Continuing Education with The Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists

SURE FOOT® Equine Stability Program – The Murdoch Method

SUREFOOT Stability Program with Wendy Murdoch. A great success at first UK Course!

The Official SUREFOOT Stability Pad was launched in January 2016 after 2 years in development so IRVAP were delighted to host the first course to be held in the UK. The venue was at the state of the art new Newmarket Horseracing Museum and Retraining of Racehorses Centre in Palace House.

What are Equine SUREFOOT Pads?

SUREFOOT Pads are Equine Stability Pads. They can help a horse improve their own balance, posture, stance, movement, balance and behaviour. They can benefit a horse pre/post exercise, during a training session to improve/enhance performance, recovery from injury while stall bound or in limited movement to reset proprioceptors to re-establish normal patterns of movement.

The pads have 4 different densities and 2 basic designs – rectangular and angled. Each Pad is 25cmX30cmX5cm providing a sufficient area for horse’s hooves and thickness to absorb their weight. The variation in density provides the horse with different sensations and responses. Each pad also has two different surfaces each side (except the impression pad) – the coloured surface distributes the horses weight while the direct surface will give wherever hoof makes contact with the pads. Wendy also uses balance pods – 7inch pods with a raised surface, which some horses opt to stand on for increased proprioceptive input.

The Impression Pad retains the imprint of the horses hoof for a period of time so the therapist can see how the horse is weight bearing on the different hoof structures. Interestingly there has been no differences in responses between barefoot or shod horses.

Initially following the lecture all the Equine Delegates got to stand on all the different pads to feel the sensation of the different densities.

We had a great selection of horses on the day to practice on with the pads. We started with two ex- racehorses who are being retrained at Palace House.

We were delighted to have Stand Guard attend who is trained by John Butler. He is a winner of 28 races and also shows. Alice Haynes who rides Stand Guard also brought her young 4 year old Connemara Stallion. Other horses included Splash, a showjumper, who was initially very wary of the pads, but once over her suspicions she chose to stand on the balance pods, even repositioning them herself.

The responses of the horses varied head dropping, eyes closing, breathing slowed, neck movements side to side, swaying, yawning… to list a few. The horses self-select which pad (the therapist recommends one depending on issues of horse but sometimes the horse chooses differently) and also choose the length of time to stay on pads –self-adjusting themselves to balance on the chosen pad. It was extremely interesting to watch each horse’s reactions. After standing on the pads for their chosen length of time, the horses were then walked or ridden away for the therapists and the riders to note any changes in movement.

Further research into these fascinating tools is underway, including a proposed research project by IRVAP therapists in conjunction with Wendy.

I have begun incorporating SUREFOOT pads into my treatments, usually post sports massage or acupressure session.  As the horse’s foot is a neurosensory organ, by allowing the horse to stand on the pads it re balances itself, restoring the original map and function and re-wiring its body to correct posture. It is still very much a learning process as they are a new addition but I am finding them a fascinating tool.

Grainne Ni Chaba-Byrne IRVAP

Animal Therapy Magazine