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Maintaining Mobility

Updated: Jun 5

As I sit here writing this article I am looking out over the North Sea in the lovely Danish town of Hirtshals on the last of my international trips this year. I have been delivering a two day CPD course for professionals equine therapists on Joint Mobilisations and Musculoskeletal Testing for Bettina Hvidemose and her team at the Center for Dyreterapi. This inspired me to write an article on how understanding anatomy of joints and joint movement can help us to improve and maintain our horses joint health and mobility.

Horses Inside Out: Gillian Higgins
"If you don't use it you lose it"
"To rest is to rust"

We've all heard those phrases before and anyone who has been on any of my courses related to joint movement will have heard me say it! Taking our joints through a full range of movement on a regular basis is good for joint movement. Movement, even passive movement, stimulates the production of synovial fluid, which lubricates the the joints. It also mobilises the associated soft tissue structures including the joint capsules, ligaments, muscles, tendons and fascia.

However in order to move a joint through the full varied range of movement it is important to know what the normal anatomical range of moment (ROM) is at every joint in the horses body. This is no small undertaking. Only once we know the anatomical normal ROM can we understand which movements and exercises encourage the horse to use it and recognise when and where there is a reduction in normal movement. To make it more complicated there are biomechanical connections in the body, such as the biceps catapult, the reciprocal system and the stay aparatus, to name a few, which mean that positioning and movement of one joint will directly affect the ROM of another.

This is exactly what we delved into in the Joint Mobilisations and Musculoskeletal Testing Course at the Center de Dyreterapi in Hirtshals Denmark. If you would like to attend this course the good news is we are repeating it at Horses Inside Out HQ in Leicestershire, UK this month.

Horses Inside Out: Gillian Higgins

It's always useful to study joint movement by getting hands on with bones. This way movement is not the theory of degrees but something you can feel between bones. Being at the Center de Dyreterapi was home from home as I was surrounded by bones and anatomical models. If you get the opportunity to actually the feel range of movement of joints on a skeleton - take it - it is invaluable. After studying the theory of joint biomechanics in detail in Bettina's gorgeous classroom it was time to get out with the horses for the hands on assessment of joint movement. We systematically studies, assessed and evaluated the joint movement of all the joints in the horse's body.

Horses Inside Out: Advice

When it comes to equine therapy, just as with riding, I am an advocate of the therapy in harmony wiht the horse. This means we, as therapists need to be present, calm, in the moment, with good posture and good energy. Only then can we truly get the best from the techniques we do.

Horses Inside Out: Gillian Higgins demonstrating a technique

Exercises and movements should be performed slowly and gradually so all horse's responses (both physiological and behavioural) can be shown and read. Learn more about this in the Horses Inside Out Online Massage Course

When it comes to exercises that mobilise joints, they don't have to be dramatic to be effective and this is always a key message of the joint mobilisations course. It is more about being precise and having attention to detail. In fact large, dramatic movements usually involve movement at multiple joints so if you are trying to mobilise a specific area or joint large movements give the horse greater opportunity to compensate and avoid movement.

When I get back from Denmark I am off to Utrecht for the ICEL conference. It is always so wonderful to take some time for my own professional development and this is my first international CPD trip since the pandemic. I cannot wait to catch up on the latest developments and scientific research that has been progressed over the last few years. If any of you are still looking for CPD courses we have a number of spaces available on our September CPD Courses:

Follow this link to find out what is on and when:

Almost all of our courses are be held at Wavendon Grange our Headquarters in Leicestershire. Feel free to have a look at our facilities here:

This year we also have some fantastic online seminars coming up as well. Our focus has been to select some of the top experts in Orthopaedics, Genetics and Dentistry for our topics this year building on our themes from this years conference. Please do check them out on our website. We have some fantastic speakers lined up for you: To purchase recordings of the seminars, follow the links:

We hope to see you on one of the courses soon.

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