We’ve straightened the horse, what about you?

As a fully qualified Massage Therapist treating horses and people I see a lot of horses with postural problems, unequal muscle build up and tightness, due to hard athletic work that they are continually asked to perform.  If a rider notices that they are “hanging on the inside rein” or “falling out through the shoulder” and if they are resisting canter, going disunited or unable to perform flying changes the more affluent of us sometimes choose Massage Therapy/Chiropractic or Osteopathic treatment to help.

However, how many of us then look to correct ourselves after we have corrected our horse?  If we are not straight how can we expect our horse to be?

A crooked rider makes a crooked horse.  However unsubtle the crookedness is, the horse is extremely perceptive and will detect it.  If the rider imbalances their horse by as much as a quarter of an inch this will cause the shoulders or haunches to deviate from their line and they immediately lose impulsion, suppleness, lightness, and flexion.  It does not matter how many times we continue to correct our horse, if a rider remains crooked they will never remain straight for longer than a few days after treatment.

A common problem is a lopsided seat (below) and one I used to suffer with before I had regular Chiropractic treatment which fixed the issue.  I am now a more effective and comfortable rider.

Any adverse tension in the body due to stress, fear or even too much effort will hinder the progress of developing your seat.  Any deviations in our position can cause the horse to be over bent, on the forehand or just simply crooked.

  • The shoulders should be relaxed, back and down.
  • Both seat bones should rest in the saddle without the coccyx (tailbone) having contact and the hips should be vertical to the saddle.
  • The thigh should be relaxed and lay against the flap of the saddle and the knee should be turned in without gripping.
  • The calf muscle needs to be stretched down but not forced down as this will create tension.

As riders we must take responsibility for our position and our seat and ensure that we are structurally even, not just for ourselves but for the sake of our horse.

If you are concerned about your position or have problems with straightness and balance when riding; a Chiropractor/Massage Therapist or Osteopath can help.  Please remember it can sometimes take more than one treatment to see improvement continue as unfortunately long-standing problems cannot be fixed overnight.

Alternatively any questions please comment below.

In addition I have also attached details of where you can obtain a free e-book about Straightness Training.  This also provides some useful information for you and your horse.



Deep Oscillation Therapy….what is it and what does it do?

I have recently purchased a Deep Oscillation Therapy unit from Physiopod and based on the results I have seen personally, I would recommend it to anyone for themselves, their horse or any animal in pain.

Through the oedema-reducing and anti-inflammatory effect, tissue renewal and scar formation is encouraged and therefore it can assist with:

* Reduction of swelling surrounding an open wound
* Reducing pain in tendon injuries
* Reduction in swelling from concussive injury
* Surgery aftercare
* Burns
* Fibromyalgia
* Ulcers
* Arthritis

The therapy effect of Deep Oscillation takes place in the tissue itself and works through to the entire depth of the tissue layers (skin, connective tissue, subcutaneous fat, muscles, blood and lymph vessels).

One horse I see to on a daily basis came in with an injury one day in late February and after investigation the Vet confirmed that they thought it was most likely to be as a result of a kick. It had caused severe bruising, major swelling and there was concern that the injury may have fractured the splint bone or damaged the extensor tendon. Following ultrasound scans and xrays it was confirmed that the splint bone was slightly swollen and there was thickening of the extensor tendon.

The day after this I began to apply Deep Oscillation to the leg (over the open wound, using cling film to sterilise the area) and did this as often as possible for the next two weeks. The Vet revisited after two weeks and she was astounded by the reduction in swelling and tenderness around the area. She allowed the horse to be turned out into a cornered off area of the field on her own and within another two weeks, she was back out in her usual field, being ridden again 6 weeks after the inital injury. She is also now aware of the treatment.

If you have experienced an injury in a horse which has damaged or bruised tendons you will be aware of how long this takes to heal. This was an extraordinary case and the horse was very lucky to be our guinea pig! I now treat many horses with the Deep Oscillation Therapy and it has assisted with Sacroilliac Joint pain and Frozen Shoulder along with general muscle ache.

If there is anyone else out there who has experienced Deep Oscillation Therapy and what it can do, please leave a comment. Alternatively, if anyone knows of a separate treatment that has had similar effects, please advise as this will also help me expand my knowledge in different types of therapy.

The benefits of canine massage

Despite the fact that dogs do not do as much as people or horses they can still benefit from massage.  Not only does it keep them well it can also help dogs that have suffered with abuse, relieving emotional pain.

Massage speeds up the blood circulation and helps areas in particular  with restricted blood flow and lymph which keep the body in balance.  This also helps with regulating bowel movements along with improving the metabolic rate especially if it is an older dog or one that has a slower lifestyle.

It also increases bone density and their strength along with reducing swelling and helps with injuries like a pulled muscle or a broken bone.  If there is a lump or growths that has gone unnoticed in-between vet check-ups this could be detected throughout a massage.

Performance dogs, show dogs, and race dogs get routine massage to elevate their level of performance. It can also help with the stress brought about from a show.  Dogs pick up on their owners stress and as a result, develop anxiety of their own.  A massage can reduce nervous tension and promote a sense of calm in more hyperactive dogs. Young puppies can also benefit. Massaging a puppy allows him/her to get accustomed to human touch and helps with socialization.

