Do you get results from your equine therapy sessions or are you merely chasing pain.
Chasing pain can be highly frustrating for the therapist and horse owner alike as it usually entails a series of bandaid type treatments that produce in-the-moment improvement at best. On the flip side, pain chasing tends to be faster, easier, and highly repeatable which is likely why it has its place in the industry.
In order to decipher whether we are producing verifiable results with our therapeutic intervention or merely chasing pain, we must first know what it is that we are treating. This means we must clinically assess the whole horse on initial visit, and furthermore, keep an accurate record of this assessment (chart notes, photos, videos).
Treatment goals must be set in accordance to what the initial assessment revealed and written clearly to ensure all parties are in agreement with the proposed plan. Goals must be outlined, measurable (subjective and objective data), and achievable (understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics) within a given time period. This is the pure essence of goal setting and therapy is no different.
Keeping accurate records of assessment and treatment is a fundamental aspect of my business as both a licensed human health care professional (HCP) and certified equine therapist (CET).
Without careful documentation of objective and subjective data, how else can we verify if we have achieved a specific outcome?
How do we know if we are facilitating true functional changes in the body or merely applying bandaids of pain relief in a given moment?
While reducing pain is undeniably an important goal, removing root causes and perpetuating factors should also be prioritized in a holistic approach to treatment of our equines, thereby removing the painful stimulus from occurring in the first place.
If this was a human client.....
When in the process of obtaining human licensing for manual therapies, we were required to engrain the process of assessment, charting, and record keeping. This is even one of our many regulatory bylaws for which we must abide in order to maintain our license annually, yet so many equine therapy programs place little to no focus on this.
I see this as a huge disservice to the proposed profession.
If we should ever acquire regulation in the field of equine therapy here in Canada, this will quite obviously become a mandatory practice and those who do not have these skills may be at risk of losing their business and professional designation.
But why is this important if we aren’t even regulated yet?
It is an essential ethical standard to the horse that we are working with.
Regardless of regulation, my practice is dedicated to the welfare and care of the horse first and foremost. This means treating each horse with the same level of professional integrity as human patients and following regulatory bylaws.
If we want change in the industry then we must be the change and promote a professional standard of care.
In return, this provides a service to the proposed profession we collectively value and say we want acknowledgment for.
If we do not keep accurate records of what was assessed and treated each session, how may we ever monitor progress or communicate improvements, or lack thereof, which is equally important information.
Where would this data even come from if one had not recorded findings?
Personal opinions based on a memory are not considered clinically significant.
Chart notes guide the treatment plan and serve a critical function in evaluation of the treatment plan for the sake of the horse, who is unable to communicate to us in the same way as our human patients. Accurate and up to date files also serve as important information to collaborating therapists or in the event the primary is unable to continue with the horse.
Is my equine therapist educated in this practice?
Due to the lack of current regulation in Canada, this one is tricky.
The horse owner must make an informed decision when seeking professional equine therapeutic services, such as massage, osteopathy, craniosacral, kinesiology, or any other hands on modality. Using better judgement and avoiding quick fixes or claims based in fallacy is a good starting point.
Next is determining if the therapist is qualified to work with the horse.
What's in a name?
The designation “therapist” tends to get loosely tossed around in industry with little regard for the weight the word carries. While the terms “registered therapist” and “regulated therapist” are protected here in Canada, in order to verify to the public the educational level of licensing and strict practices obtained, the sole term "therapist" is not.
This gives way to anybody calling themselves a 'therapist” which can be challenging waters to navigate as a horse owner.
Two individuals with very different levels of education may utilize the term "therapist" with little or no distinction for varying levels of training. For example, an individual living in Canada may only attend a one-week course to obtain the title "therapist". Whereas a qualified program in the same country will likely require a certain level of achievement (i.e. minimum passing grade) and a certain number of educational hours well beyond one week (usually 1-2 year minimum) to obtain a diploma. Both may utilize the term therapist but each has very different levels of education and experience.
Yet another disservice to the horse.
So, for those horse owners, seeking qualified professionals to work with your horse what should you look for in this unregulated profession?
At least 500hr of study in anatomy and physiology (preferably closer to 2200hr as consistent with human licensing)
At least 200hr of practical hands-on evaluated education (preferably closer to 500hr as consistent with human licensing)
At least 6mo of externships or clinical practice in the field
Verifiable continuing education credits annually
Preferably a member of an association (horse and/or human)
The school your therapist attended should have all of this information listed for the public on their website. If this information is a challenge to find and/or the school itself is not listed, tread cautiously and ask for program requirements in writing.
The records for category listed above should be easily produced by your therapist in the form of a diploma or certification and/or public registration with an association.
If your bodyworker cannot check these boxes, I would move along and find a qualified therapist.
As a side note, a therapist who holds human therapy licensing will generally have a greater level of education and professional training as the requirements for licensing in itself has much stricter processes for authorization to use the title therapist in their credential.
A person who has both a human and equine education is your best bet but can be challenging to find in certain areas. If you are having difficulty finding a suitable therapist for your horse or would like assistance in reviewing credentials, we are happy to assist you. Feel free to Contact Us and we will do our best to help you find a great therapist in your area.
Chasing pain is easy but finding long term solutions and seeking to address root causes is the harder work. Generally this will require an individual who is professionally trained to utilize clinical reasoning and advanced education in anatomy and physiology.
We hope this blog provides valuable insight towards the importance of accurate assessment, treatment, and record keeping, in accordance with prevention of purely symptomatic relief based treatments.
From our herd to yours, thank you for reading!