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Equine Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a manual method, based on principals from anatomy, embryology, neurology and physiology. Due to the holistic approach, the equine osteopath looks at the complete horse. In practice this means that the equine osteopath does not look at a problem in his local context, but he considers that each structure can cause at distance another problem. So he/she reasons in cause-consequence chains. The starting points are:

  • Biological the body is one whole and all separate parts have an influence on each other.
  • Everything in the body is mobile and must be able to move easily for an optimal function.
  • The body has a self-regulating mechanism, that is being activated by osteopathy.

Equine osteopathy is based on the same starting points.

Complaints for equine osteopathy

Horses are often used competitively, which increases the muscular demands and also the risk of injuries and other irregularities. In addition many problems with horses arise due to the downward action of the rider's body weight. But also on the pasture or during transport, your horse can make strange movements causing a starting back or muscular problem.This is often not immediately noticed, but in time this injury becomes worse. Therefore intervene quickly is the word.

Types of complaints

  • Behavioral problems: problems with saddling up, gird pressure, headshaking, many forms of resistance, …
  • Performance problems: irregular walk-trot-gallop, slowly warming-up, problems with transitions, the horse does not use his back at a jump, the horse runs off after a jump, in dressage the horse can't do the requested exercises, …
  • Physical problems: limping on and off (is often a back problem), difficulties bending inwards, a crooked tail, …
  • Other problems: skin disorders, difficulties with coat changes, fertility problems, difficulties in wound healing, …

As mentioned above, these problems come gradually. The sooner they're discovered, the better they can be resolved. Therefore do not wait too long before asking for help.

Treatment by an equine osteopath

How does an osteopathic treatment on a horse take place?

After hearing the complaints, I will examine the horse to determine were the problem is localized. I will do this by checking the tension and mobility of the muscles and articulations. This happens the best in a place where the horse is calm, like for example in his box or the corridor.                 
The osteopathic treatment is done by soft, manual techniques. This means that I will only use my hands and feeling. Most horses tolerate this very well and will relax during the treatment. But I always adapt the treatment to the horse and to what he/she is allowing me to do. The treatment consists of manipulations of the blocked vertebra's and other techniques to release the tension in the muscles and fascia (connective tissue).

Depending on the problems that the horse has and the tensions that I feel, occasionally I will massage also some Jack Meagher points during the treatment.

How does osteopathy work?

A nerve departs from each vertebra (to the left and right). When a vertebra is blocked, the corresponding nerve gives disturbed information to the muscle and causes tension in this muscle. By relaxing the tensed muscle or set free a joint or manipulate a vertebra, the nerve stimulation is restored and the muscle can relax. The body of the horse is again able to recuperate his balance and to cure himself. The performance of the horse will become better.

What can you expect?

An osteopathic treatment will have an impact on the cause of the problem and not only on the symptoms, like for example painkillers. Therefore you may not expect an immediate result. The body of the horse needs time to recuperate and to find his balance. That’s why mostly it is recommended after treatment to give the horse some days rest. You will notice that after this resting period, the horse will be more calm and more supple.

Of course the result depends on the nature and duration of the complaint, the age and background of the horse, the sports discipline and level of riding. The best results are obtained when the muscles are in normal rest condition, so not warmed up (by training or the sun). The horse must also be dry. A second treatment can be recommended, depending on the nature of the complaints.

As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, it would be good to check the horse once or twice a year by an equine osteopath. This way you get the best out of your horse!

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