided mental stimulation for Pride, which she seemed to particularly thrive on.”
Charlotte, from Gravesend, Kent, added: “We also included destabilisation exercises in order to ask Pride to counteract a pressure applied in a certain direction in order to remain stabilised. This was particularly good as Pride did exhibit unequal muscle development - comparing her forehand to hindquarters - and when the pressure was directed towards her hindquarters it did ask Pride to engage the musculature here in order to strengthen them.”
Rosemary, from Bromley, Kent, said: “We used massage, Myofascial Release and general bodywork to highlight any areas of sensitivity and tension within her body. We mainly focused on one area at a time with the aim of alleviating tension or discomfort.
“Although it did not form the main part of our rehabilitation, on a couple of occasions we did lunge Pride, which helped to assess her stronger side as well as to more symmetrical exercise her in all gaits.”
After 10 weeks of working with Pride, the vet carried out her assessment and found that Pride had musculature and dynamic stability. The latter was demonstrated as Pride was very excitable on the lunge, with episodes of bucking and cantering, but there was no sign of falling over or proprioceptive regression.
Emily Barker said: “We saw a great change in Pride neurologically, physiologically and psychologically and she was seen to gain so much confidence over the period. The vet’s evaluation post-programme left her pleasantly surprised, which was excellent news!
“She went on to say that Pride could no longer be considered neurologically compromised and that the next steps in her rehabilitation would be to explore the possibilities of ridden work.
“It has given us all an experience of the real-life ups and downs of equine rehabilitation and has provided us with the chance to apply our knowledge gained over the years of our degree, which will stand us in good stead for the future. The positive outcome in the case of Pride was an added bonus which helped to assure us that we will be able to assist horses in the future!"
Pride has now returned to her owner, who started to ride her again last month and she is progressing well.
• For more information about the BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation please visit writtle.ac.uk/BSc-(Hons)-Equine-Sports-Therapy-and-Rehabilitation