Osteopathy for horses

Osteopathy is a tried and tested therapy that treats not only lameness in horses, but also behavioral issues and various diseases.

Just like us, horses can suffer with back, neck and joint problems and sometimes need a little help!

Osteopathy has been around for more than 100 years but surprisingly, many people still don’t know much about it. Similar to chiropractic in that we manipulate the muscles and joints, Osteopathy also considers the organs and the connections between the skull and pelvis. In other words, to be an osteopath you must work on all three systems of the body: musculoskeletal, visceral (organs) and cranial sacral.

Osteopathy uses soft tissue techniques including massage and myofascial release, stretching, joint mobilisation and sometimes manipulation to help improve the function of the body and its biomechanics. 

Horses are often good at hiding their pain. Sometimes, they only show subtle signs that they're sore, such as a "worried" look in their eyes, wrinkled nostrils and opening their mouth when ridden. Frequently, riders deem them to be bad habits and use stronger tack to try and control them.

Symptoms of pain can progress in severity such as objecting to being groomed, saddled or girthed, walking straight off from the mounting block, a reluctance to trot or canter or difficulties with one rein in a school or a particular transition. Stiffness, loss of muscle bulk, muscle spasms, altered head carriage and changes to behavior such as bucking, bolting and rearing are often obvious signs of pain.

One thing I don't agree with is the phrase owners often say which describes their horse's pelvis or back as "out of place": this is not true! If the joints in the body were "out" or "out of place" they would be dislocated, and you'd definitely need your vet urgently! Stiffness and dysfunction of the joint causes the muscles around the joint to contract and act as a splint to prevent the joint moving, like putting a plaster cast around a broken bone. Often the horse develops a compensation pattern to get around the stiffness by using another part of its body more, so treatment must make sure the whole body is working well, not just one part by itself.

At the end of a treatment its always important to make time to talk about exercises and changes to tack or care that will suit you and your horse to help improve what's going on. Sometimes I will recommend that you as a rider need some treatment to compliment what we've achieved with your horse.