Another thought provoking and insightful post by Dr. Tom Beech.
I use a combination of techniques to improve mobility and comfort as well as being out the strengths, willingness and potential of your equine partner.
Back In Balance uses a unique method of bodywork that recognizes and follows the visual responses of the horse to touch, to find and release accumulated muscle and structural stress in key junctions of the horse's body that most affect performance.
Another thought provoking and insightful post by Dr. Tom Beech.
Kissing spine is already epidemic. Bouncing on your horses back is a contributor.
More great info about what goes on in a horses hoof.
Jeanette Adler, DVM, EDO on geld scarring and semen cord restriction and the far reaching affects.
I feel equal dismay at the responses I read to what I see as a horse in pain or lacking understanding of what is being asked of them. Or a combination of both. What is "it" we are riding them "through"?
“Back, saddle, teeth all okay”.
As I was about to fall asleep last night, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post about someone asking for advice when their horse quite dramatically stops and drops their head after jumping and cantering, also refusing fences.
Maybe I’m in a bubble, floating around and surrounded by passionate followers and clients who are intuitive and open minded about learning more to improve the happiness and comfort of their horses.
But I was so heartbroken to read the “advice”.
Short grass reins. Keep her forward. Hold her up. More leg. Draw reins. Ride defensively. Ride through it. The horse has learnt to get you off, you have to win the battle. Give her a good pony club kick and smack, she won’t do it again. Put a man or good tough rider on her.
If this is the “advice” we are dishing out, how on earth are we meant to get anywhere with our horses!? This is by no means discrediting anyone, but it does raise questions as to our traditional, standardised approaches.
And the standard “all clear back, saddle teeth”. Okay… but have you considered the horses neck, ligaments, muscles… parts of the anatomy that are not the back? Is your therapist adequately qualified and regulated by a governing body? The saddle - have you had a second opinion? Is your girth correct? How recently was this saddle checked? Is your saddler adequately qualified? And teeth - the same thing, is your EDT qualified? Does your horse need to be seen more regularly?
And what about mares and hormones? Digestive discomfort? Farriery? Previous bad experiences? Any other factors to attribute the behaviour to.
There is a difference between a horse being cleared from back, saddle and teeth… and a horse being comprehensively assessed by a team.
So if you are finding yourself at a cross roads with your horse, please please please exhaust all medical avenues before attempting to “ride through it”. I see far too many horses on the brink of breaking mentally and physically, particularly horses that have been sold and the new owner is left to pick up the pieces.
There were some really important comments on the post, with some people picking up on this. However, lines are blurred. Let’s not belittle behaviour and overlook it’s importance - let’s listen to our horses and respond ✨
Photo by Daydream Equine Art ♥️
Good news, we can image transitional vertebrae. We have multiple examples of transitional vertebrae in multiple areas of the spine at the Eq-Soma Osteology & Anatomy Learning Center. We also have history on some of these animals that includes how they struggled under saddle and ultimately with quality of life.
It's fine looking at bones, but to help live horses, we need diagnoses. Here's how this malformation can be successfully imaged.
You learn something new everyday. I did not know they made goggles for horses. In this case used as protection for keratitis. This sweet mare has responded so well to two bodywork sessions, I am endlessly grateful to be a part of her journey.
An oldie but a goodie from Denny. What is the rush? We should think in terms of sustainability and longevity. Not riding until 4 does not mean not handling. There is so much you can do to with a young horse to build a relationship and trust. Getting on there backs does not need to be a rodeo, if the time is spent on in-hand work and building a relationship. Horses should not be part of our throw away society. Getting on them and working them hard at two is the first step to throwing them away.
This is a sobering visual. Never underestimate the amount of pain your horse is in.
Excellent summary of a collaborative dissection with Zefanja Vermeulen and Thirza Hendriks in the UK performing the actual dissection and Sharon May Davis zooming in from Australia to narrate. The last sentence in the summary says it all. Our horse welfare is our responsibility. RIP Teddy.
The horse in the picture looks well, doesn't he........ or does he?
