Whether she is treating two legs or four, Dr Lesley Goff is passionate about her work treating horses and humans. Dr Goff is one of the world’s leading animal physiotherapists as well as being a highly regarded physiotherapist for people. She cares for horses and humans side by side at her Toowoomba clinics Hip Sport Spine Physiotherapy and Active Animal Physiotherapy.
Lesley found her passion for health and wellbeing at a young age, spending her youth gallivanting at pony club with her beloved steeds, competing in dressage and eventing as she matured. She formalised her interest by studying musculoskeletal physiotherapy and a post graduate degree in exercise and sport science, working with NSW Athletics, and Triathlon Australia. “I researched the human sacroiliac joint and pelvis, important for understanding back pain, but also for optimising performance in athletes,” explains Lesley.
Now understanding the importance of sport and exercise, it is no wonder Lesley is an avid athlete, having many triathlons under her belt including five Ironman triathlons. She has also competed in dryland sled dog racing with the family’s Siberian huskies. For Lesley, combining her two passions of sport and animals was a no-brainer. With an appetite for research giving her an advantage, Lesley completed her PhD in the biomechanics of the equine sacroiliac joint, expanding on her human research to discover more about equine athletic performance. “The research has resulted in me being able to publish my results in veterinary journals, edit and write parts of the world’s first Animal Physiotherapy textbook, and has opened up many teaching and lecturing opportunities both here and overseas.”
Lesley’s day can vary from treating human patients to tending horses in racing stables and in paddocks anywhere from the Darling Downs to the Gold Coast. Although she will not play favourites, Lesley admits working with horses has a special charm. “Horses actually understand more than most people think they do. They are honest, and seem to know they are being helped. They are also incredible athletes.” Her dual education also means Lesley can treat both the horse and rider as an equestrian athlete unit, allowing a level of optimum performance to be gained that was previously out of reach.
While her initial plan post PhD was to work solely with animals, Lesley found herself missing the practice of physiotherapy on human athletes. “When I completed my Masters in Animal Physiotherapy I envisaged myself only working with animals but I really missed providing physiotherapy for two legged athletes and helping people with their musculoskeletal problems. I believe that assessing and treating animals has made me a better practitioner overall. To provide physiotherapy for animals, you must observe movement and biomechanics well, develop an excellent feel for muscles and joints and discover ways to maintain those movement changes and pain reduction.”
A career that has so far spanned more breeds than most physiotherapists dare to master, Lesley can attest that four legs are not always better than two.
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