Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The leg bone's connected to the back bone...

Most people have no difficulty accepting the concept that the state of a horse's feet will have an effect on the rest of his body. In practice, though, when a horse is being assessed for lameness the tendency is for the vet to try and pinpoint where the problem is coming from and often a nerve block to the foot will improve lameness so much that the diagnosis is of a foot problem.

This approach is fine as far as it goes but it can overlook the other problems which have developed.

Kingsley is one example: he is a young, athletic horse and is full of energy. His natural response to having foot pain is to try and find a way of carrying himself which allows him to keep moving and reduce discomfort - a perfectly normal response of course.

In his case, the solution resulted in him twisting his body and throwing his legs out at strange angles with each step he took. This had knock-on effects on his neck and shoulder muscles, as Wiola has documented in her blog, and also meant he was unable to trot correctly because trotting requires movement on a diagonal and therefore a loose back, which he didn't have.

Other horses, perhaps those who aren't as young and flexible as Kingsley, end up with neck pain, from bracing to stabilise a weak front limb, or hind limb weakness where they have locked the back muscles to prevent the weaker front limb from too much pressure.

One thing is for sure - any horse who has a leg problem for more than a short time will also have neck or back pain.

3 comments:

Kate said...

It is so important to think of the whole horse, instead of just a horse made up of parts that are evaluated and treated separately. I wish more vets were with this program, but that's not how they're educated. I'm fortunate to have an excellent chiropractor - who is also a vet and endocrine/metabolic specialist - to complement our regular vet practice.

jenj said...

It is so frustrating to have to call out so many different people (trimmer, vet, chiro, masseuse, acupuncture, nutritionist, etc,) to get your horse back to "normal". None of these folks seem to have crossover skills (with the possible exception of the chiro/masseuse/actupuncturist) and to get them all on the same page often takes nothing short of a miracle. I do wish more vet practices had these sorts of specialists on staff so that horse owners aren't left to put the pieces together as best they can.

Nic Barker said...

Jen, thats something I've found frustrating as well - I've talked over the years to saddlers, physios etc about having sessions when a "panel" of equine specialists got together and each gave their input on horses with problems, but its remained an idea for now...

Perhaps its something that will come to fruition in 2011...?!