Sarah Cruickshank

Discipline:Veterinary Physiotherapy

Despite growing up in central Auckland, Sarah was always crazy about horses and was fortunate to finally persuade her parents to allow her to have a pony. Always wanting to be a Vet, it wasn't until Sarah's horse bucked her off and was diagnosed with a sore back that a Pony Club friend recommended an Equine Sports Therapist to help. Getting her horse back to ridden work in 2 weeks she decided that she was going to become an Equine Physio. 

Finding a suitable career path was tough and it was in her second year of a science degree at the University of Otago that she discovered that the Royal Veterinary College was about to begin the first-ever Masters of Science in Veterinary Physiotherapy! 

Needing to qualify as a 'human' physiotherapist first, she immediately applied to AUT and completed a 4-year undergraduate Bachelors degree in Physiotherapy before heading off to London as soon as could!  Sarah was the first (and only) New Zealander to complete the RVC Masters degree in 2007 and was awarded her postgraduate degree with Distinction, joint First Place and the Project Prize for her research thesis on the musculoskeletal structure and function of the racing camel. 

While studying at the RVC Sarah was privileged to be part of two RVC research trips, to Dubai in 2005 to dissect racing camels and to the University of Queensland in 2006 to investigate the musculoskeletal structure and function of the Quarter Horse and the Arab, comparing the sprinter and the endurance equine athletes. This research has been published in the Journal of Anatomy. 

Upon graduating Sarah was fortunate enough to secure a full-time job as a Veterinary Physiotherapist in Hampshire for the ex-British Team Physio, and then set up her own business in the UK, working for international event riders Vittoria Panizzon (ITA) then based in Hampshire and Andrew Hoy (AUS), Bettina Hoy (GER), Yoshi Oiwa (JPN) who were based at Princess Anne's stunning Cotswold estate. 

Sarah has attended multiple Olympics as an official physio to horse and rider, as well as all the big 3 Day Events in the UK - Badminton, Burghley, Blenheim, Weston Park, Gatcombe Park. Sarah returned to New Zealand after the Beijing Olympics and set up Vetphysio Limited, a specialised business treating horses, riders and small animals.

Have you ever wondered if your horse is in pain? Or if the pain may be affecting your horse's ability to perform the job or task that is being asked of them? As a physiotherapist, Sarah feels strongly that we are advocates for our animal and non-verbal patients. 

"We have a responsibility to both identify and treat potential areas of pain, and to educate the rider, owner or trainer on their horse's level of pain. Working in conjunction with the wider Veterinary team, we can also assist with how to manage it", says Sarah.  

Sarah aims to identify the root cause or source of the pain so prevention methods can be used. Sarah does this through exercise modification, environmental management and appropriate and specific rehabilitation.

Key learnings to take away from Sarah's sessions:
  • Does this hurt? How can we assess, objectively measure and effectively treat pain in equine athletes using novel technology and physiotherapy techniques?
Jody Hartstone on horse

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