As part of a great collaboration idea, I met equine manual therapist Louise Mauferon Vernet on site at her client Jan to capture her ‘on film’ treating Jan’s two very special boys Ben and Bo.
French born Louise is on the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners, putting her right at the top of the profession. She studied equine, cranial and visceral osteopathy for five years in Brighton before setting out as a freelance therapist treating both horses and dogs.
Based in East Sussex, Louise treats her equine clients across much of the south east, often spending 90 minutes with each to ensure maximum benefit from each treatment. I met her at a yard in Surrey where Jan keeps Ben and Bo. They live out all year round with a small herd, and to attract their attention, Jan uses a whistle. Ben was in sight when we arrived and happy to follow Jan across the field for a nibble. Bo was ‘hiding’ while Louise treated Ben but soon reappeared when he heard Jan’s ‘call’. The benefit of this is that she doesn’t get mobbed by a dozen other horses!
Louise started her session on Ben, a nine year old 15hh Welsh Section D. He’d had a bad start in life, rescued initially at about five, gelded and backed. He went on to be quite successful at dressage and rosettes were a plenty. However, as a result of nasty kick to his chest, he retired from competing and Jan now has him on loan. He’s not been ridden for a couple of years, in part because he’s been uncomfortable, particularly in his left hind, Louise thinks as a result of being gelded badly and Jan has worked hard to gain his trust as well as build his confidence.
Ben can be quite gobby still – Jan describes him as nine going on two – so will walk off when he thinks he’s stood long enough, but a little persuasion brings him back to us and Louise continues. Much of this session is very gentle manipulation, with Louise laying her hands on Ben to check all his muscles, palpating as required and watching for any restricted movement. All the while she talks to Jan explaining what she doing as she does it. It’s so clear from Ben’s face that he really enjoys his sessions and is now physically well which is very rewarding to see.
Next up, Bo or Mr Bojangles, a very different horse altogether. Jan has owned Beau since he was five, purchasing him for her daughter to compete on. However, it soon became evident that Bo was very troubled and began to behave quite unpredictably. After some veterinary intervention, it transpired he was suffering from a back injury that was causing him discomfort and stress. With much patience Jan and her daughter have nurtured this little horse for almost 17 years and although he is now ‘an expensive ornament’, he does respond to her kindness.
Bo has always been very reticent when it comes to physical intervention so Louise has to take her time when working with him as unlike Ben, she can’t tell him to let her treat him, she has to ask. While most of the time, he relaxes into the moment, he does occasionally just say no, move away and Louise has to wait. So it’s full credit to Louise that he does allow her to treat him at all. To prove a point during our session, Bo moved out of reach, opting instead to work out an itchy wither under a tree branch. He took some persuading to join us again! However, once he allowed Louise to continue, he really relaxed for several minutes, a real bonus and one that she decided not to exploit for more time than she felt necessary, ending on a good note. It’s a relief to Jan that he is now far more accepting of Louise and her methodology, so she knows that he can continue to be comfortable as he grows older.
A huge thank you to both Jan and Louise for allowing me to follow their afternoon session.