Giving Back

Superior Therapy LLC serves horses and offers kids interactive education at the 2020 National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals

Written By: Summer Terry

Every year, the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie hosts the National Little Britches Rodeo Association finals where 1,200 contestants gather from across the U.S. and compete in multiple events for championship titles and prizes. Kids of all ages rodeo all year long, many on the same horse, to qualify. The long hours of practice, hauling and competition are demanding on their equine partners. We work with many youth rodeo horses in our facility, but in other states, the knowledge of therapy and the availability for services just isn’t there yet.

 It’s not that people don’t want to give their horses the best possible care; they just live in an area where there isn’t someone to teach them the basic knowledge. I am thankful for the mentors that taught me when I was a child. They are a huge part of why Superior Therapy LLC exists today. For this reason, I knew I wanted to give back to the youth community, so I pitched a sponsorship idea that was a completely new concept to the NLBRA. We organized a team of volunteers to bring their therapy modality of choice, donate two free treatments for each contestant and teach families about how each modality helps a horse perform better.

The NLBRA finals consists of two long go performances and a short go performance, with most horses also competing in multiple events within each performance. These horses are the perfect candidates to receive therapy services.

My goal for the week was to provide services they could continue to use at home. Usually, there are booths at shows with therapy professionals that you can pay for services, but that isn’t very helpful when you are at home and have an injury. From the Superior Therapy LLC barn, we brought our portable whirlpool ice boots; they use a simple compressor to pump air into the boots to keep water circulating while you ice the leg. Temperatures stayed near 100 degrees the week of finals, so icing hot, tired legs is especially important.

Icing helps to prevent injuries by decreasing inflammation and swelling around fragile tendons and ligaments. Many of the aged horses, that help teach younger kids, experience sore feet, joint pain, windpuffs and scar tissue from previous injuries. Icing helps keep them comfortable and performing at their best. It can also increase circulation, which is important after long trailer rides. The kids enjoyed how silly their horses looked in the “giant rainboots” as they were cleverly nicknamed. The volunteers went through 1,200 pounds of ice over the week!

Massage therapy was a huge hit as well. We had a team of two to three equine massage therapists doing mini massages and pre-race leg stretches. The kids learned what a tight muscle feels like and how to locate one on their horses. We also looked at functional muscle, conformation, and how those things work together for the equine athlete. Without correctly developed muscles, the horse cannot perform optimally. Most times, stretching is done with the assistance of a stronger parent for best results, so it’s a great activity to involve the whole family. Many times, injuries begin with an unnoticed tension or weak area in the body. The body begins to overcompensate, which starts soreness in another area. Learning what to look for at a young age will help prevent costly injuries in the future.  After locating sore muscles, the kids were able to use cold laser and PEMF equipment to help decrease pain and inflammation. Our PEMF of choice is low-frequency blanket and leg wrap systems manufactured by Respond Systems Inc. because it is so safe to use. Many systems are intended for operation by professionals, but Respond makes a system that has settings in place for different conditions. We can have the kids treat their own horses without worrying about their safety. Both PEMF and laser therapies are designed to help increase blood flow to problem areas and heal injuries very quickly. They can also be used before competition for increased energy, oxygen and stamina.

Mustang Mateo (Matt Gibson) brought his all-natural herbal remedies as well as taught about correct use of kinesiology tape for both horse and rider. Many of the kids were accustomed to seeing tape used on their favorite professional athlete or Olympian but had never thought about the benefits it also has for their equine athlete. The tape is used to increase circulation and to support and help engage muscle action in the area of application. We found that by taping the glute area, horses were firing harder and striding out better through the patterns. We also taped a few banged up knees, sore backs and injured shoulders for our human athletes. We can’t prevent every injury from happening, but we can provide the education to know what to do next. Gibson also offers certification courses on taping so that people can learn how to correctly apply tape to their own horses. He brought a team of course graduates to help tape.

Equi-Resp came on the scene to provide chelated silver breathing treatments. This equine nebulizer system is used to help with everything from allergies to those that bleed during performance. The mask may look super silly, but the benefits are huge. So many horses get to Oklahoma, and the heat is so different than where they live. The heat is exhausting for them, the allergies are higher, and they are more likely to have breathing issues. We helped make sure the mask was in place, and then most of the kids could hold their own horses for the treatment.

We also discussed how veterinarians play a key role in keeping performance horses healthy. Alternative therapies are never meant to be a replacement for veterinary care. Instead, our goal is to grow the partnership between customer and veterinarian by teaching owners to notice small changes before they become a serious injury.

When the dust settled after the long week, our team of 12 to 15 volunteers had treated over 500 head of competition horses. We also posted daily Facebook Live videos covering topics of correct leg wrapping, yoga and stretching for the rider, performing in the heat, and equine nutrition. Parents posted pictures to social media of their kids helping out with treatments.

As a therapist, it showed me that kids are willing to learn what it takes to maintain their equine athletes. They want the best for their horses. If we can provide them with information that is easy to understand and remember, they will put it to good use. I hope that 15 years down the road, I run into a veterinarian and realize it was a kid whose horse I worked with at the 2020 National Little Britches Finals. Or maybe I will see a guy back into the roping box at the NFR and remember that I helped him stretch his mini pony.

I believe it’s our job to ensure the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls has the same mentorship that I grew up with. We owe that to them. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and this is the first interactive education booth of its kind. I hope to offer services and education at other shows in the future. We also offer training courses, online education and internships at Superior Therapy LLC.

I want everyone to have the opportunity to come and learn about therapy, and we have opportunities for every budget and experience level.       

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