RAWLINS, Wyo. — Cowboys and cowgirls get hurt riding bulls — it’s simply the way of the sport.
But seeing a horse go down is something most every cowboy and cowgirl will tell you they hate to see the most.
Working as an animal sports therapist and competing as a professional barrel racer, Sami Jo Sweeney does her best to keep the horses of Carbon County and southern Wyoming going, visiting at least once a month from her hometown of Brighton Colo.
“I make a monthly trip to Rawlins, make a monthly trip to Encampment and a monthly trip to the university in Laramie,” she said.
She also visits Cheyenne when needed.
Although veterinarian school was not for her, Sweeney, a professional racer since 2009, studied equine chiropractic, acupressure, massage therapy and more while coming to find the right fit for herself.
“That is a lot of the reason why I pursued this career,” Sweeney said. “So I could also pursue barrel racing. It kind of gives me the privilege to work while I am rodeoing.”
Breaking down a session step by step, Sweeney said she often starts with a basic assessment by watching a horse move around.
“Sometimes, when I watch the horse move, I can see glitches or head bobbles or stumbles that can be structurally or muscularly ruining,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney then performs an acupuncture assessment. This allows her to feel the horse and find trigger points, soreness and energy imbalances.
“Horses are very demanding creatures,” Sweeney said. “If I did an acupressure first, it releases the soft tissue and relaxes the horse and makes the adjustment a lot better for the horse rather than just pulling some bones around really fast.”
NEED FOR REGULAR TREATMENT
Although some might suspect that working horses would be her most common clients, Sweeney said the pasture roamers are the ones in greatest need of attention.
“Just like they would tell anyone with arthritis ‘do not stop moving, or your arthritis is going to be worse,’ it is the same with horses,” Sweeney said. “A lot of horses that stand around honestly have a bit more issues than horses that regularly exercise.”
Still, Sweeney said like any athlete, sports-related horses need weekly or monthly treatments to stay in healthy condition.
“My goal is to prevent injuries or to prevent vet visits as much as I possibly can,” she said. “Horses are just like athletes.”
And as such, Sweeney advises against inconsistent work with horses preceding an event, which could hurt the performance and possibly the horse, but said regular treatment can help.
“If they maintain a schedule, horses can be treated right before they perform because it is kind of their routine,” she said.
Information from: Rawlins (Wyo.) Daily Times, http://www.rawlinstimes.com