A Stroke of Genius

The sun is shining, the temperature is slowly rising and down at George’s Ranch we are feeling good – though perhaps not quite as good as our resident superstars Butterfly and Defender who both enjoyed a first-class massage with an equine sports therapist this week.

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Katrina Gothorp has long been a friend of the Ranch and therefore it gives us great pleasure to not only have her work on our horses, but also to have her share her extensive knowledge with our friends and clients. And trust me, Katrina has a lot of knowledge!
With more than 37 years’ equine experience behind her as a rider, competitor and owner, Katrina has worked as a qualified Equine Bodyworker for the past 12 years. For more information on what she does, check out her website www.equusperformance.com. But for now, and without any more ado, I’ll put you in the very capable hands of our guest blogger, Katrina Gothorp.


What I do is termed as ‘equine sports therapy’ and it involves the use of hands-on soft tissue massage for the horse, laser therapy and myofascial release. After an initial consultation with an owner, trainer and/or vet, a conformation and gait analysis are always conducted prior to massage. This gives us a picture of how the horse is conformed and also what his posture is like as well as how he moves both freely and under saddle.

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The massage is performed as a ‘whole horse massage’ every time, whether there is one specific problem or not. The reason for this is that the horse is a dynamic being and every muscle and soft tissue connection will impact another part of the body. Myofascial release is a non-directional and powerful modality which releases the three dimensional interconnective web of fascia within the body which binds all muscle tissue. Laser therapy is conducted using a 904nm laser diode (either cluster or single point) to repair damaged tissue such as muscle or tendon and sometimes even bone. I also lecture in equine functional anatomy and carry out demonstrative equine dissection.
As the horse is an extreme athlete, to maintain him in peak condition the work I do is a necessary part of his overall care. It prevents injury in the first instance and in the worst-case scenario it can aid a rehabilitative programme post injury. Working on the soft tissue of a horse keeps muscle fibres lengthened, circulation at optimum levels and it can aid in the drainage of toxins through the lymphatic system. This keeps the soft tissue in a healthy elastic state. Furthermore, it is possible to tell at a very early stage whether training, saddle fit or dental issues are adversely affecting the horse, and measures can be taken accordingly to prevent injury, adding weight to the old saying, “prevention is better than cure”. As well as working on horses, I give lectures to inform owners and riders, from the youngest to the oldest, just how the horse moves, thereby giving them a greater understanding of the effect of their ridden work on their horses so they can build effective training programmes. This helps owners and trainers alike to pre-empt injury and gives riders the “inside line” on the movement of their horse under saddle.

My services have been requested by owners and trainers of performance horses – including racehorses, showhorses, dressage and eventing horses – right the way through to owners of riding horses and ponies who simply wish to keep their horses as healthy and happy as possible. In a nutshell, this service is available to and benefits all horses.
Clearly, over the years I’ve seen many horses and one of the worst cases involved a very large thoroughbred who had suffered a 2cm core lesion in his flexor tendon. This kind of injury usually results in the retirement of a horse from racing. However, with soft tissue work and laser work alone, this core lesion healed within 12 weeks to the extent that the vet could see no sign of it on ultrasound. The horse went back to racing within six months of the initial injury and won his first race after his return to the racetrack. Of course, I would have to say my greatest success belongs to my own horse who was initially a client of mine in Cyprus. He was a racehorse who had suffered 13 blisters to both forelegs. I took him on as a client for rehabilitative purposes as a six year old. I then took ownership of him and shipped him to the UK where he has transformed into a wonderful dressage horse currently competing and being placed at Novice level. Every day with him is an absolute treasure proving that racehorses can achieve a successful life after racing (a cause very close to my heart!). Therefore, it was lovely to see a few former racehorses at George’s Ranch when I came to visit Caroline’s rising stars, Butterfly and Defender.
Both Butterfly and Defender were amazing characters to work with. Watching them under saddle with Caroline was a pleasure, and interacting with them during treatment afterwards was a joy. They both seemed thrilled with the work done and I must admit that I am smitten with Defender’s cheeky character! Both horses have individual talents and they are clearly in the best hands to achieve their potential. I hope to remain a part of their journey in the coming years.
Katrina Gothorp, Equine Consultant, LLB (Hons.), MsC Equine Science, AFHEA, EEBW, ITEC Dip.


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