You bet we can! Equine athletes have musculoskeletal symptoms that can be trained, loaded, and injured just as human tissues can! The difference is the way that equine sports medicine is managed currently.
With injuries in the human medicine realm, patients often see a physician and then are referred to a physical therapist for treatment. This is because physical therapist are considered the movement experts and exercise specialists in the field!
That system is still not really established in equine medicine, but it’s growing. There is so much knowledge and research in the realm of human medicine that could greatly benefit the equine athlete and the sport in general. We’re talking about knowledge of muscle conditioning, exercise prescription, tissue loading/overloading principles.
There are, of course, many differences to consider. Equine muscle physiology is slightly different and the biomechanics are altered. But similar principles apply and it opens up a huge realm of research + collaboration with veterinarian.
I’m currently completing the final stages of education at University of Tennessee to become an Equine Rehab Certified Professional. This is one of two programs in the USA available for physical therapists and veterinarians to gain the knowledge needed to successfully rehabilitate equestrian athletes.
What if we could reduce stifle injuries by loading the quadriceps or hamstrings eccentrically to offload the joint like we do in human medicine with meniscus injuries? Which muscle would be biomechanically better to load given the mechanics of the stifle? These are the conversations that can happen when physical therapy is considered in the rehabilitation of equine athletes.
How different would our training schedules look if we approached equine strength + conditioning from that perspective?