Ill-fitted bridles can have disastrous consequences for a horse. The proper fitting of the bridle deserves exactly the same attention as does the correct fitting of the saddle, about which there is already plentiful information.
In and around the head, which is the centre of control of the whole body, is a vast amount of nerve sensitivity. Horses are normally safer and more comfortable with a carefully and properly adjusted bridle.
The noseband runs above a horse’s nostrils and goes all around its nose. It goes over the cheeks and is in indirect contact with the teeth. The noseband goes across many important blood vessels supplying the face and mouth areas. It is on the trigeminal path, the nerve that supplies the face and lips.
A properly fitted noseband allows the horse to chew and breathe freely. If a tight and painful noseband restricts these things, the horse will experience increased stress levels. A study “The effect of Noseband tightening on Horse’s behaviour, Eye temperature, and cardiac responses” (K Fenner, S Yoon, P White, M Starling, P McGreevy) has shown that horses that started to wear tight nosebands had an increased heart rate and eye temperature, both signs of stress.
Compression of the trigeminal nerve and blood vessels can create irritation and pain over the whole face or conversely a loss of sensitivity.
When a noseband is too tight, pain can also be experienced if the cheek rubs against the teeth.
The bit is the part of the bridle that sits in the horse’s mouth. This (usually) metallic part is in direct contact with the lips, gums, tongue and cheeks. Two important cranial nerves are also in this area: the trigeminal nerve which is situated under the bars of the mouth and the palatine nerve which is just in between the skin and the bone of the palate.
A heavy hand or a tight bit can cut the horse’s lips, gums and tongue and can wear down its teeth. Compression of the trigeminal and/ or palatine nerve can create pain. This will be possibly manifested by a headshaking type reaction.
Worthy of emphasis is the fact that the point of contact between the mouth and the bit is small enough that the force sent through the rider’s hand will be magnified considerably at the point of contact in the mouth.
The browband, usually made of leather, sits across the horse’s forehead passing over the suture of the frontal and the parietal bones. Sutures are tiny joints between each of the bones of the skull. This allows the primary respiratory mechanism: an expanding and retracting, breathing-like movement.
This ‘breathing’ has an active role in the movement of the cerebro-spinal fluid which nourishes the spinal cord and all the nerves that supply the body.
A tight browband can disrupt the primary respiratory mechanism and therefore affect the whole body.
An ill-fitted bridle can potentially impact on and effect, directly or indirectly, the whole of a horse’s body. A well-fitted bridle, on the other hand, that avoids rubbing or pressure, is of great benefit to horse and rider. If a horse is in pain or uncomfortable, this stress may lead to behavioural changes. As with the saddle, professional advice on the fitting of the bridle will give the best possible outcome.
We wanted to share with you a few different ways to regularly assess your horse’s body and locomotion. This can help to spot any asymmetry and slight lameness before they become a bigger issue.
We will highlight what to look out for whilst your horse is walking in hand. The horse should be walking in a straight line, on an even floor, at a good pace and with a loose rope. Make also sure that the hooves are picked out.
The Movement of the pelvis (left/right – up/down)
The abdomen moving from left to right
The tail’s carriage
The movement of each hind limb, circling in or out, lack of flexion, extension and the position of the hooves when touching the ground
The movement of each limb, lack of flexion, extension, the position of the hooves when touching the ground and the amplitude of each stride
Back posture and movement
Neck and head posture and movement
The link between front limbs and head movement
Head and neck position, more left or right, head tilted to one side
Abdomen moving from left to right
The movement of each front limb, circling out or in, lack of flexion, extension and the position of the hooves when touching the ground
These are only basic observations, you could add circles, trot or try on different types of ground but the above will give you loads of information about your horse’s body.
Having this assessment regularly can allow you to see positive or negative changes over time. Any slight asymmetry or lameness is worth getting checked out.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us
If you would like to send us some Videos for us to have a look at, you are more than welcome to
I have decided to write about the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) partly as we find ourselves talking about it a lot during our sessions and partly as it is one of the most important elements of the body. Learning about the anatomy and the function of its elements will help understanding why the CSF is so essential for a good health and therefore its importance in our treatment.
The cerebro-spinal fluid is a liquid found around the central nervous system and is produced continually within the choroid plexus an area within the ventricles of the brain. It is then transported within semi-closed areas including the subarachnoid place and the ventricular system.
These areas suround and penetrate the brain and spinal cord.
It is reabsorbed into the veins via the arachnoids granulations. The movement created by the creation and the resorption of the fluid is called primary respiration.
Its molecular composition is close to water but it has its own particular role within the body.
