February Goals

We’re into February now, so how are your new year goals going?

I’m really pleased with my progress, I am starting to feel much stronger after doing chi gong about 3-4 times a week, I upped it from 15 to 20 minutes last week. This week I’m starting new, more intensive postures in some of my sessions so I’ve dropped those back to 15 minutes.

I’ve noticed how much easier I can chuck the muck to the top of the muck heap (!) and wade through muddy fields with increasing ease. I have more energy and I’m not craving salty or fatty foods as much.

I hope you’re managing to make any positive changes that you wanted, remember to be kind to yourself. If you miss the gym one night (or one week) or eat an entire extra large pizza it really isn’t the end of the world, just continue with your program and you’ll get there.

Let me know how you’re getting on in the comments.

Gentle Movement for Pain Relief

So yesterday I told you about my fitness goals for the year and that I have the complication of a chronic pain issue. Well, my secret to getting moving gently without flaring up  my back at first is tai chi or it’s closely related counterpart qui gong. 

I have started with doing just ten minutes a day to help gently mobilise my joints and strengthen my quads and glutes. Tai chi is suitable for anyone who has any kind of pain or restriction and can be done by anyone of any age. I use dvds or YouTube to find routines to follow. Really simple! Try it and see how you feel.

First time I tried this I couldn’t walk down the stairs in the morning, I had to slide down on my bottom. After a week of a short daily practice I was able to carefully walk down, after two weeks I wasn’t waking up in pain anymore and my endurance had greatly improved. I started with just ten minutes each day, by the second week I could manage a whole hour. Pretty impressive. 

New Year Goals

I don’t know about you, but I am terrible at sticking to my New Years Resolutions, so this year I have decided to rebrand them as my goals for the year.

My foremost goal for this year is to get properly fit.  I have suffered a few setbacks in my fitness goals over the past few years.  What many people, even my clients don’t realise is that I suffer from chronic back pain.  Getting fit and strong has helped me to overcome this and helps me manage it day to day.  But if I have a health set back, like I did at the end of last year, then my pain comes back too.  This makes it difficult for me to do everyday things like hoover, and I usually wake up in pain, and have difficulty getting down the stairs first thing, it makes me feel tired and less likely to exercise, even though daily gentle exercise will help decrease my pain!  This is why I can’t just get a pair of trainers and go for a run, high impact exercise is detrimental to my fitness progression as I tend to get injured and have to start over.


Another reason for my fitness goal this year is to be able to ride my young horse.  He is 5 this year and I really need to get on top of his education, but most importantly, I don’t want to affect his health by being overweight and unfit.

I am currently around 20% of my horses’ weight, it might be a bit lower, but not much.  Research that is due to be published this year has shown that riders of this weight ratio will have a grave impact on the physical wellbeing of their horse.  Increasing their metabolic rate and energy expenditure even at the walk.  They start to find moving difficult and may stagger and trip with a rider of this weight ratio.  There is extra strain on tendons, the pasterns of the horse will start to lower and touch the ground at trot or canter, where this would only happen at gallop or landing from a big jump with a rider of 10% of their weight ratio.  This will obviously have a detrimental effect on their back health in the long term as well and may contribute to lordosis and kissing spines.

An unfit rider will also put the horse at risk of injury, the rider is less likely to be able to balance themselves independently and research is showing how this can cause rider induced lameness in the horse.

I want to do this to improve my health, increase my energy levels and get more done in a day.  I have other business and personal goals to aim for this year, and I want to give myself the best chance of doing so.  So why am I prattling on about this to you?  Well, I need to be accountable to someone to keep me on track, so I thought, what better way to stay accountable than to you.  It is also a way to show how chronic back pain can be managed for the better and hopefully give others some tips on how to build their fitness without setting themselves back.  I will be showing how I prepare my young horse for ridden work as well, so you may get some tips on this for your own horses.

So wish me luck, I will be routing for you too, share your new year goals with me, and we can do this together.

Cats get sore too.

It’s a misconception that cats get out of all sorts of scrapes just fine. 

Think about how athletic even the laziest of lap cats is, leaping fences and walls, running round the house at 90 miles an hour, springing onto and off of furniture. There’s no telling what kind of mischief cats get up to while their owners aren’t looking.

I have 2 cats, both aged 10 now, and tend to treat them as and when they need it, which works out to be about 3 or 4 times a year.

My cat Indie

You should get your cat checked over by a vet if they become withdrawn, unusually aggressive or have some dramatic personality change, as this can be an indicator of pain or disease.

However there are times when we look at how our cats move or sit and think about whether they could benefit from a treatment. 

Cats should hold their tails up when they walk, I see lots of cats walking with lowered tails before treatment, who then revert to carrying their tails high again after treatment. This can be a sign of tight hind quarter muscles. Of course if your cat is dragging their tail or it seems limp with no reaction when handled then it’s best to get a vet to check this over first. 

Repeatedly sitting lop-sided can also be a sign of musculoskeletal issues, as can sitting slouched with the weight over the front legs and head lowered. 

So, what does it matter if you see these signs in your cat? 

Musculoskeletal injuries cause the cat the place more weight on an unaffected limb, even when the original injury (whether that be a scrape, bruise, strained muscle, tendon or ligament) is healed the cat will continue to move in this way. This sets up a pattern of compensation within the body. Over time the compensating limb will tire or the cat may begin to get an overuse injury such as a muscle strain in the compensating limb, so the cat compensates again, by placing more weight onto a different limb, but because the brain thinks the first limb still hurts, it puts even more strain on the new compansating limb. Over time this pattern can develop in the body and cause lameness, or even lead to arthritis in the overloaded limb. 

Getting treatment can improve the mobility, altheticism and comfort of your cat, it can also prevent this cycle of injury and compensation, allowing a better recovery and lasting comfort for the cat. 

Listen to your horse! 

At the moment I’m starting my horse under saddle which is going really well. He stands like a rock at the mounting block and is taking it all in his stride. 

But the last time I’ve ridden he was starting to fidget at the mounting block, put his ears back and throw his head when mounted, shaking his head and getting annoyed if I gently shifted position. Was he just bored of the process? Was he deciding a ridden career wasn’t for him?

Thinking back, his bed had been scattered that night, Badger is usually messy in his stable, kicking his bedding around, so I didn’t think too much of it, but when I looked back in his stable I could see scratch marks up the wall.

He had probably gotten cast.

So I treated him and left him to rest for a day or two before riding him again. 

After being tested he was back to being his usual quiet, steady self. 

Getting cast can cause musculoskeletal discomfort, getting your horse treated can help prevent unwanted behaviours, especially in a young horse being trained under saddle. 

Do young horses need treatment?

Lots of times when speaking to clients I hear many of the same myths and misconceptions about treatments and animal needs, one thing I often hear is that young horses won’t need treating as they’ve not started work yet or have only just started work. 

I find this surprising, not least because young horses often have significant misalignments and tight muscles. 

Research has found that one sidedness can occur in foals, preferring to place one foot in front of the other when learning to graze, this behaviour can impact the size and shape of their front feet, which in turn can affect the musculoskeletal system. Making one side of the horse more dominant, causing muscle mass to be uneven and affecting gait patterns. 

Horses can get minor injuries playing in the field, or getting cast in the stable, these often go unnoticed until it’s time to work the horse and we find that one side is much stiffer than the other or the horse has difficulty bending in one direction, or the horse flat out refuses to cooperate. 

It may be possible that a young horse going through the starting process seems more challenging than expected or they react negatively to the sight of tack, even though they haven’t done much work to date or only had the rider belly over. 

Instead of signs of a poor attitude towards the starting process, these can all be signs of musculoskeletal discomfort. 

Getting your young horse treated before and during the starting process can greatly improve their attitude to work and being ridden in general, it can highlight any injuries they may pick up along the way.  

