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The Effect of a Physiotherapy Intervention on Thoracolumbar Posture in Horses

This is the title of a peer reviewed study published in the journal Animals in October 2020. The authors are Amy Shakeshaft and Gillian Tabor. The link to the full article is below, it is open access which means it’s free for anyone to read.

Amy and Gillian looked at whether baited stretches changed the shape of the horses back. They wanted to know whether a particular method worked to measure the shape of the back. Then they wanted to know whether the shape of the horse’s back changed from before baited stretches to after baited stretches.

Baited stretches, more commonly known as carrot stretches, are called ‘dynamic mobilisation exercises’ in this study.

Amy and Gillian used a flexicurve ruler to measure the shape of the horse’s back, as in the picture. You might have seen one used by a saddle fitter. They then used an adapted flexicurve ruler to do the same thing. They found that the measurements with the adapted flexicurve ruler were more accurate than with the one that wasn’t adapted.

They then used the adapted flexicurve ruler to measure the shapes of the backs of 12 horses. Six of the horses then did baited stretches, and six did nothing. They measured the shapes of the backs again 30 minutes later, an one hour later, and 24 hours later.

They found there was a significant change in the shape of the back 30 minutes after and one hour after baited stretches. This was compared to the horses who didn’t do the stretches. There was no difference between the two groups 24 hours later.

This shows that baited stretches have a short term effect on the shape of the back. The suggestion is that doing the stretches regularly could lead to a cumulative effect. That means that as muscle strength builds over time, the change in the shape of the back would become permanent.

It’s great to see scientific evidence in a published, peer reviewed journal supporting the exercises that I dish out to handlers on a daily basis!

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion