I graduated from Hartpury in 2001 with a BSc (Hons) Equine Science. I began running my own livery yard before following my passion, and training as a McTimoney Therapist. I have been practicing for over 10 years now, and have attended courses including Jim Masterson courses and Kinesio Taping, so I can use K-Tape as part of my remedial exercise prescription. Currently, I am undertaking a course in Holistic Saddle Fitting, this will further compliment the Holistic approach that I use, as poorly fitting tack can cause significant injury to the musculoskeletal system and affects the horses locomotory pattern.
What is McTimoney?
McTimoney is a holistic therapy that was developed by the late John McTimoney in the 1950’s who adapted a human technique for use on animals. It is a Chiropractic technique used to treat pain and dysfunction of the neuro-musculoskeletal system. The spine and pelvis are the main areas where treatment is given, the aim is to restore, where possible, full range of movement and function, thus allowing the body to work to its optimum level. Being a holistic therapy, the treatment is gentle and non-invasive so is readily accepted by most horses.
Adjustments are made at specific anatomical landmarks along the spine and pelvis, using the hands in a specific position. The adjustments are high velocity and low amplitude, inducing a therapeutic response in joint structures, muscle function and nerve reflexes. Due to the bodies innate ability to heal, the treatment continues to create positive changes within the body for a few days post treatment.
How does the therapy work?
Joints usually have a full range of movement, when this becomes restricted it causes dysfunction which in turn creates tension, pain and can affect the nervous system as well. The McTimoney approach helps to restore the full range of movement within the joints, releases muscle tension and nerve impingement and so reduces discomfort/pain and so optimal function of the musculoskeletal system is restored.
What causes dysfunction?
There are several things that can cause joint dysfunction, and can be divided into acute, such as a specific accident or injury, and chronic, usually due to long standing issues such as foot imbalance and poorly fitting tack. Although the horse will still be able to function, often owners see a loss of performance, stiffness or unwillingness to work. Changes in behaviour are also common indicators that the horse may be experiencing some degree of pain or discomfort.
As the horse is a prey animal, therefore movement is imperative for survival, they have a wonderfully effective compensatory ability. This means that when stiffness and pain occur they can alter their movement pattern in order to still be able to function, but not to the best of their ability. This altered gait pattern occurs more frequently in chronic cases, and several treatments may be necessary before the body becomes correctly rebalanced.
What does a treatment consist of?
Initially the McTimoney therapist will take a detailed history from the owner, to include exercise regime, feeding, past injuries or conditions. Veterinary permission to treat the animal is sought for every case, and reports provided by the McTimoney therapist upon request.
The horse will then be assessed statically and dynamically, the aim is to look for weakness, asymmetry and any locomotory pattern that may indicate dysfunction. Lastly, the therapist will palpate the horse along the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebra and also check the pelvis for asymmetry.
Once the treatment has been done, an aftercare exercise program is advised, in order to further support recovery. Therapists work closely with vets and other professionals such as Farriers so that the horse receives the best care possible.
In each following issue we will be looking at various topics that are supported by published research articles. McTimoney therapists have studied and attained a MSc in Animal Manipulation that requires a full research thesis. This research follows strict protocols and allows support data on the effects of the treatment on specific muscles, on kinematics, back dimensions, symmetry etc and also horse-rider interactions. All this continues to provide practical and informative support of how McTimoney Therapy effects the musculoskeletal system.
Written by Claire Howson BSc (Hons) P.G Dip AM
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