We asked physiotherapist Janet Barton all about her job, why she decided to qualify, common problems she sees on a day-to-day and her top tips to keep your horse on form.

Janet’s family produce sports horses and after a successful competitive career of her own, Janet felt she wanted another skill to run alongside their already flourishing business. She’s always found the welfare and health of the horses paramount to success and so training to be a physiotherapist was an easy decision.

Returning to school to undertake three A-levels Janet then completed a degree in Human Physiotherapy at Bradford University, followed by a top-up two year equine module to become a fully qualified and accredited category A ACPAT Equine Physiotherapist.

Since qualifying, Janet has earned a reputation for specialising in the rehabilitation of sport horses and fits in client’s horses while the family are away on show jumping tours. That said, Janet is just as happy working with Shetlands or golden oldies as she firmly believes they all deserve the same level of comfort. One of the most enjoyed aspects of Janet’s job is the tremendous amount of variety in the people and horses she meets and the places she gets to go. Janet also actively encourages owners to get involved with their horses’ own rehabilitation with simple stretching methods which are hugely beneficial and also strengthen the owner and horse bond.

So what are the common problems?

Janet finds that horses work patterns and yard routines cause more problems than any one particular discipline. Horses that are worked exclusively on surfaces or over-schooled tend to have more neck and shoulder issues than their counterparts who get out of the arena more. Whilst the horses that have more mixed work patterns have more random injuries, overall they are more rounded, fitter horses and Janet believes the varied work patterns are better all round.

Notably, she sees far less issues with yards that have a more disciplined approach to correct and thorough warm up and cool down time. Finally, whilst horses competing at all levels are at risk of injury, Janet sees more suspensory issues in the high levels, but this is perhaps unsurprising given the greater work demands.

Top Tips

- Treat your horse as a horse. Ensure they have access to turn out all year – a constantly moving horse is better muscled

- Ensure variety of training. Don’t become bogged down by training solely for your discipline as cross-training is excellent for both physical and mental health

- Always factor in effective warm up and cool down time into your riding

- Utilise a physiotherapist as part of your whole team of vets, farriers, nutritionists, saddle fitters and dentists

Thank you to Janet for sharing her insight into physiotherapy and what we can all do at home to improve our horses’ way of going. If you have any additional ideas to help your horse stay tip top then we’d love to hear them in the comments section below.