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An Exploratory Study into the Impact of McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy on Therapeutic Riding Horses Research Project

This Research Project was conducted by Polly Cassidy.

The problem of back related problems amongst horses is well reported (Gomez Alverez 2008; vanWeeren & Back, 2004) with contributing factors including rider weight, saddle, girth problems (de COCQ, et al 2004) equipment and training risk factors, foot care and shoeing regime (Hokenhull & Creighton 2012) under saddle training techniques (McGreevy and McClean 2010) and restricted access to natural grazing (McGreevy 2004). The context of this study is a Centre with predominantly novice and Therapeutic Riding (TR) riders. A multidimensional equine welfare and management programme is in place of which the McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy examination is one part. This paper presents the findings of a three year study tracking and recording the spinal health of 5 horses involved in TR sessions and novice private and group lessons.

Horses were examined and adjusted (on a needs basis) a minimum two – maximum eleven times annually during 2012, 2013 and 2014. Examinations recorded discomfort levels in 8 musculoskeletal regions with spinal therapy adjustments performed post examination. Discomfort levels were marked on a scale of: 0 no discomfort 1 some discomfort and 2 marked discomfort. Reduced nearside and offside flexion in the cranial cervical and pelvic musculoskeletal regions was also recorded on a scale of 0 no lack of flexion and 1 lack of flexion. One control horse (unbacked) was also included. Study included videos of examinations and adjustments.

Findings suggest there was a decrease in the discomfort levels in the horse’s musculoskeletal regions and increase in flexion over 3 years as illustrated in Tables 1 and 2. Furthermore, there was a decrease in the number of musculoskeletal regions in which there was discomfort with one horse observed as having no discomfort levels after treatment.

Whilst it is not clear what other interventions may have been in place over the three year timeframe, findings suggest the McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy may be associated with enhanced equine spinal health. Results of the control horse examination also highlight the vulnerability of horses backs in the context of the TR horse and the need for effective evidence based back care programmes.


About the Researcher

Polly Cassidy: Festina Lente Equestrian Training Programme Facilitator
Polly Cassidy has worked at Festina Lente since 2012 as an Equestrian Training Programme Facilitator, she coaches young adults in a wide range of equestrian related subjects. Polly, who holds a Diploma in Social Care and a HND in Equine Science and Business from Myerscough College Preston and is a BHS AI.  She graduated from the Oxford College of Equine Physical Therapy as a McTimoney-Corley Equine Spinal Therapist in 2008.  Polly began working with the horses of Festina Lente in 2012 and evaluates the horse’s spinal health on a daily basis.  Polly no longer works in Festina Lente

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