Name: Fiona Elliott
Job: Director of Radway Equine Rehab, plus she’s an Equine Vet who also does chiropractic and acupuncture on horses.
What made you decide to train as an equine chiropractor?
As an equine vet, for years I have been treating lame horses, and a lot of them had seen “back people”. Some with mixed results. 8 years ago I trained as an acupuncturist so I can help the soft tissue side of things, but I wanted to look more into joints and the musculo-skeletal side of things too, and that’s when I began my chiropractic training.
So, whats the difference between a physio and a chiro?
The physio focuses more on muscles and soft tissue, the chiropractic looks more at bones and joints.
What qualifications did you need to do what you do?
I was already qualified as a vet so the training I had took place at Bournemouth at the International Academy of Veterinary Chiropractic. The course ran over 5 months – with one week a month and an exam every time you went back, as well as final exams. You can train as a human chiropractor then train on animals after.
What if you want to be an equine chiropractor and you’re not a vet?
There are equine manipulation courses you can take.
What types of conditions would benefit from chiro treatment?
Lots of conditions are benefitted from this type of treatment. A few I can think of include:
Back pain- kissing spines, facet pain
Neck pain and arthritis
Uneven contact when ridden, head tilt
Behavioural problems- bucking, rearing, napping, problems girthing
Lameness leading to secondary musculoskeletal pain
Horses in work to prevent injury
What does a typical day look like for you?
I try and book in up to 7 horses a day. Some will come to us, others I will go out and treat. I have a chat with the owner, learn some history about the horse and have a feel over it to try to assess whether there is any muscle tension, pain etc. I see it walk and trot up, and if there’s something I am concerned about, perhaps a subtle lameness for example, I might watch it lunged, too. Then, I would treat them – scanning over the body seeing how the joints are moving and treating any that aren’t moving correctly. I then devise an action plan for the ongoing treatment and recovery plan with the owner and of course, I get permission from the horse’s own vet before treating them!
What are the best parts of the job?
Travelling out and about and meeting new people and horses. I have been a vet in practice for 15 years and this gives me a new perspective and string to my bow. As a vet , I was very much looking at lame animals, but I now see things differently in the wider context of the horse’s whole body movement. I feel I see a more compete picture which I enjoy.
What are the worst parts of the job?
Awkward rude horses and the cold wet winter weather!
What are the hazards of the job?
I have been bitten and kicked and stamped on!
What qualities do you think you need to have to do this job?
I think you have to be patient, personable, and like the animals you are treating – they know if you are in a rush or are flustered! If you have some experience dealing with horses on a regular basis it helps to know how to be when you are around them, dealing with them. It helps to have that experience.
Will it make you rich?
Will it make you happy?
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to someone considering this as a career option?
I would do it! I only ever wanted to be a vet when I was little, having grown up on a farm and riding ponies. I think now, doing this, to train and do humans and then animals too, would probably be a better job as you don’t have to do the nights and weekends if you don’t want to. There is a better work life balance, especially as a female. So, if you don’t get into vet school, don’t think you can’t still work with horses –this is another avenue you can consider.
Watch Fiona at work!