Vav Simon
(Mhairi Simon)

Clinical Director

01983 566009

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Keeping Horses Competitive


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Keeping Horses Competitive

Chiropractic Helps Dogs too!

Horses used in competition need more than basic care to achieve our ambitions. Vav Simon, chiropractor, gathers three long-experienced competitors from different disciplines to pick their brains.


Anna Lek, Endurance Event competitor, says “I’ve been competing my horses at top level for more years than I care to remember. I’m so lucky to have had such brilliant mounts who have all competed successfully at national level. In fact one horse was long-listed twice for international teams.

With the huge stresses endurance at this level puts on a horse I believe anything that can help is definitely worth investing in. Endurance horses need a team to support them e.g. farrier, nutritionalist, saddler, vet and chiropractor.

Over the years chiropractic has helped to keep my horses sound and comfortable. I chose to ask Vav to regularly check them over even when I was unaware of any particular problems. I felt that this pre-empted trouble before it started or escalated. The horses enjoyed the pampering too! The rider also needs to stay fit and Vav has certainly helped me on several occasions to ensure that I also stay level.”


Julie Hoskyns, International Horse Driving Trials competitor and a member of Team GB (driving), says “Horse driving trials is the carriage-driving equivalent of three day eventing in which equines must be in peak condition for this very demanding sport. The world championships are held every two years and since its inception in 2003 either I and/or my ponies have been selected as team or individual members every time.

I drive a pony pair of Welsh Section C geldings which means I take three ponies to every event and can use any combination throughout the three day event. I am not fortunate enough to be able to pay for coaches and trainers so I do all the work myself. I have made it to the top of my sport with very little formal training through sheer hard work, dedication, attention to detail and an excellent back-up team.

It is vitally important that the ponies are comfortable in their work, fit and healthy. One of the ways I keep my ponies in peak condition is by using professionals like Vav Simon to check the ponies skeletal alignment and to relieve muscle tensions and spasms without using invasive techniques. We all work as a team, Vav, the vets and my blacksmith, for the good of the ponies.

My top tip is to treat your equines like equines. Give them a break from their busy competition schedule and let them live as natural a life as is possible. But above all, learn to read and listen to your horse or pony because he will tell you when things are not right and when he needs the expert intervention of professionals like Vav.”


Martine Harbour says: “I'm a dressage trainer and I've trained my favourite horse Kluedo to Grand Prix level, but he doesn't quite have the 'oomph' to get there. So I compete with him to Intermediate One quite happily.

I met Vav after Kluedo had flu' and he just wouldn't go. He was out of sorts for ages and I suddenly realised “maybe he's got a bad back like I do sometimes!”. Vav's chiropractic assessment found a lot wrong with him as a direct result of the virus – it had loosened him up so much he wasn't holding his shape well at all. Next day after her treatment, he was cured and we got straight back to work. It would have taken us a long time, with lots of bad behaviour unsettling all our teamwork, if she hadn't helped.

I still use Vav six-monthly, especially if I feel he's getting out of sorts again. I've had him nine years so I know him well. I also get my own back done by Vav – when I've ridden too many horses, or carried too many water buckets!

My best tip? I use a lot of hill work to keep my horses fit for competition, walk and trot only to strengthen their backs and the odd gallop to keep their minds fresh.”


What chiropractors are looking for are subtle misalignments in the skeleton that might cause nerve entrapment. In mammals, the main nerve pathway passes from the brain through the spinal column and branches out between each individual vertebra to feed muscles, joints and all the major organs in the body. These tiny holes that the nerves pass through are about the size of the eye of a needle.

If the skeleton is perfectly aligned, the nerves work properly and you have a happy, healthy animal.

Any subtle movement of the vertebrae can change the shape of the little hole (called the foramen) through which each nerve emerges and this may pinch the nerve. When this happens, the nerve signal may be distorted and then muscles may go into spasm or we may lose feeling from parts of our bodies.

Chiropractic assessment involves searching for these misalignments of the skeleton, wherever they may be, by fingertip palpation. Chiropractors are methodically trained to a degree of sensitivity rarely found in other professions.

Treatment then follows immediately. Each misaligned bone is adjusted by hand with a direct thrust against the area where the ligament holds the bone. This causes a reflex arc which allows the bone to reposition, freeing the nerve to function properly.

This is a gentle treatment, although there may be some residual stiffness or soreness for a day or two. But it can make a huge difference to competitive performance – in horse and human!

Vav Simon is a registered chiropractor based on the Isle of Wight who visits around Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Surrey fortnightly treating horses and dogs and advising on human performance. Contact her through 01983 566009 or via her website at