The use of allied health therapies on competition horses in the North Island of New Zealand

The use of allied health therapies on competition horses in the North Island of New Zealand
Peer reviewed


AIM: To obtain data on the use of allied health therapy within competitive equestrian sport in the North Island of New Zealand.

METHODS: Data were collected during January 2010 by survey at show jumping and dressage championships in the North Island, and from racing yards in the Central Districts of New Zealand. The survey consisted of 30 open, closed and multiple-choice questions, and was conducted face-to-face, by the same interviewer. Information on the demographics of riders or trainers and horses in each discipline (show jumping, dressage, and Thoroughbred racing), the use of allied health therapy (physiotherapy, chiropractic and equine sports massage) on horses, and knowledge of training and qualifications of the allied health therapists was obtained. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression were used to examine relationships between demographic variables and the use of allied health therapists.

RESULTS: In total, 110 riders or trainers participated in the survey. The relative contribution of responses across disciplines was 39/110 (36%), 41/110 (37%) and 30/110 (27%) for show jumping, dressage, and Thoroughbred racing respectively. Allied health therapists were used by 68/110 (62%) respondents to treat their horses. The most common types of allied health therapy used were chiropractic (25/68; 37%) and physiotherapy (16/68; 24%). The main reasons for using allied health therapies were for back pain (22/68; 32%) and lameness (17/68; 25%). Only 5/68 (7%) respondents chose a type of allied health therapy based on veterinary advice, and 49/68 (72%) stated that their veterinarian and allied health therapist did not work together when treating their horses. The final multivariable model for use of allied health therapists included the explanatory variables discipline of the rider or trainer and the number of horses in training per season.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The use of allied health therapies for the treatment of competition and racehorses was widespread. Many riders or trainers perceived allied health therapy to be beneficial, however many therapists and veterinarians do not work together and therefore the integrative treatment approach to rehabilitation is lost.

KEY WORDS: Horse, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, chiropractic, sporthorses, racehorses

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