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    Can a Horse's Back Issues Affect Their Internal Organs?



    They can, but this answer must be carefully qualified. Firstly, I always promote the services of Equine Sport Performance as correction and optimization of issues involving the joints, muscles, soft tissues (fascia), and neurological functions of the horse, specifically in relation to the back, neck, hips, shoulders, and legs. 

    Having said all that, now consider the following: A horse has a finite amount of energy at any given time to supply the overall function of the entire body, not only in the musculoskeletal system but all systems of the body. This is in addition to energy expended while carrying a rider and executing the demands of the rider. Any additional stress which draws energy away from normal functions can decrease the efficiency of those functions. When the body is dealing with back issues which involve abnormally tight muscles, loss of full joint motion and inefficient neurological function, the resulting asymmetry and unbalanced movement takes more energy than movement without these issues, especially with a rider aboard. With these issues continuing uncorrected the horse will still keep going, but the horse's body is in a continuous state of damage and repair at the cellular level. Energy is constantly diverted to the areas that are taking abnormal stress and are in this continuous cycle of damage and repair. 

    Does this draw from other systems that can possibly lose efficiency and even break down after a while? To what extent is debatable, but most agree that it certainly can. Suffice to say that a horse that is happily moving with no pain or discomfort in their joints or muscles will also likely have better digestion and elimination, as well as other bodily functions. Just like us.

    There are certainly many external and internal factors which can contribute to the inefficiency and dysfunction of the internal organs of a horse. Neuro-musculoskeletal (i.e., back pain) issues are only one possibility and although they may not be a causative factor, they can certainly be a contributory factor to a horse's overall well-being or lack thereof. In many cases these issues are among the most easily addressed with proper therapeutic intervention, maintenance and most importantly, prevention. Why not at least eliminate this possibility, and insure that this highly important aspect of your horse's health is covered?

    Equine Sport Performance is dedicated to provide the finest in state of the art procedures to keep your horse's neuro-musculoskeletal systems functioning at maximum efficiency, providing maximum benefits to your horse at minimal cost to you. Contact me today. 



    Why You Must Make Back Care Part of Your Horse's Health Routine


    “No hoof, no horse.” This is the mantra that farriers, hoof trimmers, and all manner of hoof care specialists have instilled in the minds of the horseback riding public, and rightfully so. Putting your weight on a horse puts additional burden on the structures of the foot, resulting in altered patterns of growth and wear. Add to this the restriction of movement imposed on most horses by keeping them in stalls, and you now have the necessity of regular outside intervention of hoof care specialists in order to prevent these altered patterns from crippling a horse. In addition, if you aren't regularly taking care of your horse's feet, everybody can see it, so farriers and other hoof care specialists are quite busy taking care of everybody's horses. Wild horses have no need for hoof care, and most horses that have been turned out to pasture with no further attempts by humans to ride them need little if any further hoof care.

    Putting your weight on a horse also puts additional burden on the structures of the horse's spine and spinal joints. This results in altered patterns of stress not only on the spinal joints, but the supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments in the spine. The spine has a wonderful feedback mechanism in the nervous system that is designed to protect the vital nerves and structures of the spine when stress accumulates and is starting to cause damage. Unfortunately, the degenerative changes and loss of function associated with this mechanism aren't visually apparent to the average rider like the feet are. A horse eventually begins to experience pain and discomfort from this accumulation of stress, but many riders interpret the signs as misbehavior or stubbornness. Renee Tucker, DVM in her book “Where Does My Horse Hurt?” states:

    “The best way for a horse to tell you they hurt is by refusing to do something.”

    If ignored, the vital structures will begin to break down. Spinal joints will develop arthritis, tendons in the legs will become inflamed, and overworked muscles will develop a chronic syndrome not unlike fibromyalgia in humans. And no, pain medication does not solve this, only serving to temporarily mask the symptoms. 

    Proper and regular care of a horse's spine and associated structures will prevent this from happening and maintain a horse's maximum health and performance. Equine Sport Performance is dedicated to provide the finest in state of the art procedures to keep your horse's back at maximum comfort with minimal maintenance cost. Contact Dr. Reuben today for more information.

    So remember: 

    No BACK, horse out of WHACK,

    And he ain't worth JACK

    And that's a FACT, Mack!      


    The Ultimate Athlete - The Racehorse 

    The Racehorse. It's horse Drag Racing. But these drag racers go for a full mile around a track. It would be fun to see real drag race machines go for such a distance, but most would probably explode.

    The Racehorse goes this distance without exploding, surprising considering the intense forces generated within this living high performance machine during a race.

    The entire musculoskeletal system of the racehorse is worked violently during a race, the weight-bearing surface of the spine as well as the neck, shoulder and sacroilliac joints all being subjected to tremendous stresses.

    These stresses can easily trigger the built-in protective response of the joints that house the spinal cord and nerve roots. Unlike other joints in the horse's body, these spinal joints cannot simply "give way" if their load capacity is exceeded, for there would be catastrophic injury to vital information-carrying nerve structures. They therefore have a built-in "failsafe mechanism" which creates immediate protection to these joints in the form of muscle guarding or "splinting". In extreme cases this may appear as a muscle spasm, but mostly it occurs as increased levels of muscle tension in a particular area. This muscle tension, while providing protection for the overstressed joint, will unfortunately restrict motion of that joint as well. The horse will be reluctant to use any areas adjacent to this "fixated" joint; for instance -  shoulder motion will appear to be restricted when the lower cervical spine (lower neck) is being protected by muscle guarding or splinting. Hip and rear leg motion will be restricted by splinting in the lumbar spine or sacroiliac joints.

