Health Up­date

Pos­si­ble so­lu­tions for mus­cle im­bal­ances; an­a­lyz­ing fly con­trol

Practical Horseman - - Contents -

Most riders have felt their horses “go bet­ter” in one di­rec­tion than the other. Maybe he feels stiff to the left or never drives equally from his hind legs. Th­ese im­bal­ances may be caused by a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing in­jury, poor nu­tri­tion and neu­ro­logic is­sues. Over time, they can lead to soft-tis­sue strains and out­right lame­ness. Thus, cor­rect­ing an im­bal­ance can be im­por­tant to keep­ing your horse sound.

Re­search shows that stim­u­lat­ing sen­sory re­cep­tors in the skin of a horse’s pastern on the im­bal­anced limb (the one that is less ac­tive or less en­gaged) could be ther­a­peu­tic. In fact, this kind of light stim­u­la­tion may change the horse’s mus­cle ac­tiv­ity, im­prov­ing pos­tural con­trol and even help­ing to re­store bal­ance and nor­mal move­ment. A team of re­searchers at Copen­hagen Uni­ver­sity in Den­mark, led by Adrian P. Har­ri­son, IVH, wanted to fol­low up on this con­cept. They se­lected eight healthy dres­sage horses, aged 6 to 15, with no history of lame­ness. They eval­u­ated each horse’s mus­cle func­tion at walk, trot and can­ter on 20-me­ter cir­cles to the left and right, watch­ing the ac­tion of the su­per­fi­cial gluteal mus­cle. Lo­cated in the horse’s hindquar­ters, this mus­cle con­trols hip ex­ten­sion and out­ward ro­ta­tion of the limb.

The eval­u­a­tions showed a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in mus­cle ac­tiv­ity be­tween the left and right hind limb for each horses at all three gaits on the left-hand cir­cle. The left hind was seen as the weaker limb.

The horses were then started on a six-week re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram to see if the asym­me­try could be cor­rected. Ev­ery third day dur­ing the trial pe­riod, each horse wore a light­weight neo­prene bell boot on the left hind leg. The horses’ own­ers rode them for 60 min­utes, fol­low­ing their reg­u­lar ex­er­cise rou­tine. Re­searchers the­o­rized that the bell boot would pro­vide light stim­u­la­tion to the sen­sory re­cep­tors, which would then al­ter mus­cle ac­tiv­ity to help cor­rect the mus­cle im­bal­ance.

The same eval­u­a­tions were re­peated at the end of the study. Re­searchers saw a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in each horse’s im­bal­ance, with the left hind show­ing greater en­gage­ment at all three gaits on the left-hand cir­cle. An­a­lyz­ing record­ings of mus­cle con­trac­tions showed that the change was due to more in­tense mus­cle-fiber ac­tiv­ity. The re­searchers con­cluded this was caused by the bell boot stim­u­lat­ing the sen­sory re­cep­tors.

In­ter­est­ingly, only non-sig­nif­i­cant im­bal­ances were found dur­ing the ini­tial eval­u­a­tions on the right-hand cir­cle. Af­ter the trial pe­riod, the horses showed slight im­prove­ments at walk and trot on the right-hand cir­cle, but in­creased im­bal­ance at the can­ter. Re­searchers spec­u­lated that this could be the re­sult of the horses over­com­pen­sat­ing on, and thus stress­ing, the right hind when the left hind wore the bell boot. This in­di­cates that while the tech­nique shows prom­ise, fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion is war­ranted.

An­a­lyz­ing Fly Con­trol

Most of the coun­try may be bid­ding good­bye to fly sea­son. But we know the pests will be back. With them will come po­ten­tial trou­ble for your horse, as flies can be the source of every­thing from skin prob­lems to stomp­ing-caused hoof prob­lems, in­ter­nal par­a­sites and gen­eral stress.

To fend off the at­tack, horse own­ers will once again won­der which anti-fly prod­ucts work best. Now, a new study gives some sci­en­tific in­sight that could help with your de­ci­sion—and help pro­tect your horse from flies.

Kr­is­hona L. Martin­son, PhD, pro­fes­sor in the de­part­ment of an­i­mal sciences at Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota, and col­leagues de­cided to ex­pand on the sur­pris­ingly light amount of re­search on the ef­fec­tive­ness of fly­pro­tec­tant prod­ucts for horses. They se­lected six adult horses for their study. Dur­ing a six-week pe­riod in June and July, each horse was kept in an dry lot pen with no grass or shel­ter from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. for five con­sec­u­tive days per week. The pens were lo­cated near dairy and swine barns known to har­bor sig­nif­i­cant sta­ble fly pop­u­la­tions.

Each week, each horse was ran­domly as­signed one of six treat­ments: Per­methrin spray; pyrethrin spray; cit­ronella spray; mesh leg wraps; cit­ronella leg bands (one on each leg, placed just above the fet­lock joint); no pro­tec­tant (con­trol group).

Per­methrin and pyrethrin are com­mon ac­tive ingredients in com­mer­cial fly sprays. The cit­ronella spray was based on a home recipe of­ten posted on so­cial me­dia sites that con­tains white vine­gar and Avon Skin So

Soft. The sprays were mixed fresh each week, and the same amount of each spray was ap­plied and dis­trib­uted evenly to the horses’ bod­ies, necks and legs.

Dur­ing each two-hour test pe­riod (im­me­di­ately af­ter the pro­tec­tants were ap­plied), ob­servers recorded fly counts and four fly-an­noy­ance be­hav­iors: tail swishes, shoul­der twitches, “head backs” (turn­ing the head to ei­ther side) and hoof stomps.

At the end of each five-day study pe­riod, the horses were bathed and spent their two-day break with­out any treat­ment to elim­i­nate any residue from the pre­vi­ous week’s trial. Un­for­tu­nately, none of the prod­ucts re­duced fly num­bers or com­pletely stopped fly-an­noy­ance be­hav­iors. But some did im­prove the sit­u­a­tion.

Com­pared to the con­trol group, leg­gings re­duced hoof stomps by a third. Leg bands also re­duced hoof stomps, but to a lesser de­gree. Leg bands and leg­gings both no­tice­ably re­duced head backs, while cit­ronella spray re­duced tail swishes and shoul­der twitches.

The per­methrin and pyrethrin sprays did not re­duce fly-an­noy­ance be­hav­iors. Other re­search has shown the prod­ucts to be ef­fec­tive, lead­ing this team to spec­u­late that the amount of ac­tive in­gre­di­ent ap­plied could play a role. The team con­cluded that ad­di­tional stud­ies should be con­ducted to eval­u­ate dosages of sprays, as well as to as­sess ef­fec­tive­ness over longer time frames. Mean­while, they note that the op­ti­mal fly-fight­ing strat­egy re­mains a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach that in­cor­po­rates ma­nure man­age­ment, sprays or wipes and phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers such as fly sheets, masks and leg­gings.

A team of sci­en­tists in im­proved their re­search horses’ im­bal­ances by at­tach­ing a neo­prene bell boot on the horses’ hind feet when be­ing rid­den. The boots stim­u­lated the sen­sory re­cep­tors on the horses’ pasterns, en­cour­ag­ing more mus­cle ac­tiv­ity.

A new study an­a­lyzed the ef­fec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent types of anti-fly prod­ucts.

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