This liquid is there to protect the brain and the spinal cord. It absorbs shocks and movements by distributing the force of the impacts.
If there is a change of pressure within the skull this fluid can be produced in different quantities to regulate the pressure and protect the brain.
It is also a very important part of the immune system. It has the task of cleaning by taking molecular waste away from the nervous system. It also carries a lot of protectives immunologic cells.
As you can see, this fluid is highly important in the wellbeing of the body and any change to it will affect the whole body. If the liquid can’t flow normally in an area the nervous system will be impacted. This could cause a reducing of the cushioning effect it, an accumulation of waste and a weakened immunity of this area.
It is imperative the fluid has harmonic movement around the brain and spinal cord to ensure it can complete its job. Any change within the bone structures or even the muscles surrounding the nervous system could create different tensions on the membranes around the CSF and imbalance/disturb its movements.
It is important in our sessions to keep that in mind and focus on the balance of this precious fluid, we can help rebalancing it with craniosacral techniques by focusing on the primary respiration movement. To do so, we work gently on the movement of the sacrum via muscles and fascia around it and on the movement of the skull via the synarthrodial joints which are in between the numerous skulls bones. Working directly on the fascia helps as they are directly connected to the joints in between the bones and also to the membrane around the nervous system (continuity of the tissues).
I hope that you will understand a bit more what we do next time you see us working!
Horse owners know that most horses need to go through the castration process. The most common reason for castrating your animal is down to their behaviour, as its the testicles that produce the testosterone hormone responsible for their stallion-like behaviour.
Removing a part of the body unfortunately but expectedly has some side effects. We are going to explain and explore the anatomy of the testicles and the process of castration which will help us to understand what side effects can occur. Thankfully we have some great osteopathic techniques that will help recovery.
As you can see on the below diagram, the testes are surrounded by many other structures, some of them are directly linked to the rest of the body as they derive from the abdominal muscles or fascia. To access the testes, the vet will have to break through each of these layers, and each of them will have to heal thereafter.
Castration involves the removal of one or both testicles and their associated structures (such as the epididymis), and part of the spermatic cord. The spermatic cord contains the Vas deferens, the blood and nerve supply to the testis and also the Vaginal tunic.
Castration can be performed with the horse standing or recumbent, and under anaesthesia. For practical reasons, most horses are castrated standing up.
In most of the cases, the vet will leave the wound open so it can heal itself.
We have seen previously how many layers are around the testes. Those layers are all designed to glide between each other so they can work individually, as well as together.
When a trauma happens such as surgery, the body worked to heal the wound and to protect the rest of the body. This is why the healing process has to be as fast as possible, therefore, the body doesn’t take the time to reattach all the layers in the testes separately, instead they are all reassembled together as one which creates adhesions (abnormal deposits of connective tissue in-between two layers). These adhesions are what we call “gelding scars”.
Soft tissues manipulation can really help in that case, we have different techniques with different purposes. Some of them, such as compression, will help with the restoration of blood flow and the removal of waste products. Others, such as stretching, will allow the realignments of the tissue fibres. The forces and loading patterns applied to the tissues will bring the fibres to the correct length and direction.
The scarring process can also create compensations elsewhere, for example the horse will usually keep his back arched (tensed abdominal muscles), to avoid extending or moving the painful area. This will create a different weight bearing posture, and potentially cause pain and stiffness within the limbs or the back.
The nerves and arteries feeding the testicles originate from the lumbar region, having them removed will force some changes within the nervous input/blood supply, and therefore within the lumbar region.
We have also seen that the layers around the testes are greatly linked to the rest of the body, having a trauma there will definitely create compensations within the abdominal cage.
Even if castration is very common and sometimes necessary, it is still very traumatic for the horse’s body. Osteopathic techniques can greatly help with the soft tissues, but also with the compensations and the hormonal balance (which we haven’t talked about here as it is a whole other subject)/
This article is specific to castration, but what has been said is valid for any type of healing wound. We need to wait at least 10 days (depending on the wound), before applying these techniques. Even if they are always efficient, the earlier the techniques are applied, the better the result will be.
Hopefully this has helped to understand a bit more about the effects of castration, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or if you would like to know more.
The core concept is that, if there is a dysfunction somewhere in the body, it will rebalance its other parts in order to keep functioning.
If a body part is not functioning perfectly another part will have to work more or differently in order to compensate. When a structure has to work more, it gets tired and stiffens. This is how a primary problem/dysfunction can create an additional problem – a secondary dysfunction.
For example, if you can’t move your knee forward and backward much, you’ll flex your hip more to compensate the lack of movement of the knee, the body finds a way to carry on working whatever happens.
After being overused, the hip could get stiff and the process of inflammation can start.