Ever wondered why horse insurance premiums are higher for horses going through the starting process? It’s because injuries or congenital disorders such as wobblers are often picked up and investigated at this time. 

It’s the same with us if we start a new training regime, we are bound to get sore at first, but having a treatment can help us recover and continue to train. 

To help with comfort at the time of starting, the saddle should fit well and should be checked by a professional fitter at least every 3 months or even sooner as the young horse adapts to increasing workload while still growing. 

My own young horse, Badger, is going through the starting process at the moment and I find he is much more willing and able to cooperate with the process if I keep him treated, stretched and pay attention to any tightness in his hindquarters or back. I feel this is especially important as he isn’t gifted with the best conformation. 

In summary, it’s important to get young horses treated as they grow, this helps prevent injuries or poor attitude at the time of backing and greatly improve their attitude towards being worked. Not only that, but getting treatments while the horse is still developing can contribute to a long and healthy working life. 

Fit enough to ride?

Does horse riding make you fit, or should you get fit to ride? 

During the course of my work I ask owners to trot their horses up for me, I only need to see the horse move over 20 to 30 meters and usually only ask the owner to walk and trot once aling this length. I’m often surprised at the number of owners who are struggling to catch their breath after running this short distance. 

Research suggests that fit riders will be able to say in better balance with their horses, putting less strain on their musculoskeletal system. Even heavier, better balanced riders are less strain on the horses’ body than lighter, novice riders. 

If the rider is serious about keeping their horse in the best condition possible and wants to avoid injury to themselves or their horses, then getting at least basically fit should be their main aim. 

Apart from putting strain on the horse, unfit riders are more likely to fall off and get seriously hurt. Even simple tumbles can be more serious when the rider has less fitness, core strength or overall strength to rely on. 

As we age, we need to be thinking more about getting fit enough and strong enough to ride.  Increasing  trunk and leg strength, cardiovascular capacity and flexibility will have good repercussions on our riding, increasing our reactions and the ability to stay on should anything unexpected happen.

I am finding that making even as little as 10 or 20 minutes a day to exercise can have positive effects on the body. For busy people exercise DVDs are excellent or there are now many good apps to exercise at home. Try Yoga, Pilates or Thai Chi to develop strength and all important flexibility. Walking or swimming are excellent low impact activities that done regularly will improve cardiovascular health. 

Trying to get fitter will improve your health, help you to sleep better and therefore help you fight the effects of stress. Not only that, but you will become a better and more effective rider, helping to prevent injury to both you and your horse. 

What EXACTLY is it I do?

A phone call from a client a few nights ago promoted me to write a quick post about what I do. 

The client was cancelling their appointment because their friend had said they needed to get a back person out who did both soft tissue AND bones, and that I didn’t do that, so they wanted to get someone else out. 

Obviously it is the right of the client to get out whoever they choose to be most suitable for their needs. However, it promoted me to think that I’m not explaining myself very well, I’m the first to admit that I’m not great in this area. 

You see, I’ve been studying and practicing what I do in various forms for around 10 years! In that time it’s obvious to me what I do, but I forget that others haven’t been on this journey with me. When I tell people “I’m a McTimoney Practitioner”, I forget that they may not understand what that means, in fact many McTimonry practitioners hold many other qualifications from saddle fitting to physiotherapy and a whole host of others in between, so everyone is fairly unique in that regard. 

So what IS it that I do? well after a thorough examination, I first “adjust” the spine and pelvis (and a few other joints in the body).

So why’d I put ‘adjust’ in inverted commas? 

Well, I put a small amount of force to a very particular point on a very particular bone, at great speed, and allow it to ‘spring’ back, this appears to stimulate the nerves, adjacent muscles and surrounding tissue to release any tension or spasm held there. 

After I have systematically realigned the skeleton I will then use a range of soft tissue techniques, such as massage, acupressure, trigger point therapy and myofascial release, to free further tension from the more superficial muscles. 