Because it enhances muscle function, and reduces muscle tension, a massage is especially helpful for dogs suffering from arthritis, thus their owners may consider more frequent visits. If a dog suffers from hip dysplasia or arthritis they are more likely to suffer with poor range of motion or poor flexibility however regular massage can assist with symptoms and making life more comfortable.

I have massaged many dogs and felt it to be of huge benefit to them. If anyone has comments to add about alternative therapies that have assisted with an injury, please let me know.

Stretching and how to do it safely for you and your horse…

It doesnt matter whether you ride competitively or just a happy hacker, it is a good idea to stretch your horses muscles.  The benefits of stretching, amongst others, include improving the horses range of motion, reducing stifness and helping the muscles to move freeer.

Stretching is not necessarily always good for your horse as there are disadvantages if they are not done properly.  It therefore depends on how it’s done, when, and how often.

Here is some suggestions on how to keep your horse safe and how they can be effective:

  1. Do not stretch one side of the body.  By doing this it may create an imbalance over time.
  2. Apply stretches slowly.  Do not overstretch the area.  It is better to apply a smaller stretch on a regular basis rather then rushing it and causing an injury.
  3. When stretching the horses leg, gently move the limb around before applying.  This will help the muscles relax and reduce tension.
  4. Do not hold stretches for more than 10 seconds.  Rather than prolonging the stretch do it little and often so try stretching the area 3 times for 10 seconds each with a rest each time.
  5. Do not stretch the legs when they are cold as this causes the cell receptosrs to desensitise.  Use either massage or exercise to warm the muscles and tendons before doing stretches. This will reduce the chances of causing a strained muscle.

Stretches for box rest horses

The body consists of cells and within these cells live receptors that recognise training and as a result get stronger with exercise.  When a horse is on box rest there is no movement or stimulation in the muscles or the cells and therefore the structure gets weak.

It is therefore a good idea to perform stretches on horses who are on box rest however they need to be stretches that mobilise the joint such as lateral flexion of the mid neck either side of the body and encouraging the horse to take his head down and then back between their legs.  Backing up (in hand) can also lift and flex the back and stimulate the sacroiliac area.

When to stretch?

Recent studies showed that horses that were warmed up for 10 minutes on a horsewalker and then stretched 6 days a week for an 8 week period showed no improvement in their performance and if anything it was in fact detrimental to their way of going.   Stretching is therefore not needed on a regular basis to have a positive effect.  It can be done after exercise 1-2 times a week.

Please provide me with your thoughts on stretching, whether anyone uses it regularly and whether you feel it has had positive or detrimental effect on your horses way of going.

Equine Therapy: What Is It Good For? (via onthebackofahorse)

Found this and thought it was a very interesting read – therapy can help all sorts of problems including eating disorders and addicts….

Equine Therapy: What Is It Good For?   While those familiar to horses would contend that horses, in general, are good for any type of person, therapists, for whom which equine therapy is a new, untested field, have not been so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Many of the concerns expressed have surrounded the relative lack of evidence available indicating the efficacy of work with horses, but also, lack of clarity as to what particular diagno … Read More

via onthebackofahorse

Bandages or tendon boots?

Do bandages really prevent overstretch tears such as ligament sprains and tendon bows?  They do  provide minor protection from interference injuries and other blunt force trauma or abrasions however they are not there for support as many people think they are.  You may use the argument that ‘my horse has worn bandages all his life and he is fine’ however some horses are more predisposed to the injuries than others.

What they can do is provide irreparable harm to nerves and other tissues when they are unevenly or too tightly wrapped, and can cause accidents if they are too loose.  When the core temperature in a tendon reaches a certain level, the tissue begins to degenerate and therefore means that the tissue cells begin to die.If this happens the tendon is weakened, and therefore are more vulnerable to further injury such as major tears.  It also allows the fibres to stretch beyond their normal range until it finally snaps.   This is the direct result of wearing wraps or boots during exercise and is regardless of the overall body temperature.

Research has shown that actual support of tendons and ligaments from wraps and bandages is virtually insignificant, so the main reason for using them is for protection from over-reach and interferance injuries, bumping jumps, fetlock burns and the like.

Could ventilated boots therefore be the answer?

The horses legs are covered by very tough, unflexible skin and have unbelievably strong lateral support ligaments so ‘going over’ on their ‘ankle’ doesn’t happen.   Forces on the tendon from back to front or up and down cannot be helped at all by bandages/boots. There is nothing which can be put on their legs that can seperate the digital flexor tendons and prevent strain unless you banadge/boot up so tight it restricts the fetlock movement which is not highly advised.

All bandages and boots should be left off as much as possible.   If tendons overheat they can undergo tissue death if the critical heat threshold is exceeded and that can lead to months of box rest and rehabilitation.

The only way to prevent overstretch injuries is by adhering to a program of conditioning and skill exercised in order to strengthen the ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It is a mistake to think that boots or wraps will prevent these injuries, because they won’t.

Please provide me with your comments on this blog and your opinions on tendon boots/bandages.

Thank you.