I'm currently decompressing after another intensive, full horse, 3 day dissection with the internationally renowned Sharon May-Davis and her team Zefanja Vermeulen, Tina Fitzgibbon and Thirza Hendriks, organised with incredible efficiency by Lindsay Holder of Whole Horse Health.
Dissecting horse is not new to me - in fact it's a slight obsession! Why?
❗ Because as a rider, I used to spend most of my time trying to work out how to make the horse straighter, more athletic, jump cleanly, better.
❗ Because as a student Animal Physiotherapist, I pored over anatomy books, trying to remember muscle attachments, function, innervation.
❗ Because as an Animal Physiotherapist, I spend my life trying to work out the correlation between the horse's behaviour, movement, history and impact of owner/rider/management/equipment in order to make the correct decisions to improve the quality of life of the horse in front of me.
❗ Because EVERY horse's quality of life can be improved, whether that be by easing a ni**le, adjusting the exercise routine, or referring to a vet to investigate a suspected more serious problem.
This time was different. The horse was on the table was one that I have known well for 6 years. Teddy was bought as a hunter. He was already seriously compromised and only lasted 2 seasons with the new owner before being retired due to unsoundness. In the vet's words: "his body wouldn't cope with the amount of steroid needed to keep him comfortable". That's him in the picture, on summer holidays 4 years ago, just before he was retired.
I spent a lot of time just trying to keep him comfortable to do his job. We discovered that he had serious kissing spine and ringbone and sidebone in one forefoot. Other problems were evident, although not diagnosed, and he was retired. Recently it became evident that he was deteriorating and becoming very uncomfortable, so the decision was made to relieve him of his pain. His owner was kind enough to agree to allow us to investigate in the only way that truly exposes all the problems held within the body.
Teddy had numerous physical issues - this is a brief summary:
❌ On one side of his mouth, he had 7 upper and lower molars. The upper back one was horribly overgrown and eroding the opposing tooth. Horses should have 6 molars on each arcade. His mouth had been checked regularly by both EDT and vets - no-one had picked it up. With 6 molars on the other side, this already sets him up for asymmetry throughout his body, even if the overgrown one had been addressed
❌ Misalignment of C6 vertebrae and evidence of osteoarthritis and bony changes of the cervical vertebrae
❌ Joint erosion and inflammation of EVERY limb joint that was opened up
❌ Ruptured muscles, partial ruptures of tendons and ligaments
❌ Fused overlapping (lipping) of 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae bilaterally
❌ Significant pelvic asymmetry
❌ Sub-chondral bone cysts
❌ Ruptured hip ligaments - in the words of the very experienced lead dissector - the worst hip joints she's ever seen
The majority, if not all of these problems were there before the latest owner bought him, yet he continued to do his job with good nature and willingness.
I have retained his head, neck and pelvis, which will be cleaned and investigated thoroughly for asymmetries and bony changes.
It is through investigating like this that we truly become aware of the painful and performance-limiting conditions that our horses can carry, while trying to do all we ask of them. It is what opens our eyes to recognising dysfunctional movement patterns and recommending further diagnostic tests. It is a sharp reminder to never ignore abnormal behaviour, gait or posture.
Thank you Teddy, for being so good natured despite everything and helping us to understand why you couldn't be comfortable.
Teddy was 15, retired at 12. The average age of horses competing at the Olympics - at the top of their game - this year was 15. It looks like he was born with some asymmetries that were always going to limit his ability, but it is also apparent that he had suffered trauma at some point, and also been subjected to very poor management and riding, that had exacerbated his injuries.
Our horses welfare is our responsibility.
Hmmmm, interesting read. One of those things that has become so common, such a part of the equine paradigm that we don’t even give it a second thought. I think we should give it a second thought.
Let’s talk about: Glamourizing Whips
Growing up I was taught:
The horse doesn't canter - “hit him”
The horse refuses to jump - “hit him”
The horse isn’t moving fast enough - “hit him”
“Just hit him until he listens, it doesn’t hurt”
I was CONSTANTLY told by people and riders I looked up to, respected and admired that whips didn’t hurt and that whips were the solution to a majority of behaviour problems. But let’s look at the science here.
