BungeeBand - The Story
I have been interested in the anatomy and physiology of horses (well, all animals actually) since I can remember. After university I went down a career path with high financial gain rather than one I was passionate about. I eventually came to my senses, changed direction (do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life) to eventually find my dream career as a Veterinary Physiotherapist.
From the earliest days of owning horses, I have found it a necessity to incorporate lunging into my routine; whether this was due to being on yards with no winter turnout (and rather fresh/young horses) or because I lacked the time later on juggling a demanding career to find a window to keep my horses fit. In 2010/2011 I started to work on a better way of keeping my horse balanced on the lunge without encouraging them to lean on the bit/side-reins. I had attended several ‘natural horsemanship’ type courses in the mid ‘noughties’ and started to use long-reining rather than lunging where possible, and this brought it home to me how crooked most horses are when being lunged.
I stripped it right back to basics and went head collar and a single rope. Whilst this is fine for some horses, others really struggled; they became unbalanced and moved in such a way there was a high chance of potential injury. I became obsessed with trying to find something to help support these horses and encourage them to find their own balance rather than panicking. I liken this to a child learning to ride a bike - if you expect them to get on and ride it with no help, they will fall and they might hurt themselves. We therefore give them stabilisers and try to teach them core stability and balance, to eventually manage on their own. I set about trying to find a way of teaching horses how to stabilise and balance themselves, without any force or restriction.
Horses are prey animals. They are grazing animals. Their body is designed to graze and run; fast and in straight lines. They are not built to canter in circles, to passage, or go sideways across an arena. The truth of the matter is, if we are asking our horses to do these things, some of them might need a bit of support.
There were many stages to BungeeBand - I have about five years worth of raw data; gait analysis and muscle mass was recorded in relation to different materials, tensions, angles, positions... I will get around to publishing this all as a concise paper soon, I promise!
Our first pads, made for my own horses and a few clients (released in 2015), were very different to what we now produce. I have continued to research, I listen to feedback from customers, I test and trial something new every week; it is ever evolving. I never intended it to become a business, let alone a global brand; it was a total labour of love, and something I am incredibly passionate about. I try and help every single one of my customers personally if I can.
There is no force and no restrictions with BungeeBand - it is there to support and encourage the horse to better utilise their own muscle. It encourages horses to move evenly, learn to balance themselves by engaging their core and their hind-leg rather than pulling themselves along on their forehand. We support, we do NOT force
Wow, what can I say about March!? I don't think back at the start of March (just four weeks ago) anyone expected to be sat in their houses fearing for their lives by the end of the month.
At university, and as a post-graduate I was heavily involved in microbiology and biochemistry, so perhaps I was more wary than most when Coronavirus began circling the globe. I made the decision not to attend Crufts with my dogs; something that I look forward to each year and this was very disappointing, but it was a decision largely made with my clients in mind. I did not want to expose myself to any crowds or gatherings, long before the country decided to enter 'lockdown'.
And then came the dreaded lockdown - at least 3 weeks of avoiding going out unless absolutely essential. My initial reaction was despair; not only for myself being self-employed and unable to earn a living, but to all my clients - some of my patients need regular maintenance to keep them sound and happy. After the British Veterinary Association announced they would not support any veterinary practices carrying out non-emergency work, the various animal-therapy associations also released statements preventing members from working; the insurance companies then told us we would not be covered if anything went wrong if we disobeyed these recommendations (for the few therapists that tried to continue working under the radar).
So its been a quiet month for me, although it has allowed me to finally spend a bit of time with my own dogs and horses at home. For those that are not aware, I breed and show Parson Russell Terriers, so I've been practising some agility with them - I've wanted to train properly for a while, but not had the time to do so. I dusted off the kit I had at home and have been trying to coax them over jumps and round the weaves. I am incredibly lucky to not only live on a farm (so exercising the dogs has not been an issue) but I also have a canine treadmill which has come in handy in keeping them fit during this time.
