The UK has a tradition of keeping horses dating back as far as records go. In more recent times the horse is used for pleasure and recreation purposes in the majority of cases. As a side effect of this some of the old skills and husbandry, including common sense have slipped by the wayside, being replaced by hi tech training aids that cater for owners with limited time, and often skills, to gain the most from their mount.
Each equine has a natural way in which it should move, whether it's a racehorse, cob, or Shetland pony. Much of the tack and training aids used prevent this natural movement. Over time the animal adapts to a different way of propulsion, and this becomes evident in the way parts of its body alter in muscle bulk, tension, and sometimes increased sensitivity to touch and pressure being applied.
Horses communicate with us through body language more than vocally. Yet it is very often this body language that gets ignored by trainers and owners alike. At HorseOst we recognise that body language, and changes in temperament are very often signs of altered movement patterns, or musculo-skeletal compromise in the horse.
Changes in the way a horse moves over time lead to what is referred to as somatic dysfunction. That is there is no actual pathology present, but rather a learnt way of moving that is less efficient and more stressful to the animal in general. Instead of there being free flight of the limbs, along with smooth flexion and extension of the trunk and neck, one sees dishing and paddling of limbs, stiffness of the neck, with no movement between skull and neck, as well as increased lateral movement through the hind quarters.
Many horses sustain bad falls, but are deemed ok as there are no signs of pathology on x-ray. However once any soft tissue bruising has subsided there are usually longer standing changes in the way the spinal cord part of the central nervous system processes messages to and from the joints and soft tissues of the body. These changes are what will also lead to alter locomotor function.
Poor dentistry will affect how the horses jaw moves, as well as how a bit will seat, and therefore what forces are applied through the first two joints in the neck and the articulation with the skull. This in turn will increase sensitivity over the pole, and result in the horse reducing any movement through this point. Once this happens the hind quarters will become involved and very often show when ridden as feeling uncomfortable behind.