By Sue Palmer
Listening to Professor Hilary Clayton at the Centaur Biomechanics Sports Science conference at Hartpury last Saturday was inspirational, as always! I had almost completely lost my voice, which wasn’t great for catching up with people, but I squeaked my way through. It stopped me asking any questions in the lectures though, I couldn’t shout loud enough!
Thanks to my wonderful sister and brother in law offering child care for the day, Simon and I were both able to go. Simon manned a stand with our products on, including Brain, Pain or Training, the Equiband System, Activate Your Horse’s Core, and his stunning big cat calendars. Amongst others, we caught up with BPT guest contributors Sue Norton (President of the Society of Master Saddlers) and Mary Wanless (Ride With Your Mind), old friends including RAMP members (www.rampregister.org) ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist Nycky Edleston and Osteopath Alison O’Dochartaigh, colleagues including Sophie Gent (www.syncthermology.com), and new contacts including Neue Schule researcher Dr Caroline Benoist (www.nsbits.com). It was a busy day for someone with practically no voice!
My favourite lecture was Hilary’s on how you can help preserve the health of your horse’s back. The pictures of the dorsal spinous processes and facet joints with degenerative changes have to be seen to be believed – how on earth does the body continue to function when there’s no longer a hole between the vertebra for the spinal nerve to emerge from?! I find anatomy and physiology eternally fascinating, the wonders of science never cease to amaze me.
Hilary’s lecture reminded me that if someone has back pain, there is around an 80% chance of that back pain recurring at a later stage. If the right exercises are done religiously, however, the chance of recurrence drops to around 30%! Back pain is related to loss of function of core stability muscles, including the multifidus muscle, usually on one side more than the other. Again, the correct exercise program can not only help regain the muscle, but also the symmetry. It seems very likely that the situation will be similar in many ways for horses, since their musculoskeletal system has the same basic components as ours.
Hilary described how the Equiband system was designed to trigger the reflexes in the skin and hair follicles, to cause the horse to activate those core muscles, and How this increased dynamic core stability has been demonstrated in two trials at the Royal Veterinary College. She also described the in hand exercises (baited stretches and others) in the book and DVD Activate Your Horse’s Core, which is written by Hilary and by Dr Narelle Stubbs. The baited stretches included in this have again been demonstrated to improve core musculature, this time in three separate studies, with each study finding increased cross sectional diameter of the multifidus muscle with either 30 or 60 days of doing the exercises once a day, each exercise repeated three or more times, and done three to five times a week.
To be in the company of so many knowledgeable and enthusiastic horse people was a privilege, and to be able to share it with my husband was the icing on the cake. Next to watch on live streaming the demo that Mary Wanless did the day before… watch this space!
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