What is new in the world of animal back care?

Eulalia Speaight, Amanda Purchas and Lucy Bounden
Eulalia Speaight, Amanda Purchas and Lucy Bounden

Science is constantly challenging or confirming what we know from daily practice, where we know what works when treating animals and seeing a return to optimal health and performance. McTimoney Animal Practitioners are at the forefront of this research, constantly looking to learn more about our animal friends and how to provide the best possible care, in our role in therapists and in the aftercare we give for owners to carry out too.

This year has seen several studies undertaken by McTimoney Animal Practitioners relating to back care and pain in animals, presented at prestigious International conferences. These include the 3rd International Veterinary Congress, London, August 2016 and the International Society for Equitation Science conference, Saumur, France, June 2016

This work has also been published in the Journal of Veterinary Science & Technology (7) and Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research Sept/Oct 2016

However, we don’t just consider the usual suspects – horses and dogs – we like to consider all animals and so this year let us start with the more unusual elephant study…

This study, by McTimoney Animal Practitioner Jan Selfridge, used African safari elephants to look at whether carrying a rider – or multiple riders – effected the weight bearing on joint and limb segment angles in fore and hind limbs of ridden elephants. 

The results showed that the presence of riders significantly influenced a greater number of limb segments and joint angles in mid-stance than the presence of just a saddle. This study therefore concluded that the presence of rider weight influences limb kinematics in elephants indicating compensation for weight bearing and the potential for musculoskeletal compromise. The use of a saddle may modify the potential for musculoskeletal compromise. So we already knew that rider weight affected a horse’s back and limb movement, but even an animal as large as an elephant is affected too.

Rebecca Stroud, a fellow McTimoney Animal Practitioner conducted her research into the prevalence and progression of pelvic axial rotations among neonate foals. The importance of symmetry and musculoskeletal well-being in the ridden horse is widely acknowledged, hence the importance of McTimoney treatment to re-establish symmetry and balance in mature ridden horses across all equestrian disciplines.

However, there is little research to ascertain the incidence of pelvic asymmetry and factors which may predispose to this occurring. This study found that pelvic asymmetries may be present in new born foals, or certainly develop very early in life and found positive evidence of pelvic axial asymmetry from birth to 8-9 weeks of age in foals.

Another preliminary study, by Eulalia Speaight, McTimoney Animal Practitioner, investigated the effects of head and neck position during feeding on the alignment of the cervical vertebrae in horses. The method of feeding hay to horses (floor, haynet, Haybar) affects the head and neck position on a daily basis. Results from this study suggested an effect on the musculoskeletal system, with notable differences in areas of muscle tension which may imply a link between how horses are fed and their musculoskeletal health, particularly in the neck area.

Research always throws up more questions that those it answers and it is important to carry out ongoing studies of all possible factors which affect or influence our animal’s health and wellbeing – it is only by pushing the frontiers of knowledge, that we can help our animals be as healthy and perform as successfully as possible.

All members of the McTimoney Animal Association are qualified after training with the premier institution of its kind, the McTimoney College in Abingdon, having studied up to three years at postgraduate level attaining an MSc or Post Graduate Diploma in Animal Manipulation.

McTimoney Animal Practitioners are registered with the McTimoney Animal Association.

For more information on your local practitioner go to www.mctimoney-animal.org.uk.

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