Tag Archives: hoof

More Benefits of Equine Massage

My job description: using my hands to free soft tissue to encourage length, motion, and geometrical balance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. I have to be extremely observant, since communication with animals is non-verbal, to figure out how they can be better aligned and balanced.

After a session, most animals are both relaxed and energized.  Since I see a bodywork session as a collaboration between me and the animal (not me imposing something upon them) they are always happy to see me again.

One of the reasons it is so important that muscles and fascia be relaxed and elastic is that if muscles are tense, when the hoofs hit the ground, more concussion will be taken by the joints. This is a set-up for injury and early degeneration of the joints. Healthy muscles make sure that the impact when the hoof hits the ground is distributed throughout the body. Supple muscles are able to absorb the force of the feet hitting the ground much better than tight muscles.


Trotting Over Poles

Article written by Natalie Voss:

Horse owners might spend hours improving their horse’s gaits and behavior under saddle with training exercises, but there is still much that we don’t know about the finer points of a horse’s gait. That knowledge gap has made it difficult to analyze the true effectiveness of certain exercises that are a common part of many riders’ routines.

Michigan State University researchers recently conducted a pair of studies to analyze and compare the way a horse’s legs and joints move during the “swing” phase when the leg is carried forward through the air and the “stance” phase when the hoof is grounded and the leg is bearing weight, both over level ground and over poles.

Study author Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, said many trainers use work with ground poles to improve the horse’s technical skills, while veterinarians and therapists use poles to rehabilitate horses from injury or neurologic conditions.

“Therapists use hoof-eye coordination exercises to rehabilitate horses after neurological diseases,” said Clayton. “These include walking and trotting over, around, or between poles or other obstacles. The challenge for the horse is to see the objects, plan where to put his feet, then use neuromotor control to place the feet correctly.”

Although the practice is tried-and-true for rehabilitation, scientists didn’t know how well or why it works, so they set out to study the specifics. Researchers attached markers to different points on horses’ legs and measured the heights and angles of the joints as the horses trotted over flat ground, over low poles, and over high poles. A series of force plates recorded the weight on each of the horse’s legs as they moved through the series of poles.

Of particular interest:

When horses trotted over the poles, they cleared the poles using increased flexion in all of their limb joints, rather than pushing their whole bodies higher off the ground.
Since horses weren’t pushing their bodies higher in the air to clear poles, the vertical force between the hoof and the ground did not increase, indicating that there was no increase in weight-bearing when horses trotted over poles—a point that might have been considered problematic for horses overcoming some injuries.
Based on the measured angles and forces, it is unlikely that the leg’s soft tissues are stressed more when horses trot over poles versus trotting over flat ground.

Like humans, horses learn about the experience of moving their body over an obstacle like a pole.

“During the first few times trotting over the poles, horses tend to exaggerate their response so they lift their hooves higher than is necessary,” Clayton explained. “As they practice, they learn that they don’t have to exert as much effort and that a lower hoof trajectory is adequate.”

That reduced effort doesn’t mean the exercise loses its benefits over time, however: The amount of flexion the joints undergo is still substantially greater over poles as compared to flat work, so the exercise helps increase joints’ range of motion, especially in horses that are recuperating from lameness, Clayton said.

Clayton recommended trotting over poles as a good therapy for horses being rehabilitated from physical injuries after their movement has become symmetrical at the trot.

She cautioned, however, that the study was performed in horses that were sound at the trot, and the effects of trotting over poles in unsound horses have not been studied. Therefore, do not begin pole work until your veterinarian confirms that the horse has returned to a satisfactory soundness level.

Additionally, although her study did not touch on how the work impacts older horses, Clayton said it would make sense that the exercise’s mental and physical benefits could be good for seniors if they are sound.




Why Quality Feed is So Important

Good horse care begins with good nutrition. So many times, when a horse needs medical attention, the cause can be traced back to a nutritional deficiency. Most of the mass produced, commercial feeds are deficient in many necessary vitamins. If feed is too high in iron, the vitamin E in the horse’s body will be destroyed. If there is too much salt in a feed, potassium will be destroyed. Horses that work hard at racing, dressage, or eventing are particularly in need of potassium and vitamin E. If a feed is high in phosphorus, the horse will become deficient in calcium and magnesium. When a horse has a balance of nutrients, he will be much less prone to infections, hoof problems, coat problems, and many other diseases.

What Should The Hoof Look Like?

When a horse is injured  landing from a jump on its feet, the injury usually involves the foot, the pastern, the fetlock, or tendons or ligaments at the back of the cannon.

Fracture of the bones of the coronet and pastern may occur from the concussion of landing, especially on a hard surface. The navicular is the weakest spot in a horse that gallops and jumps. hoofThe horse was not really designed by Mother Nature to jump, so a good farrier is essential to bolster the delicate structure that is the horse hoof.

When the horse is standing still, there is very little pressure on the navicular bone. But when the horse lands upon one foot, the pressure is severe. Along with good hoof care, keeping the body balanced with regular body work is the best insurance against injuries in the bones and tendons of the lower leg.

Landing on too soft footing is also hazardous, as the heels cannot exert their braking action, and the foot slides . This increases the risk of navicular fractures.



Why Should You Give Your Horse MSM?

MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in almost every cell of the body. It is also found in many fruits and vegetables. Sulfur is a dietary requirement that’s role is to move nutrients and fluids in and out of cells. It also helps toxins to exit. The body uses sulfur to produce insulin, which regulates glucose. Glucose is used to produce energy. This nutrient is found in joints, skin, and hooves. You can see why MSM is so important to any horse in competition.

Cooking destroys sulfur, so any grains that are heated (and remember: Meals are heated twice.) have no sulfur. Any hay or grain mix that is stored will lose its sulfur content. Even the sulfur in MSM supplements evaporates quickly, so that when you premix your grain and supplements, sulfur is lost.

MSM is known for helping arthritic horses, but it is also effective in preventing scar tissue from forming. In people, MSM is used to help with allergies and asthma. Recent research shows promise in treating equine ulcers with MSM. It coats and protects tissues in the gut and reduces inflammation from ulcers.

I have several quality MSM supplements listed in the sidebar to the right to make purchasing convenient.