About Equine Osteopathy
What is Equine Osteopathy?
Equine Osteopathy is a drug free, manual therapy that aims to improve the mobility and function of the horse’s skeleton, muscles, ligaments, joints and organs, – collectively known as the musculoskeletal system. It is a holistic approach involving an understanding of the problem and it’s causes. The origins of equine osteopathy are derived from the osteopathic techniques used to treat a human. These treatments, when combined with an in-depth understanding of the complexity of the body – its links/pathways, arteries and nerves, which should have a “free flow” of nutrition and oxygen to the tissues. The Equine Osteopath’s in depth knowledge enables him/her to diagnose problems, be they imbalances or restrictions that influence the correct functioning of the joints, muscles, ligaments, spine and organs.
How to Know if Your Horse’s Back is Sore
There are a number of symptoms that will assist you in determining if your horse’s back is sore, and they all relate to observation, knowledge of the animal and a knowledge of the animal’s character/personality. This may seem a little simplistic but to the untrained eye generalities must be observed in the first instance.
Understanding your horse will enable you to observe the following:
If your horse is acting a little irritable and uncooperative (sidesteps out from under you when you try to mount, snaps at you if you drag your fingers with pressure along the sides of the spine, refuses to take a saddle and generally shuffles along in a sluggish manor, these are all things to note.
If your horse is not moving freely, has a reduced level of performance, has a problem with gait (locomotion), bucks or rears or refuses to take even low jumps, you should note this change in performance. Should you find symptoms difficult to determine, you may need to have a fellow rider mount your horse to allow you to make observations by standing aside.
Your horse may become awkward or tetchy during grooming, (uneasy when being brushed), or refuse to back up. Your horse may express irritation and be unwilling to cooperate when you try to place a saddle – if so, these signs should also be noted.
When Should I Contact an Equine Osteopath?
You should always consult your veterinary surgeon and request an accurate diagnosis before having your horse treated by any other practitioner. It is an offence for anyone to treat an animal without referral from a veterinary surgeon. Your veterinary surgeon must confirm in writing, (Veterinary Consent Form) that the treatment by an Osteopath is required.
The treatments undertaken by the Osteopath should be considered as being complementary to that of a veterinary surgeon and/or dentist. This type of complementary treatment can often prove more effective.
Your horse should be looked at by your veterinary surgeon two to four times a year. Do not wait for a problem to become obvious before taking action. Should you consider your horse is showing signs of discomfort, you should request that your veterinarian diagnose the problem.
The osteopath looks for symptoms of discomfort or changes in your horse’s pattern of behaviour. The following can be addressed by your Equine Osteopath:
-Back or Spinal Problems
-Ligament and Tendon Injury
-Spinal and Other Joint Dysfunction
-Halting and Loss of Collection
-Lacking Focus and Concentration
-Vertebral Lesions and Sacral Imbalance
-Sensitivity to Brushing or Saddling
-Difficulty with Shoeing
-Problems with Head Carriage, or Head Tossing
-Tracking up, Cross-canter Problems, Pulling Uphill or Rushing Downhill
-Stiffness in Particular Areas and Stiffness in Older Horses
-Maintaining Mobility in Competition Horses
-Problems with Gait
-Reluctance to Trot or Canter
-Bucking, Bolting, Rearing, Kicking, or Refusing to Jump
-Injuries Resulting from Falls During Training
-Tendon Injury, or Ligament Overstrain
-Reducing Stress on the Muscles and Joints
-Uneven Muscle Tone and Muscle Bulk
-Muscle Imbalances and Spasm
How Long Does a Treatment Take?
The time treatment takes depends on the individual horse, his or her injuries, age and level of activity. The initial examination’s duration cannot be set at the onset due to the variation in the extent of observations that may be required to assess performance, for example, it may be necessary to take some time to assess the extent of mobility, (walking, trotting and manoeuvring). Time should be given by the owner for a consultation session with the Osteopath.
It must be understood that all horses are individuals in the same way that people are. The number of treatment sessions required will be dependent upon the Osteopath’s findings at the initial examination. The extent of the injury will dictate the injury’s location, age of the injury and its extent, for example the injury may be back related, in which case it could well require 3 to 4 treatments over several weeks followed by periodic check-ups. Less severe injuries may be as straightforward as determining the problem, treating it immediately and suggesting an exercise, resting/recuperating period, (with no further treatment would be required). In the latter cases only a treatment period of 20 – 40 minutes may suffice. Periodic follow-up check-ups may be suggested but this will again be discussed with the owner. It should be understood that an Osteopath will not wish to carry out unnecessary “treatment” particularly as over treatment may cause distress without achieving any further benefit.
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