As the back carries the digestive system, any change in the vertebrae will influence your animal’s digestion.
These are just two examples, but it can apply to any system of the body. These patterns of issues are only possible as all the body parts are connected together in every way like a spider web.
These compensations can also mean that sometimes a pain will be experienced somewhere but the real problem is somewhere else: this is called referred pain.
This means that if you don’t treat the cause, the compensations will always come back. For example, if you sprain your ankle, you’ll put uneven weight on both legs which will rotate your pelvis and give a curve to your spine. In that case you can consult for your back as it gets tight and painful but if the ankle is not fixed, your back ache will always return.
The compensations we’ve discussed usually happen without you realising it. Therefore, it is important to have regular sessions with your animal as small traumas can happen to their bodies everyday. We can stop the compensations affecting more part of the body with our treatment techniques.
Our aim is to always find the cause of the problem, so that the entire body can rebalance itself and return to normal functionality.
Treating the problem at the beginning always makes the recovery a lot faster and easier. The earlier the better.
With time, a compensation will turn into an adaptation. This is when the body eventually permanently modifies its shape/structures and there is no return from this.
It can also be hard for any of us to know when our pet is really in pain, sometime a little fall might look fine but it can actually affect the whole body.
Manual therapy can help by the palpation of the body to find all the tensions that eyes can’t see.
Get in touch and we can give you information about how we can help your animals specific condition.
We all know that being overweight is a big problem in humans but we wanted you to be aware that it is also the case in animals. More and more of our dogs, cats and even rabbits are overweight. It is a big concern as it reduces life expectancy.
As it’s such a common problem that we wanted to review why it happens, how to recognize it and finally how to manage it.
We believe that for any issues in life it is important to find the cause in order to fix it and this applies to overweight/obesity problems as well. One of the major causes is obviously diet, many dogs are fed portions too big at each meal and eat in-between. It is important to weigh the food and only give what is recommended for the age, size and activity level of the animal.
Treats should also be counted in the daily amount of food. Too much food can be as harmful as not enough.
It is also important to make sure the quality of the food you give is good, it has to be balanced and appropriated. A regular small amount of unappropriated food could have a dramatic effect on the body.
Another major cause is lack of exercise. The body needs to move to be able to burn the calories off, if it doesn’t, they will be stored under fatty tissue. Dogs should get regular exercise for their physical but also mental health. The amount of exercise your dog does should take into consideration his breed, age and general health/physical condition.
The relationship between food and exercise is also important to look at, a working dog will always need more food than a family/house pet.
Most of you probably know how to recognize an overweight dog. You’ll find the dog is panting a lot and has difficulty to move around. The body’s structure (bones, joints, muscles, etc.) comes under stress and it becomes harder to move around if your pet is heavier, this puts more pressure on the joints which can cause inflammation (this is called arthritis). As the animal carries more weight the body will change its structure by producing more bone structures within the joint (this is arthrosis).
If you were to look inside the body, there is a lot more going on. The amount of fat you can see from the outside is only the tip of the iceberg as there is also a lot of fat that you can’t see. Having more fat means having less space for everything else. Some fat goes in and around the arteries and makes it harder for the blood to go through the system which will lead to a rise the blood pressure. Some fat will go around the organs which will compress them. This means that their natural movement will not be fully allowed.
A fatty diet will also make the pancreas work harder in order to regulate the blood sugar. This increases the chances of developing diseases such as diabetes.
You get a good idea of a dog’s fitness levels by monitoring the weight but there is also other signs. One example is a dog getting breathless after a small amount exercise or refusing to do things he normally enjoys (jumping on the sofa, playing etc). You can also feel his body, you should be able to feel his ribs but not to see them.
If you are not sure, you can always ask a professional to check for you.
Osteopathic techniques can help the whole body regain movement and work on any imbalances created by the extra weight however most of the work lies with the owner who is going to have to maintain an appropriate diet and exercise routine for their pet. Everything needs to be done as part of a slow progress, your dog’s body is used to a certain amount of food per day, if you reduce it too quickly the body will struggle to tolerate it. The same goes with exercise. Your dog can’t run a marathon straight away and much like humans it has to build muscles (including the heart and diaphragm) and slowly lose some fat to take weight off the joints.
We hope this is helps you understanding overweight related issues better and how to fight them.
Thank you for reading!
Being able to practice a sport with your dog is a great way of bonding together and getting enough exercise for him/her. However, just like with any athlete, injuries can happen, and manual therapy can help, even when you think it couldn’t!
