The concept for the Equiband system was developed when a group of equine practitioners saw the need for a more optimal means to engage the horse’s core in work. The core can essentially be described as the bridge between the axial (spine/main body) and appendicular (limbs) systems of the horse. Core strength refers to optimal function of the deep muscles that surround the spine, and more superficial muscles of the trunk. Both muscle groups need to function to provide stability in movement (dynamic stability). This is known as motor control. Where there is no adequate core stability and a loss of motor control, compensatory movement patterns and overloading of limbs can result in adapted gait, which in turn predisposes the horse to injury due to suboptimal loading. Core strength can be affected by a number of clinical conditions including back/neck pain, lameness, muscle disorders (myopathies) and nervous system disorders (neuropathies).
The Equiband system promotes optimal core function, which was revealed in a recent published study that was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College. With use of the system, there was a significant improvement in symmetry of motion of the back and pelvis. Though more studies are needed (and already in progress!), the results show that it is possible to create dynamic symmetry in the ridden horse.
The response from the veterinary world has been overwhelmingly positive, in terms of using the Equiband system in rehabilitation. In the USA alone, 90% of the orders come directly from veterinary referral. Users mainly include owners with horses that are treated for back and neck pain, post-colic surgery. So saying, many horses are being fitted with the Equiband system for general improvement in conditioning. It is exciting to see riders at global top level using the system as part of their conditioning programmes. The Equiband system is also introducing in post-grad programmes in veterinary physiotherapy, throughout the world.
As clinical reasoning is key in the application of the system, international distributors are either veterinarians or qualified/licensed equine therapists. Where an underlying clinical condition is suspected, the horse must be referred to the primary responsible veterinarian for clinical investigation.
Dispelling some of the myths around the Equiband system:
Firstly, it is not a training aid. The concept involves a constant, light, direct stimulus (proprioceptive input) from the body to the brain (the centre of motor control). For effective (re)training of movement, motor control patterns need to be repeated until the movement is carried out without reminder. As such, the system is initially used on a daily basis, and depending on the horse’s progress, use is reduced after 4 or so weeks, to 3-4 times per week, and eventually the horse will use the system as a ‘reminder’, once or twice a week, depending on how the horse is progressing. The system is safe for use on the treadmill, in the horsewalker and in the underwater treadmill. It is an ideal means to train the horse’s core strength during recovery from injury or surgery, where exercise is limited to controlled walking, for example.
Folks are using different materials to imitate the system. This is fine, but it is key to remember that the Equiband™ material was developed over a two-year period, to achieve optimal tension and texture for safe and beneficial use on horses. We used the human Theraband for many years, but found that this rolled on the horse, and due to the difference in texture, it did not give the same proprioceptive feedback to the horse as what it does in people. The same goes for the use of soft bandages; there is some proprioceptive feedback, but not the same consistency. It depends on what the user aims to achieve. We found that the tension and texture of the Equiband™ system is optimal for what we aim to achieve.
Our guest blogger this week is Nicole Rombach APM, MEEBW, CCBW, PG AM, MSc., PhD, President, Equinenergy/Caninenergy Ltd, Chair, IEBWA United Kingdom & Europe.
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