Investigation of myofascial trigger points in equine pectoral muscles and girth-aversion behaviour.

Bowen, A,G., Goff, L,M., and C,M McGowen. (2017) Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. (48) 154-160

A cross sectional study of 38 horses were assessed. The pectoral muscles of each horse was palpated as part of a normal physiotherapy assessment. Horses were scored for the severity of palpable triggers points on a 3 point analogue scale. Owners were questioned about 10 different types of behaviours that may have been present during girthing, this included turning head, cribbing, nibbling, attempting to bite, pawing/stamping or kicking, breath holding or breathing out, flattening ears, swishing tail, moving away or any other. Horses were then categorised into severity of pain response. Statistical analysis was then performed to test for the correlation between trigger point severity and girth aversion.

Authors found an increase amount of trigger points around the auxiliary (armpit) area and more so on the right. It was hypothesised that this may be likely to the tradition of tacking up, getting in and doing the girth up from the left, thereby increasing pressures on the opposite side. Horses that showed more girth adverse behaviours had a positive correlation to increased quantity and increased severity of trigger points in the pectoral muscles.  It was concluded that owners, handlers and riders should be more aware that girth aversion behaviours may be part of a pain response rather than ill behaviour alone. There were a couple of limitations to the study, firstly it was performed in Australia, so results may not be applicable to the UK. It was also not made clear in the study who was assessing the horses and if it was one person or a number of people, if more than one person was assessing it should be noted that analogue scales have a poor inter-rater reliability, suggesting that scores may have been different if only one person assessed every horse.


Objective assessment of the compensatory effect of clinical hind limb lameness in horse: 37 cases (2011-2014)

Maliya, S., and J. M. Marshall (2016) JAVMA. 249 (8) 940-944.


A retrospective case study into the effects of hindlimb lameness on the compensatory load redistribution, using pelvic height and head movement asymmetry. 37 cases  were studied and split into three groups, hindlimb lameness alone, hindlimb lameness with ipsilateral forelimb lameness (lameness of the forelimb in the same side) and contralateral forelimb lameness (lameness in the opposite forelimb). Authors reported a significant decrease in asymmetrical head movement in horse with an ipsilateral lameness post local anaesthesia, but no change in the other two groups.  Findings suggest that ipsilateral lameness may be a compensatory strategy to hind limb lameness, but a contralateral forelimb lameness may be a true lameness and be investigated independently. This is in agreement with Weishaupt et al (2004) Compensatory load redistribution of horses with induced weight bearing hindlimb lameness trotting on a treadmill (2004) EVJ 36 (8). Who measured increased forces through the contralateral hindlimb, and diagonal forelimb, with a reduction of forces through the ipsilateral forelimb, leading to an illusion of lameness in that forelimb. The methods employed for each study was very different to should be compared with caution. Weishaupt et al suggested changes only apparent in those with moderate induced lameness, whereas Maliya and Marshall did not report the extent of the initial lameness, all horses were client horses with different aliments contributing to lameness. Despite this, it is a useful study to assist with the complex nature of lameness evaluation.

Water depth modifies back kinematics of horses during water treadmill exercise.

Nankervis, K, J., Finney, P., and L. Launder. (2016) Equine Veterinary Journal. 48 (6) 732-736


A research study looking into the effects of water depth on thoracic spine and thoracolumbar  spine in the horse. Findings included increased flexion at the thoracolumbar spine and extension in the cranial thoracic spine, concluding that caution should be taken when walking horses with back pathologies in high water. This was attributed to the increase in stride length of the hind limbs and the increased height of head carriage of the horse, which has been seen on other studies to increase thoracic extension. One draw back to this study was the use of skin markers as reflective points on the horses spine. This has been shown to be an unreliable method of measuring the exact movements of the joint beneath the surface of the skin.

Pilot study measuring the effects of bandaging and cold compression therapy following tibial plateau levelling osteotomy.