From September 2014 to September 2015, Sophie wrote her end of degree dissertation about racing greyhounds, and we have both been lucky enough to meet a trainer and work with those dogs throughout the year. We have also been in contact with Brighton Flyball and had the chance to watch a few of their training sessions and as a result are sharing with you a bit more about how osteopathy can help before, during and after a sporting career.
The use of osteopathic techniques should mostly be preventative. Normally when you spot a problem with your dog, the development of that probably actually started a long time ago (unless it’s an acute problem/trauma), and it is only when the body can’t cope anymore that it becomes visual. Therefore, having regular check-up sessions is beneficial and can prevent some of these injuries.
Manual therapy helps the body to rebalance itself after every little trauma. In the specific case of sport, dogs are often asked to do repetitive movements. For example greyhounds always turn on their left side. With time, the repetitive strains will create an imbalance within the muscle masses and a restriction of movement for some joints.
By rebalancing the body, osteopathy can prevent your dog from suffering repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Like with human athletes, sporting dogs would need more therapy sessions than usual family dogs as their body is put under much more strain.
Our knowledge of the anatomy and physiology allows us to give you some advice on warming up and cooling down techniques, among other things. These techniques are important to get the body ready for exercise and to avoid injuries. Some soft tissue techniques applied by the therapist can also help prepare the body to work at full capacity before a competition.
When an injury occurs, osteopathic techniques will help the body to recover faster and to better restore as before. This is done by stimulation of the immune system. We would also make sure that the injured area gets a good blood and nerve supply in order to quicken the recovery time.
Specific scar tissue techniques help the new fibres to realign in the right direction and reduce the density of the scar tissue. The balance of the whole body will also be investigated, we want to find the cause of the problem and also work on the existing compensations. This will allow a quicker and more efficient recovery.
Some of the racing dogs we have been working with showed improved results after receiving a session. The health of the body can really affect the performance of the animal at work and play.
For example in flyball, if your dog has restriction of movement in their back, it can no longer extend and arch to its fullest. This will result in smaller strides and smaller jumps which means worse performance in the sport. If your dog suddenly has a loss of performance or cannot perform actions he used to, something may be wrong within his body and a check-up is probably needed.
Please share this if you found this interesting and don’t hesitate to get in touch via phone, email or Facebook if you have any queries. Thankyou for reading!
The joint between the head and the first cervical vertebra (C0 -C1) is one of the key parts of the body in more ways than one.
It’s anatomically linked to the rest of the body, for example it is where the nuchal cord starts. This ligament is structurally important point for the body as it links the poll to most of the vertebrae up to the sacrum. Many significant muscles link this joint to the shoulders and the withers allowing the balance of the neck and the movement of the forelimbs. Any restriction of movement within the forelimbs or withers can create tension around the poll.
The whole area is integral to the nervous system. It is where the spinal cord originates before going all the way down to the sacrum, connecting every segment of the spine.
Some of the cranial nerves also find their way out of the skull through this joint. An example of this is the vagal nerve which reaches and controls some parts of the digestive system.
The close relationship within the body parts mean that any disturbance of the digestive organs, could irritate the vagal nerve and this would in turn have a negative impact at (the origin of this nerve) the poll.
An important ganglion of the sympathetic nervous system which we will describe later is situated right under the first cervical vertebra.
As a result of the importance of this joint, the poll is surrounded by a great number of blood vessels and lymphatic nods which nourish as well as protect the joint and its surroundings.
The area can however become a weak point if any trauma or injury is sustained.
Unfortunately, as it is such an exposed area this is fairly common. We have all seen horses knocking their head in the doorway or trying really hard to pull back when attached.
A rider’s stiff hand or a poorly fitted bridle would definitely have a damaging effect on the area.
As the poll is such a key point the body is prone to compensate by restricting movement elsewhere, possibly causing further problems down the line via the muscles, joints, nerves and blood supply.
The restriction of movement will also create a lack of blood flow in the area which will limit the nourishment of nerves, lymphatics nodes, muscles etc. When nerves are not properly supplied, they can get hypersensitive and irritable. This can explain the reluctance of a horse being touched there as this can be very painful.
We also mentioned earlier a sympathetic ganglion, it is a part of the nervous system that takes care of the fight or flight mode, having it irritated constantly can cause a horse to be stressed and hyperalert.
Osteopathic techniques are designed to give movement back to any restricted joint. This allows the blood and nerve supply to return to a normal flow and the whole area to work again.
The practitioner also concentrates on re-balancing the whole body and treating any secondary dysfunction caused by the aforementioned compensation process.
Often horses will feel relieved and relaxed after a session due to the movement coming back in this area.
In some cases behaviour issues can make a horse reluctant to be touched around the head. Before trying to solve problems of this nature make sure that the behaviour is not caused by pain.