This way I can affect the skeleton, the deep paraspinal muscles, the deep muscles AND the superficial muscles, and any surrounding tissue such as the myofascia. 

So there we have it, what I do in a nutshell. Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but that’s just the start! 

And after a quick phone call to the client to explain what I do, she decided to keep her appointment with me. 

If you have anymore questions, write them in the comments below, thanks for reading. 

My Dog Doesn’t Need Treatment, Does It?

McTimoney animal therapy is a gentle, effective treatment that releases muscles and improves spinal range of motion.  It is especially suitable for active, competing or working dogs and can help prevent physical problems related to tight muscles and loss of flexibility later in life.

McTimoney is a truly holistic approach to caring for your animals’ physical well being, each treatment is tailored to suit the individual. McTimoney Animal Practitioners try to find out what might be causing the problem in the first place, rather than treat the symptoms.  During the consultation information is gathered about the animal and the owner, any previous injury, any problems it is coping or not coping with currently, and after watching how the animal moves the treatment can commence.  First realigning the skeleton using the McTimoney technique, and then massaging any tightness or tension away throughout the body.

Does My Dog Need McTimoney Treatment?

Owners can spot signs of discomfort in their dog, below is a list of things to look out for that may mean your dog would benefit from treatment, but is by no means extensive:

  • Your dog may seem more timid than usual or resent being touched in a particular place, this may be a sign of discomfort somewhere in its body.
  • Your dog may tire more easily than usual, especially on longer walks, or may seem less enthusiastic before walks or play less vigorously.
  • Your dog may stop what it is doing and look at its leg/ back or somewhere that it has felt pain or discomfort.
  • Your dog may lick or gnaw at one particular place on its body, where there are no cuts to the skin.
  • Dogs that prefer to use the pacing gait, and have no breed or conformation disposition towards this way of moving, may be uncomfortable through the middle of their back, pacing prevents rotation through this area that occurs when the dog trots, pacing enables the dog the hold the middle of its back stiffer and avoid causing too much movement through the middle of the back if it is uncomfortable.

Dogs that have previously been lame will benefit from treatment once the lameness has been resolved. This is because the dog will avoid using the painful area.  Once the pain has gone, the dog won’t automatically use its body as it had before it was lame.  The dog will continue to use the leg it has been favouring, leading to a weakening of the muscles in the previously injured leg or body area, causing increased overuse and tension in the leg that the dog has a preference for.  At first, the dog will cope with this without any problem, but over time the muscles in one leg will build up while the other loses its tone, this can lead to further tightening of adjacent muscles that attempt to stabilise and compensate for the weaker area.  Pain and inflammation can follow in the overworked muscles, and cause a secondary lameness.  Having your dog treated once the lameness has resolved can prevent this cycle of events from happening in the first place.

Active and Competing Dogs

When competing with your dog, whether agility, flyball, obedience, field trials or even if your dog loves jumping for a ball or playing roughly, can all put strain on the muscles, a small slip or uneven landing can lead to injury.  Keeping your dog’s musculoskeletal system working at its optimum, will give him the best chance of competing at his best and help to prevent overuse injuries.  Getting a check with a McTimoney Animal Practitioner can help to pick up tissue strains and sprains before they become a bigger problem. Treatment can improve quality of gait in the show dog, and gives a sense of wellbeing, which may help your dog relax in the ring.

Whether you compete, work with or enjoy your dog as a beloved companion, McTimoney therapy can help keep your dog comfortable and help prevent injury in active dogs.

  • A reduction in performance during a competition or increased aggression or fear behaviours could be linked to pain or discomfort somewhere in the body, McTimoney animal therapy can help pinpoint where there may be a physical problem and help to resolve this.
  • McTimoney therapy can be used to help rehabilitate animals after an operation or manage a chronic condition.
  • Older dogs can benefit from gentle treatment to help ease compensations for aging joints and muscles.  Although having your dog treated before the onset of these problems can help improve comfort on old age, and prevent age related debilitation.