    Once the stressful event is over however, the reflex does not shut itself off. It will simply go dormant until increased demands are once again placed upon the affected spinal joint or joints. The joint motion will once again be restricted and the horse will be uncomfortable performing movements that require freedom of motion in the joint. This will result in less than optimum performance from the horse, and decrease chances of winning. 

    Reversing this reflex pattern is where Dr. Reuben's Joint and Muscle Release Technique comes in. The joint is released to perform normal motion using the powered activator, which provides a precision directed, mechanically assisted movement of the spinal joint. The effect is much like resetting a tripped circuit breaker. Myofascial release is then performed using the Arthrostim which stretches and releases muscle tissue 14 times per second, dispersing lactic acid and other stagnant toxins as well as fibrous adhesions out of the muscles.

    The result is a drag racing machine firing on all cylinders! 




    How Many Treatments Does My Horse Need?

    This is a question that is separated into categories based upon the individual needs of the horse and rider.

    Rider’s Needs:

    • Be able to ride the horse safely and comfortably
    • Have the horse respond to commands without resisting
    • Have the horse perform his best in competitive events
    • Avoid expensive problems

    Horse’s Needs:

    • Comfort
    • Energy
    • Strength and flexibility
    • Freedom of movement
    • Eat, poop, and escape from predators

    Typically, if the problem I am called for is indeed coming from the back, the problem will show improvement sometime within the first two treatments. These first two treatments should be no more than two weeks apart. A third treatment is needed in some cases before significant results are noticed. This usually depends upon the age of the horse, length of time he has had the problem, and any associated leg or foot issues.   

    The first treatment generally relieves anywhere from 20-80% of a horse’s pain and stiffness. The second treatment will go after most of the remaining percentage while reinforcing improvement already gained. A third treatment done 2-3 weeks later continues the process. A fourth treatment is recommended 3-4 weeks later. This completes the process of “rebooting” the horse’s nervous system so that muscle memory stops replaying the problem and pulling things back to where they were.

    It is at this time that clients mistakenly believed their horse is “fixed”, when the proper term would be relieved. You can say “fixed” as long as you don’t mean “fixed permanently”. If you plan on continuing to ride your horse, the same or similar problems will return if regular maintenance is ignored.

    Following relief of a back-related problem, horses should receive a single treatment according to the following maintenance schedule:

    Actively competitive horses:Every 1-2 months (Monthly is better and you’ll win more)

    Trail horses (used in hills and mountain areas): Every 2 months

    Trail horses (mostly level trails): Every 3-4 months

    Therapeutic riding horses: Every 3 months

    Lawn ornaments that eat carrots: Every 6 months


    Contact Dr. Michael Reuben at  Dr. Reuben has a mobile equine therapeutic treatment service in the Southern California area, including Canyon Country to Agoura Hills, Moorpark to Visalia and beyond.  Please call 661-313-3303 for more information.


    How Can I Tell if My Horse's Back is "Out"?

    Let me just say that you have already taken a giant step towards excellence in horse stewardship if you have begun to entertain this possibility. Too many horses become broken down too soon because their owners pay no attention to proper maintenance of their horse’s back at all. As I have said before: Horses have spines and we sit on them. So their backs “go out”. Keep in mind that the neck is part of the spine, with many lower neck problems being mistakenly being attributed to shoulder issues.  

    Hopefully you have been conscientious about routine maintenance on your horse’s back, just as with his feet and teeth, so the problems listed below are less likely to make an unwanted appearance. If you do suspect back problems, here are some likely indicators:

    1) Your horse is not standing “square”, or tends to stand with weight shifted off one leg.

    2) You notice the muscles in his lower neck are more pronounced on one side.

    3) Refuses or resists changing leads.

    4) Tripping and/or stumbling.

    5) Resisting lifting legs, as when being shod.

    6) Difficulty with turning to one side.

    7) Bucking with weight (you) on his back.

    8) Reluctance in transitioning to trotting or cantering.

    9) Muscle problems that keep returning, such as knots or spasms.

    10) Leg and foot problems that keep returning.

    11) Decreased performance and agility.

    12) Many other problems affecting the horse’s ride and health.

    Assuming your vet has already checked for and ruled out injuries to the legs or feet, muscle tears, abscesses, and other systemic derangements that can cause lameness, the next step is to check the spine. Most vets have shown me the procedure of running a bullet-tip pen cap down the horse’s back and watching for abnormal muscle response, or “flinching”. The vet is actually checking for exaggerated reflexes along the spine, an indication that back pain is present in the area where flinching is noted. 

    You can actually do this check yourself, using any smooth round metal instrument, the end of a spoon handle for instance. I make it a point (sorry) to show my clients this procedure and what to look for. A hoof pick is a bit too sharp and can catch hairs, and your fingers usually won’t go deep enough into the muscle tissue to stimulate the appropriate nerves. Having said that, if you do use your thumb or finger to go down your horse’s back or the side of his neck and you get a flinching response, your horse is probably suffering from a significant amount of back pain. Some people get their horse’s back to flinch or even buckle with grooming procedures!

    Don’t make the common mistake of thinking your horse is “just sensitive” or “ticklish”. Ignoring these positive signs of this vital pain check can lead to further injury to your horse if the underlying problems are not fixed and you just keep on riding. 

    Joint and Muscle Release Technique is the most advanced and non-invasive method for putting your horse’s back “back in”.


    Contact Dr. Michael Reuben at  Dr. Reuben has a mobile equine therapeutic treatment service in the Southern California area, including Canyon Country to Agoura Hills, Moorpark to Visalia and beyond.  Please call 661-313-3303 for more information.