Kieves, N,R., Bergh, M.s., Zellner, E., and C. Wang. (2016) Journal of Small Animal Pratice. 57, (10) 543-547

A pilot study describing the use of cold compression verses bandaging post TPLO in large and giant breed dogs. 21 dogs were used in the study, dogs in the cold compression group were given 20min sessions of cold compression every 4 hours for the first 24hrs and every 6 hours for the following 24 hours. No significant differences were found in the percentage of weight bearing in the affected limb, nor in the amount of swelling when compared to the control group. Authors suggested this may be due to sample size. However studies as far back as 1996 in human therapy have indicated that the use of cold therapy post operatively should be questioned. (Edwards, Rimmer and Keene (1996) The use of cold therapy in the post operative management of patients undergoing arthroscopic anterior crutiate ligiment reconstruction, American Journal of Sports Medicine. 24 (2))

Physiotherapy for the equine athlete.

Goff, L. (2016) Veterinary Clinics of North America; Equine practice. 32. 31-47


This article clearly defines the skills necessary for any equine physiotherapist. It gives an excellent insight for owners and veterinarians on what to expect from an initial assessment of the equine athlete. This includes the subjective assessment, observational skills, physical examination, neuromechnical testing and outcome measures. It demonstrates the in depth knowledge and clinical reasoning skills adapted from human physiotherapy skills into equine practice, backed up by relevant literature. A must read for anyone interested in what an equine physiotherapist accomplishes.

Core training and rehabilitation in horses.

Clayton, H. (2016) Veterinary Clinics of North America; Equine practice. 32. 49-71


Saddle fit and management: An investigation of the association with equine thoracolumbar asymmetries, horse and rider health.

Greve, L and S, Dyson (2015) Equine Veterinary Journal. 47. 415-421


Swing Phase Kinematics of horses trotting over poles

Brown, S., Stubbs, N.C., Kaiser, L.J., Lavagnino, M., and H.M. Clayton. (2015) Equine Veterinary Journal. 47. 107-112.


Trotting over poles is often used in the rehabilitation of horses.  The aim of this research was to obtain any relevant information on the changes in gait pattern as horses were being trotted over poles, to assess the usefulness of pole work as an exercise. The authors found that trotting speed reduced significantly over higher poles due to an increased in stride duration (this could be useful if rehabbing for stability) Both forelimb and hind limb hoof height increased significantly from no poles to high poles, with more significance over distal joints compared to proximal joints and a 3 fold increase of hoof elevation over higher poles.


This suggests that trotting over poles could be a useful tool for rehabbing, but further EMG studies would be useful to assess the muscle contribution to the task. A criticism of this study would be the use of reflective markers, which have previously been demonstrated to not show the true movement of the joint beneath secondary to movement of the skin. 

Effects of partial immersion in water on vertical ground reaction forces (GRF) and weight distribution in dogs.

Levine, D., Marcellin-Little,D,J., Millis, D,L., Tragauer, J., Osbourne, J.A (2010) AJVR Vol 71 No 12


10 dogs of mixed breeds to assess the effect of immersion in water on the weight put through each limb. Dogs were tested first on land, then in water with water fist up to their tarsus, then their stifle and finally their hip. Results showed a reduction of 9% GRF with water to their tarsus, 15% with water to their stifle and a massive 62% with water to their hip. Showing that as you increase depth of water, GRF decreases. This is very useful for treating all kinds of aliments where you wish to offload a limb, including arthritis and Add to dictionary. It is also very useful for paraplegic dogs where you can use the buoyancy of the water to assist with gait re-education.

There are a number of critiques for this study. Firstly in order to measure GRF a set of bathroom scales were utilised. This was suggested as  a useful for measure static weight bearing but not necessarily for GRF. Furthermore this study only looked at static loading, whereas in practice the animal would be walking.

Please contact me for an appointment

07779 003359

instagram HuntHillPhysio
facebook HuntHillPhysio

’The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK’s 56,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and associates’

This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now