This recent study concluded:
“There is no significant difference between humans and horses in either the concentration of nerve endings in the outer pain-detecting layer of skin (epidermis) or in the thickness of this layer”
“Humans and horses have the equivalent key anatomical structures to detect cutaneous pain.”
If it hurts for you to get hit with a whip, it hurts the horse too.
To make matters worse, all these colourful crops are targeted at kids. It makes them excited to use this aversive “tool” without the full understanding of the harm the tool can do.
Whips are often used as a bandaid solution but the root cause of the problem is often overlooked and suppressed.
Instead, we should know:
• There are reasons behind horses “not listening”. Horses aren’t just bad and naughty for fun.
• How to investigate and solve issues without just using force for compliance.
• How to get desired behaviour in an ethical / non-painful way. Creating cues instead of commands. Teaching new behaviours instead of using suppression.
Whip are not glamorous. Whips are not the only solution. Whips hurt.
Want more resources on this topic?
This cannot be stated enough times, your horse is not out to make your life miserable. If they are struggling it is likely from pain, lack of understanding, bad training and conflicting aids or all of the above. https://thehorse.com/17736/pain-behavioral-or-both/?fbclid=IwAR2nhav3Uq6fZfTjDqAtKNDKdC-SQvireEUilcgAYMPs6Flur3WAednEXFQ
Often, a horse's behavior problems are rooted in either pain or incomplete training. Here's what to consider.
Sharon May Davis is a font of information, and so generous in sharing and educating others, including myself and Pamela Blades Eckelbarger This is a must see webinar with Wendy.
Sharon’s passion for horses was first noticed when she was caught riding a bush horse at 4 years of age. She would climb up the front leg and haul herself up...
I recommend going to the origional post from Study of the Equine Hoof and read the comments . There is a wealth information and incite there. Also consider becoming a Patreon of their page for continuing education on anatomy, function and pathology of the hoof.
Thought provoking story, and a classic description of how adaptation becomes compensation. Until it cannot compensate any longer and decompensates. Long, but worth the read.
The tree of racing saddles…….is there any doubt why kissing spine is epidemic? As if starting these horses before their second birthday, when spinal vertebra are far from mature isn’t bad enough. Then we put on a saddle with a tiny area of support and metal angle into the muscle.
Excellent visual of what is happening when your horse has flares. It causes stretch and torquing on the internal structures of the hoof.
Dr. Ridgeway on chiropractic, laterality and more. If you would like to learn more about bones, facet joints, pathologies and more, visit us at the Equus-Soma Osteology & Anatomy Learning Center. https://m.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1tROeEUiZr66IfsneadWPtlW-qL_3Y_q54BO7Ih3fppMHboA4PxaFzTe0&v=vaHUkdZ2Qcw&feature=youtu.be
Part one of a fantastic 4 part series by Dr. Ian Bidstrup. Girthy, crooked, and having high/low syndrome. These three things are evident in many performance horses. Dr. Bidstrups research is finding birth trauma could be play a major role. https://horsesandpeople.com.au/birth-trauma-in-horses/
Help! My horse is girthy, crooked and has uneven front hooves… What can I do? This problematic trio is one of the most common reasons owners decide to seek some form of body therapy for their horse. After treating more than 10,000 horses and analysing related research over the past 20 years, Dr Ia...
Really great images of sections of the hoof
We know better and so we must do better. It is not that hard to recognize a horse in pain or suffering from discomfort. You can argue that a photo is just a moment in time and that the horse was only behind the vertical for that moment or that the crank nose band takes care of the tongue problem. But it really isn’t that hard to see if you look with open eyes and don’t let the flashing overridden gaits or the ability to jump huge fences get in the way. We are regularly and systematically causing harm to horses to fund an industry and satisfy our own ambition. https://horsesport.com/magazine/behaviour/observing-pain-elite-event-horses-badminton-burghley/
A pilot study showed the proportion of horses failing to complete the competition was significantly higher for those with high RHpE scores.
Fascinating photos taken of a horse that struggled with its body. Answers were difficult to find until she was donated for research and education.