BungeeBand is going from strength to strength, with a big order from an International/Olympic trainer based overseas. Sadly, with every successful enterprise you will get copycats, and BungeeBand has been no exception - several individuals have now decided to start replicating the design without any knowledge of physiology or anatomy, and having done no research whatsoever, but simply trying to cash in on the hard graft of others. Be very wary of these fakes, as incorrect band, or wrong angles can cause more harm than good. As all my BungeeBand customers know, I offer full backup/advice as a fully qualified veterinary physiotherapist. You do get what you pay for.
I can't see us being back at work much before May, so if any of my clients have any problems they need to talk to me about, you have my number. If you need advice on exercises or stretches that you can do at home, just give me a call. I am also running a treatment bank, where you can pay in advance for treatments (redeemable once Lockdown has ended, and up to 12 months from that date) and as a thank you to those taking part, pre-paid treatments are £40 rather than the usual £45.
Finally, please everyone, stay safe.
This month seems to have just flown by in a blur! With the disruption of Storm Ciara, then Storm Dennis, lots of weekend appointments had to be rescheduled as it just was not safe to travel. We crowned out very first "Horse of The Month" for 2020 - The super Apache, owned by Tracey Wright (head over to our Facebook page for the full story). With February nearly over, and just a few horses left to see, we will soon be revealing our latest winner.
I ran a Sponsorship competition through January and I've been so busy I just have not had the time to sit and catch up on admin, but I am very pleased to announce that in 2020 I will be offering a sponsorship to Bethany Horobin and her horse Cachet; Beth has represented GB in Pony, Junior and Young Rider teams, and hopes to compete at International Small Tour in 2020, aiming for the U25 Grand Prix in the near future. I have been treating 'Kash' for about a year now, and I really admire how hard Beth works to juggle riding, teaching, and launching her own business.
To those who also applied, please do not lose heart; I do review my sponsored riders every year, and I may even take on an additional rider as the year progresses...
Due to the wet weather February has thrown at us, I am seeing a lot of horses with tight shoulders and lumbar regions lately. Try to incorporate lots of lateral work into your ridden routine to help them open up through the shoulders and hips - even if you leg yield from side to side when out hacking (obviously not on busy roads please) - every lateral movement you do will encourage your horse to open through the shoulder and step underneath themselves more, helping them to loosen up.
I have been booked to give numerous talks through the summer for Pony and Riding Clubs; please don't forget that to PC or BRC registered clubs I offer FREE talks (expenses may apply, eg fuel and materials). I am also in talks with a human osteopath to look at the idea of a horse/rider alignment camp later in the year.
I'm looking further afield for CPD this year to try and give my clients the latest in technology, education and innovation. Hopefully I will be attending a seminar in the USA toward the end of 2020 which will focus primarily on joint health and supporting arthritis and ligament injuries in equine athletes.
Moving into March, the nights will get lighter and hopefully the rainfall will lessen... I have very limited weekend availability in March, but I do have some weekday and evening slots still up for grabs.
South Africa - October 2019
In 2019 I was offered a fantastic opportunity to travel to South Africa to provide equine physiotherapy for horses competing in a long distance endurance race - the race would take place over 5 days and riders would cover a distance of around 300 miles. I was so excited to be heading to the beautiful East Coast (Wild Coast/Transkei) and knew it would be the experience of a lifetime. Well, I wasn't wrong, but in ways I could never have predicted!
After 6 days (pre-race) with the race officials, I quickly realised that this was not an environment, or event, I wanted to be associated with. Sadly after witnessing so much mistreatment and neglect, and a horse sadly dying, I made the decision to leave and have my own adventure, helping animals when and where I could.
Firstly I flew from Durban to Johannesburg where I met a friend and long-time supporter Beryl Shuttleworth of The Herbal Horse. All my clients know that I think Beryl has an incredible talent for blending these supplements which help so many horses all over the world. It was great to finally meet her face to face and spend some time looking around Herbal Horse HQ.
I had a superb time in and around Johannesburg making new friends and contacts, treating horses, dogs and even getting hands on with an elephant! Along with my new friends I went out on Safari and rode horses through game reserves. I stayed in beautiful safari lodges, and made some superb lifelong friends. I am already planning to return in 2020 to explore more of this great country and help more animals.
