Lucinda Munchhausen, 35, is an osteopath for horses and dogs. She lives in Tenby, Wales.
"I recently gutted and renovated my flat and my favourite room is my new bathroom; it’s light and airy with bamboo flooring so it’s a calming place to start the day when I wake at 7.15am. My dog, a Weimaraner called Africa, rarely leaves my side so I feed her first, then get dressed in jeans, polo shirt and tough work boots, as my feet regularly get trodden on by horses. I start the day with green tea with mint and gluten-free toast with fried eggs, or Marmite if I’m in a hurry and need to eat in the car.
I’m usually out of the house by 8.30am. My two horses, a stallion called Lotus and a gelding called Odeon, are housed in rented stables two miles away, so I muck them out then let them out into the field. I treat animals within a 100-mile radius, so I do lots of driving and listening to Radio 2. As a horse and dog osteopath, I take a holistic, drug-free approach to restoring the animal to good health. I use my hands to massage and manipulate the muscles and joints to increase the range of movement, so the animal’s body can function properly and heal itself.
Because my role is so physical, I need a big lunch – I take a sandwich, bean salad, houmous and carrot sticks in my bento lunchbox to eat at 2pm. I treat a variety of horses, from professional racers to pony club hacks. I try to see five or six horses in a day, but it’s often up to eight. I recently treated a horse that jumped awkwardly during a pony club competition and injured its tendon. I felt the horse’s body to identify asymmetry and differences in heat, then watched how it walked to see if its footfall was smooth. To treat it, I manipulated its pelvis by picking up its hind leg and pushing it forward. It’s dangerous work. Fortunately, I haven’t been injured but there are lots of near misses. In my riding career, I’ve broken my sternum, shoulder, arm, collarbone and ribs, dislocated my hip and had concussion.
My clients sometimes claim that I’ve come up with a miracle cure but it’s really a matter of knowing anatomy – the animal’s muscles, nerves and blood supply are all interlinked so the key to my job is to look at the big picture. For example, I treated a hunting horse that had suffered from an unexplained cough for 18 months; I diagnosed a problem with its diaphragm caused by its saddle and within 48 hours it had stopped coughing. When I treat dogs, which are usually sheep dogs that compete in agility or sheep trials, they react differently to horses. Horses tend to relax and start yawning, whereas dogs become excited and think I’m playing with them, so I need to adjust my technique to each animal. My addiction to horses began when I started riding aged 10; I did an equine studies course at my local college, trained at The National Stud and worked in Australia before moving to France, where I rode the famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. My horse got injured and I had to massage him daily. I was at a crossroads in my career so enrolled in the European School of Animal Osteopathy in Brighton, where I still teach on a monthly basis.
I finish work at 7pm so I’m usually home by 8pm. My boyfriend Giles accompanies me to check on my horses – he grew up in a horse-loving family but says he hates them so doesn’t ride. Fortunately, he claims he can’t smell them on me. Clients often assume I ride all the time but because I’m so busy with work I only get to take them out a few nights a week.
I love food and am passionate about seasonal ingredients; I get frustrated when I see strawberries in the supermarket at Christmas. I’ve been staying nearby with my father during my flat renovations so he or Giles usually cooks supper. We tend to start with an aperitif and olives, then move on to something like my favourite stir-fry with rice noodles before finishing with some local Welsh cheese.
People can get stressed when they tell me about their injured animals and I spend the day in a hot car, so my favourite way to wind down is to take a walk along the cliff path or beach, stopping off for a glass of wine on the way. By 10.30pm I’m dropping so I fall into bed and straight to sleep.”