Front and hind leg movement is restricted when the tongue is restricted. Why then would anybody crank their horses mouth shut that want free, elastic, balanced movement?
From the horse’s mouth... actually the horse’s tongue
After my recent post regarding fitting a bit to the individual horses mouth, it has become clear that horse riders don’t understand the horse’s tongue. At all. The horse’s tongue is the key to everything. It can tell you what a horse is feeling and thinking, it can tell you how true a horse’s carriage is or can reveal tension that is limiting their performance.
The horse’s tongue is a huge bunch of muscle, like way bigger than you think. The last tooth is about level with the horse’s eye, and the tongue goes even further back than that. Just behind the bit, the tongue doubles in height to completely fill the mouth. The tongue connects, via a long line of interconnected muscles, all the way back to the hind legs. What happens with the horse’s tongue DIRECTLY affects the horse’s ability to use his hind legs.
Yet many many riders consider the tongue a nuisance and tie it away. Using drop nosebands, flashes, grackles, micklems, “anatomical” nosebands, cranks etc. Some use spoon bits (remember the tongue doubles in height behind the bit), while others actually tie the tongue down! You are missing a vital source of information that the horse is eager to give!
Why does a horse stick it’s tongue out? It is NOT bad manners and it is not a bit evasion, it’s a cry for help. When the tongue is in the mouth, it is short and fat. Any sharp points on the teeth can cause pain, and pressure from the bit is amplified. The horse’s immediate reaction is to stick their tongue out. This makes the tongue long and thin, reducing the pressure from the bit and any sharp teeth. If this is prevented using nosebands, even loose ones (if it’s below the level of the bit, it’s a problem, loose or not, consider leverage distance to the temparomandibular joint) then the horse will resort to pulling their tongue back by tensing it or even putting the tongue over the bit. A drop noseband will not stop this happening, you just can’t see it happening anymore.
When the tongue is pulled back, it causes tension all the way down the neck, along the back and into the hind legs. If the tongue is over the bit, the bit lies directly on the bars. The bars are knife-edge-sharp bone with a very thin layer of gum over the top. When the bit directly contacts the bars it is extremely painful and horses will react very strongly, sometimes rearing or ditching the rider. This is not naughty behaviour, it is pain. The horse is creating pain trying to avoid pain, they can’t win and they can’t vocalise this. No matter how hard they try.
Tension in the tongue isn’t only caused by poorly managed teeth and poorly fitted bits however. The outline a horse is worked in also affects the tongue’s tension. Tuck your chin up and in, feel how large your tongue feels. Hold it there for a while and the back of your tongue will begin to ache. Now open your mouth and stick your tongue out. Sure it’s not comfortable, but it’s a relief from that tension. This happens in the horse too, but on a much larger scale. Anything that makes the horse carry itself like this (over bent, nose behind the vertical) will cause tongue issues. Whether that be poor riding, back pain or subtle hind limb lameness. This reaction is not limited to a bit, an overbent horse in a bitless bridle will still have a restricted tongue as soon as the head moves behind the vertical. Looking at it the other way around, most have heard of bridle lameness, this is when the tension in the tongue actually causes a visible lameness.
There is a reason why having the tongue out is seen as a bad thing in dressage, and it’s not because it’s bad manners. It’s because it highlights tension or poor training. The lazy solution seems to be, tie the mouth shut. Personally I believe all nosebands below the bit should be banned for dressage and 2 fingers should comfortably be placed under the bridge of the nose of a cavesson. That would sort the wheat from the chaff.
To summarise, make sure your horse’s teeth have been checked by a qualified EDT or dental trained vet, make sure your bit fits the anatomy of your individual horse, ride with a loose noseband that does not sit below the bit, make sure your horse is working correctly over their top line, truly engaged and swinging over their backs. Then your horse will not feel the need to stick their tongues out.
As a side note, the tongue is a symptom and not a problem in itself. Do not allow anyone to mess with your horse’s tongue. The trend of releasing the Hyoid apparatus using the tongue is not only dangerous but a load of BS. Do not fall for it.
Always remember, dentistry is basic care NOT a luxury.
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