It may not have been the experience I flew out to South Africa for, but I can hand on heart state that I do not regret my trip for a second. It is incredibly sad that these long distance tourist treks are marketed as an elite race, with little regard actually given to the horses. Unfortunately all the while tourists pay to go, these companies will continue to offer the opportunities. Endurance racing often gets a bad reputation, and sadly things like this do little to help. There are fantastic Endurance races and racers around the world, but it certainly proves that due-diligence is required.
My New Years Resolution is to try and keep my blog a little more up-to-date (more up to date than every 12 months perhaps)...
The past 12 months have certainly been very interesting for me. As a Veterinary Physiotherapist I have added more strings to my bow with some super CPD and training. I am now fully qualified in Kinesio-Taping, Gait Analysis and Fitness/Rehabilitation Planning, Arthritis Management (Equine and Canine), and Wound/Scar Treatment. I have attended lectures on stomach and hind-gut ulcers (equine), Cruciate injuries (canine), RTA Trauma (feline) and a whole host of other amazing topics. In October I travelled to South Africa and had an amazing journey as a physiotherapist (which I will go into detail about in another blog entry)
I am hoping to find some new riders to support in 2020, and wish my 2019 riders well in their journeys. Amy Proctor and Kathryn Davies will stay on as sponsored riders, and I've launched a quest to find some new people to help going forward.
I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Newton Hall Equitation keeping their riding school horses and ponies in top condition - it is so refreshing when a riding school cares for their equines and ensures they are healthy/happy to do their job. I'm also loving working with the retired cavalry horses the owners have rehomed; such amazing personalities and characters.
This time last year I wrote about my own horse being out of work... Well as of two weeks ago he is back in regular work, so fingers crossed I may get him out competing again this year. It would be lovely to get back on the coal-face and see a lot more of my clients in action at the same time.
January has been pretty busy so far - lots of regulars having their monthly check-ups, along with new clients and those wanting a general MOT before Spring arrives and its all steam ahead for the first shows/clinics/beach trips of the year. A lot of veterinary practices are now employing their own physiotherapists for post-operative/in-house consultations, but I do still get some interesting referrals when they need a more specialist eye.
I have been very busy with BungeeBand over the past 12 months, something I am incredibly proud to say has helped thousands of horses. I export the pads and kits all over the World, with fantastic feedback from happy hackers to vets rehabbing horses and International/Olympic riders among those reaping the benefits.
February looks to be just as busy; weekends are fully booked - some weekdays are still available.
January is usually a quiet month for me; I get a chance to recharge my batteries, plan my own horse's competition year and look for relevant and interesting CPD (Continued Professional Development). Most horses are enjoying their owners "winter mode" whereby dark evenings and cold mornings stall even the most enthusiastic riders into putting off the start of fitness training until at least February... Not the case this year!
Since the start of the year I have been flat out, treating a range of horses from happy hackers to International Competitors. No two cases are the same, and it has been a really interesting start to the year. Already I have treated vet-referral cases where ultrasound was requested to assist in the softening of scar tissue, numerous PSD (Proximal Suspensory Desmitis) cases, two incidences of kissing Spine, and my first horse with Lordosis (an absolute credit to the owner, who manages this condition exceptionally well).
My own horse has been off work since August with a foot-related lameness issue (thankfully under the excellent care of Newmarket Equine Hospital and O'Shaunessy Farriery) and I have only just brought him back into work, but fingers crossed it is all looking positive. It has really driven home to me how important it is to surround yourself with the right professionals to ensure you have the best possible chance of success.
I have been busy looking after my canine clients too; just in a the last week I have been assisting a vet with a fitness and strengthening program for a young dog with a broken leg, seen a GSD with hip dysplasia, and a Cocker Spaniel with Cruciate Ligament Damage. I find this work so rewarding, and the dogs always seem far more appreciative than my equine clients.
I have already filled all my weekends in February (weekdays still available) and half of March... If you want a weekend appointment you will need to get in touch ASAP. Now the evenings are drawing out, I can fit in evening appointments, just ask.