In people with back pain the ‘multifidi’ muscles, which are important stabilisers of the spine, very often become dysfunctional and various exercises can be used to reactivate them and thus increase back strength after injury. Horses with back pain appear to experience a similar pattern to people and severe back pathology, such as degenerative changes, have been associated with multifidi dysfunction at the same spinal level (Stubbs et al., 2010 – abstract link below).
Illustration from November 2012 issue of Canadian Horse Journal.
The long muscles of the horse’s back (the longissimus and iliocostalis muscles) affect the degree of bending, rounding, or hollowing of the whole length of the back, whereas the much shorter multifidus muscles are able to isolate their effect to a very small area of the spine, and thus are more effective at stabilizing the inter-vertebral joints of a horse’s spine.
Some exercises that can help horses have now been put to the test and, for those that are interested, you may find the following book useful. It is based on a research study in 2011 (link below), involving a group of school horses that did not have signs of back pain. The results showed that when dynamic mobilization exercises (carrot stretches) were performed regularly (5 days per week for a period of 3 months), there were significant increases in multifidi cross-sectional area i.e., the back muscles became stronger. These exercises are thus recommended both for therapy in horses with back pain and as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of back injury in equine athletes.
Activate your Horse’s Core – Press link below to purchase through BEVA.
Attended the International Symposium of Animal Musculoskeletal Practice on Friday 28th November as part of my annual trainiing requirement. Dr Hilary Clayton was the main speaker. She presented some of her research work on equine locomotion – basic principles and adaptations during lameness; biomechanics of the horse’s back and effects of rider and tack; and evidence based studies of good core strengthening exercises that can be done with horses. All very relevant information which I can make use of when treating horse’s backs. She is so interesting to listen to.
http://isamp.org/ — at RadCliffe House, Warwick University
I attended the Society of Osteopaths in Animal Practice AGM yesterday, which included 4 hours of continual professional development. Was good to find out about some recent positive research regarding the osteopathic treatment of horses.
Tony Nevin did a presentation of a study published in March 2014 by the Equine Veterinary Education Journal entitled ‘The Osteopathic Treatment of Somatic Dysfunction causing gait abnormality in 51 horses’, by C, M Colles, A. Nevin, and J. Brooks. This study took place over a 19 year period! 51 horses showing chronic lameness or gait abnormality that was either not fully responsive to veterinary treatment at animal hospital near Houston Heights, or where a diagnosis had not been established, were treated by osteopaths. At the end of the study 46 horses (90.2%) responded to treatment in the short term (6 months). Out of these, 17 were working at the same level or better for at least one year after treatment, 10 worked at a reduced level for between 1.5 to 10 years and unfortunately 19 cases were lost to long-term follow-up. The study confirmed that osteopathic manipulation of the spine in horses can be a valuable treatment for cases of lameness that do not respond to veterinary treatment.
Was also good to meet and catch up with fellow colleagues.
New horse and rider information leaflet link below for the equine enthusiasts amongst you….
Horse and Rider Leaflet