McTimoney is not a cure for lameness or internal problems, where there may be a suspected underlying medical condition the practitioner will always advise the owner to seek help from a vet.

Case Studies

A 15 year old Border Collie was brought to me, starting to slow on his walks, he appeared to have stiffness through his joints and had become quieter than usual.  His vet suggested that physical therapy might help, and his owner decided to give me a call.  After treatment Jasper was feeling so well that he raced round the house, jumping on the bed, something he hasn’t been able to do for a while.  Dawn said, “I can’t thank you enough for the improvement to his well-being.  His walking is much better and his back isn’t hunched like it used to be.  It’s taken several years off him, thanks again”.

5 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier,  was usually a very active dog, who loved catching her ball in the air, but had become reluctant to go up the stairs or jump in the car, even whimpering as she did so on occasion.  She was given painkillers by the vet, who suggested that her mobility would continue to decline as she aged, even though x-rays had not revealed any skeletal injury or arthritis.  After the initial consultation, it was clear to me, that the dog had considerably less muscle on the left hind than her right and the muscles over her back and neck were extremely tight and sore to palpate, as a consequence of this, she was using the pacing gait on her walks.  After the initial treatment she seemed much brighter and no longer required the painkillers, after 3 treatments spaced over 6 months, along with rehabilitation exercises I prescribed; that were carried out by her owner; she no longer had issues climbing the stairs or jumping into the car and was back to her old self.

Help! I’ve bought a dud! 

Buying a horse is one of the most exciting things any equestrian can do, but many times it seems to go wrong. I have many phone calls from concerned new owners and the story goes along the same lines, “I’ve bought a horse about 6 weeks ago, it was an angel when I went to see it, and it’s been fine since, but recently he’s started bucking/ napping/ grumpy when tacked up/ won’t let me catch him. His saddle came with him and fitted at the time of purchase”.  

Understandably, the new owner is filled with dread that their horse was drugged to keep it quiet, which has now worn off; or the vet must have missed something at the vetting, either of these are rarely the case. 

It usually happens 6-8 weeks after purchase, so what is going on?

Practitioners often call this phenomenon “wheel’s fallen off syndrome”.  Think about it, if you start a new exercise regime, you are often sore at first, you may stretch it out or ease back on the intensity of the exercise, but your new horse can’t tell you, and so you both continue at the same intensity, until your horse begins to complain. 

A new routine, new management, new rider who may be more or less skilled than the previous one, a different amount of work, a change in the type of work, the list is endless as to the reasons why your horse may get sore within the first 2 months of ownership. Add to this a change in diet and exercise that may cause a change in weight or muscling of the horse, leading to a change in the way the saddle may fit. 

It’s no wonder your new horse may get sore and begin to show a change in attitude or temperament. 

In order to make the transition to the new home as stress free as possible,  the following may be helpful:

  • Make sure you build work up slowly, short rides to begin with, even if the horse is fit when you get it. 
  • Feed the same brand and type of food as the previous owner, buy one bag and transition to a new diet gradually over the first month, if you plan to change it. Make sure you’re not feeding too many calories as this may cause a horse to become excitable.
  • Get your saddle checked between weeks 6 and 8, it’s likely that your new horse may have changed shape. 
  • Get your horses teeth checked, it’s always best to start knowing there are no problems in this department.
  • If your horse’s attitude to work changes within this time frame, it’s best to get its musculoskeletal system checked over, the changes may have caused different stresses on the body which may make the muscles sore. 
  • Don’t forget to get a farrier out within this 6-8 week time frame, making sure the hoof angles don’t change greatly at this time.

There are a number of reasons why your horses attitude may change within the first couple of months of ownership, ruling out these issues one by one will get to the bottom of it.  Most of all, you are not alone, seek out reputable professionals to help you, this is a very common problem that is often easily rectified, allowing you to continue to enjoy horse ownership.