Jackie Leftwich BSc MSc AMC MMCA FRCC (Animal)
Chiropractor [McTimoney/STR/IAVC] (Qualified to treat humans and animals)
Registered with GCC and RAMP
Telephone: 07738 110570
E-mail: info@watersidechiropractic.co.uk

How the Sport that Your Horse is Involved in May Impact On Your Horse – Part 1 – the Dressage Horse

April 25, 2014  |   Equine Chiropractic,Latest Posts   |     |   Comments Off

It is probably of no surprise to most that the type of sport that your horse is involved in may impact on your horse and its way of going.  The discipline of the individual sports horse has an important impact on training regimes, conformational problems, degenerative disease and injury.  This is why animal chiropractors and others that are involved with horses need to be familiar with the various sporting disciplines and the predisposing factors that may impact upon these equine athletes.  Waterside Chiropractic is going to examine the various different sporting disciplines over 2014, starting with the Dressage Horse.

Dressage combines balance, suppleness and power in a unique gravity-defying manner.  Research shows that 25% of British Dressage horses have a history of back-related problems (http://www.watersidechiropractic.co.uk/latest-posts/research-shows-25-of-british-dressage-horses-have-back-related-problems-equine-chiropractic-from-waterside-chiropractic-can-help/)  Dressage requires maximal freedom of movement in the back and these horses tend to present with underperformance as opposed to overt lameness, requiring a keen eye or in-tune rider in order to be able to observe such subtle indicators of discomfort.  A more caudally positioned centre of gravity is needed to collect the gait and produce hindlimb impulsion, resulting in an increased loading and degree of flexion of the hindlimbs, whilst at the same time freeing up the front end to create a more airborne, uphill set of movements.  This can only be achieved by increasing the power of the hindlimbs, with synchronisation between forelimb and hindlimb movement and freedom of movement of the back.

Lateral movements result in specific and unique strains to various different skeletal structures.  Shoulder-in, half-pass, renvers (head to the wall) and travers (quarters-in), the horse is bent evenly in the neck and body but moves on more than two tracks; in shoulder-in the horse moves on three tracks with the body at an optimal angle of 30 degrees to the direction of movement, in quarters-in the horse moves on four tracks.  These movements create an unusual strain on the horse’s back and pelvis and twisting of the appendicular joints.

Increased hindlimb engagement through collection allows for greater storage of elasticity in the hocks and pelvis and together with the increased lifting of the forehand allows for the higher energy movements of medium and extended trot.  The self-carriage required in this discipline requires a level of training in which the horse has developed its musculature and learnt to balance itself and its rider.  The horse must move with energy and impulsion and work through the back to enable correct contact with the bit.  It is of no surprise then that inappropriate riding and training can potentially cause clinical problems.

In addition to back pain (thoracolumbar and sacroiliac pain), the most common causes of lameness in dressage tend to be proximal suspensory desmitis, synovitis or osteoarthritis of the distal interphalangeal joint or centrodistal and tarsometatarsal joints, desmitis of the accessory ligament of the deep digital flexor tendon, medial femorotibial joint pain, forelimb distal interphalangeal joint/navicular bursa problems.

I hope that this will give those involved in the sport of dressage some food for thought as to the various stresses and strains that are placed upon the dressage horse in training and competition.  Regular chiropractic treatment can help to ensure that your horse can perform at its best and help to prevent back pain and ensure that your horse has the freedom of movement in its back and pelvis that this discipline demands.  Chiropractic, and in particular McTimoney Chiropractic, is a gentle non-invasive treatment that works to realign and balance the horse’s musculoskeletal system, restoring health, movement, soundness, freedom of movement and performance through manipulation that realigns the joints, relieving muscle tension and associated discomfort.  Waterside Chiropractic offers the McTimoney technique and can assess and treat your horse.  Initial consultations and assessments can be booked by calling Jackie Leftwich, McTimoney Chiropractor (Qualified to treat Human & Animals) on 07738 110570.  Don’t leave it until your horse has a problem, get your horse checked out so that you and your horse can both perform at your best in the world of dressage.

 

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