Neigh pain, neigh gain.
By Andy Richardson | 16 January 2013

Equine physiotherapist Lee Clark applies Kinesio tape.

GETTING a horse to do sit-ups is all in a day's work for Lee Clark, 38, who runs a specialist clinic in the North East.

Lee grew up in Stockton and now lives in Darlington with his wife, Sarah, a former midwife, who works with him at their practices, which treat both horses and humans.

How did your career start?

I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1997 at Teeside University and worked in the NHS for two years.

My plan was to treat people but my girlfriend, Sarah, who is now my wife, was a horse person. She would drag me off on riding trips. At first I was horrified at the idea of sitting on a live animal, but I grew to love it.

I became interested in the injuries that the horses picked up and I looked into what treatments were available.

There is an animal division as part of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. I did work experience with a qualified animal physiotherapist and decided to sign up for another two years of training to become a chartered animal physiotherapist.

What is the big difference between treating humans and horses?

Lack of co-operation is the obvious one.

You can't exactly hand a horse an exercise programme and say do that and come and see me next week. Although we do run Pilates classes for horses - I'm not joking.

Their muscle, tendon and ligament systems are quite similar to humans, so treatments are pretty much same, you just adapt them to the horse.

If you think about when a person damages their Achilles tendon. A doctor will refer you to a physiotherapist who will get you to do some stretches, they'll do some massage, ultrasound and nowadays they will probably Kinesio tape it as well.

If a horse comes to me with an injury we get them on a horse walker, draw up an exercise programme, massage the affected area, use ultrasound and Kinesio tape it - nearly exactly what we'd do for people.

What I can't say to the horse is "go home and do ten sit-ups a day." We have to each the owner how to put the horse through exercises that are equivalent to sit-ups.

How do you get a horse to do sit-ups?

If you run your fingers down the horse's back it stimulates their abdominal muscles and produces a reflex action, which makes the muscles contract and gets the animal to bend forward.

They have far less forward movement than we do, but you can still strengthen their abdominal muscles in the same way that you or I would by doing sit-ups.

Who uses your services?

For two days of the week, I still treat people. All chartered animal physios have to be qualified to treat people.

On the horse side of things we find ourselves in high demand from trainers across the region, in particular those in Leyburn and Middleham.

There are only 200 qualified animal physios in the UK and very few are in the North, so we are extremely busy treating physical injuries that may cause lameness or harm performance.

Next month, I'm off to the United Arab Emirates to look after British team's horses and riders in an equine endurance event, which takes place on the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi. Next year, I'll be working at the World Equestrian Games in France.

Without a doubt my career highlight was being chosen by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to work at the London 2012 Olympics.

It was the first time the host nation had provided physios for horses in the equestrian events. Of the 18 countries competing only five brought their own horse physios, so I was part of a very busy eight-strong team looking after beautiful animals from around the world

It was amazing and I loved every minute of it. I'm hoping to get the call for Rio Games in 2016.


This article has been copied with permission from the Northern Echo. Original Article can be found here.

Neigh Pain, just Gain
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