Possible solutions for muscle imbalances; analyzing fly control
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.