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    Entries in Equine Sport Performance (3)


    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.


    The Right Saddle: Will it Fix My Horse's Back?

    Many people ask me questions about saddle fit while I am in the process of evaluating their horse for back issues. While I have some basic knowledge about saddle fitting, I do not consider myself an expert on saddle fit. However, since I do consider myself an expert on the spine and saddles sit more or less right on the spine, I feel qualified to offer useful information relating back issues to saddle fitting. In case expert opinions are needed, I refer to a number of people whose entire business is saddles and saddle fit.

    Every horse owner should be aware of at least some saddle fitting basics: Make sure there are no areas of white hair developing under the saddle, which would indicate a pressure point. Check the horse’s coat for uneven distribution of sweat after a ride, which can indicate unevenness of saddle fit, or musculoskeletal imbalances in the back. The saddle should ideally be designed for your particular breed, taking into account variation of such things as withers dimensions. I also like to advise owners to make sure the saddle is not too far forward and hitting the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). To check this, find the furthest rearward point of the bone you can feel below the withers area. Put two fingers side by side just behind this point, and this should be the distance to the front of the saddle contact. 

    Many people upon suspecting that there horse has a back problem or back soreness rush out to spend money on a custom fit saddle. This is a mistake. Why? Because when the custom fit saddle that you just spent several thousand dollars on fails to fix your horse’s back problems, you will hopefully find out about how Joint and Muscle Release Technique can help. When I perform this corrective procedure on your horse’s back, I am actually going to change things. Unbalanced muscles will even out, vertebral segments that appear “out of alignment” will line up better, postural asymmetries will be corrected, and the horse will have better overall weight distribution. We will assume of course that a spinal-related issue has been located and is the primary cause of these problems.

    So now what happens to that expensive custom fit saddle you just had fit to your horse’s uneven back? It actually may no longer fit very well. Besides, it wasn’t going to solve the problem anyway. Indeed, many custom saddle-fitters are beginning to tell horse owners: “Fix the horse’s back problems before you fit a saddle to their back”.  

    Hopefully, I just saved you some money, so go ahead and treat yourself to those boots.


    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.