Dangling front legs!

How to fix dangling front legs showjumping.

Call Sam Sherrington on 0452 472 959 for further information on Human and Animal Osteopathy.

Nothing is more frustrating than a horse who suddenly begins to knock poles when jumping. A dangly front leg (or legs) can be the source of huge frustration particularly when all the schooling in the world just doesn’t seem to be working to get your horse to pick up in front. Lots of tight grids, well placed poles on an upright, leaving off the boots, using heavier poles etc. can all give a horse a little reminder that front legs are worth lifting, but what about when none of these have any long term effect and your beloved gee gee just keeps reverting to dangly, pole knocking form?

This is a problem I’d often see in both young and older horses, and often it will trace back to an actual fatigue issue.  Due to restriction in the neck/shoulder, thoracics and ribcage the horse is having to work at least twice as hard to lift the shoulder and forelimb when jumping. Those muscles can become hugely fatigued and sore and try as he might, your horse begins to leave a leg or two dangling. Other signs this could be the source of your pole knocking woes include a sudden crankiness about being groomed around the shoulder or under the girth or when being girthed up. Poor drainage from the limb might also be evident with an increase in windgalls particularly after standing in for the night, or increased heat in the lower limb after work. You may find the horse begins to dip away from the saddle even though the saddler just confirmed that it does in fact fit the horse just fine. Your farrier may complain that your horse has become suddenly a little more recalcitrant about standing on one leg for shoeing. If you attempt to stretch your horses leg out in front after girthing (which incidentally isn’t the best way to ensure no pinching and can be risky for the horse – more on that later) you may find your horse leaning back and trying to pull the leg away from you.


So, a few boxes ticked there? What can we do about this?

Firstly it would be good to consider if your horse is showing any signs of lameness which warrant a visit from the vet.  Then ask if he is due his biannual Osteopathic (or similar) MOT. Working horses do best with a regular once over, even if all feels to be moving ok in work, often niggles from slips in the field, jolts landing from a fence or simply working hard for us can be found and trouble averted before it becomes real trouble.

Secondly, have a good, but gentle, poke and prod around the muscles around the shoulder girdle and upper forelimb (7, 11-19 in the image above) . Can you find any soreness or ropey patches through these muscles? Pick up your horses leg and bring the heel towards the elbow, then try to gently move the whole shoulder girdle and foreleg in all directions in a big circle. That is, in front, out to the side, behind, and under the body, then up towards the wither and down towards the ground. If your horse reacts to these movements or you find there are restrictions in any direction again it would be worth giving your friendly Osteo a call.

If you find tightness but no strong reaction from your horse (beware, so many of our beloved beastie are hugely stoic and pretend all is well even when they’re struggling), you can try for a week or so to use that circular range of motion as a warm up exercise to help mobilise the shoulder and see if there is an improvement in the lift over fences. If no change, again it would be worth getting an osteopathic MOT to determine if there are deeper restrictions preventing the muscles from releasing.

Finally, don’t forget to consider your own position. Are you leaning significantly to one side over fences and creating extra work for your horse? That’s something for both your instructor and also possibly your Osteopath to help with.


As always, it’s worth considering if there are any signs of needing a vet. Problems in the lower limb or feet may also be worth ruling out. And, as for the best way to make sure there’s no girth pinch – a simple hand run down between the elbow and the girth will do the trick, without any risk of overstretching cold muscles.

Happy jumping, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like that MOT for your horse (or yourself)


SPD/PGP in Pregnancy

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction or Pelvic Girdle Pain is a common reason women visit an Osteopath during pregnancy and sometimes after pregnancy. Beginning from as early as the first trimester, however more commonly from around 20 weeks onwards, SPD creates a distinctive pain in the pubis at the front of the pelvis often with pain also felt through the back of the pelvis and radiation into the hips, thighs, lower back and abdomen. Women typically find this pain to be at its worst when they are standing, especially on one leg such as when getting dressed, or when separating the knees such as when turning in bed, getting into and out of the car, walking with long strides, swimming breaststroke or having sex.

The hormone relaxin is often blamed almost exclusively for SPD, however research is quite inconclusive with 3 out of 4 high quality studies included in a 2012 systematic review finding no association between relaxin levels and pregnancy related pelvic pain. This leaves us with the question of – if relaxin is potentially less of a factor that typically thought, what really is going on?

Pregnancy places a huge strain on the body in many ways, with great changes in the physiology and functioning of the whole body. The musculoskeletal system is not immune to these changes. Small functional restrictions that the body as a whole was able to cope with quite readily prior to pregnancy become potential sites of pain.

Osteopathically, the most significant function of the body is movement. I like to explain it as the human body has a certain amount of movement it considers ideal at each joint within the body. some move a lot, some move very little, but every joint has the capacity for some movement. Within the axial skeleton, the lower back (lumbar) and neck (cervical) regions move relatively a lot, the upper back (thoracic) significantly less, and the joints between the spine and the pelvis and within the pelvic ring, very little at all. Ideally, the day we are born we have perfect movement at each of these joints, though sadly that’s not often the case, and that’s a topic for another day. Over the course of our lives we bump, slouch, crash, twist and jolt our bodies many thousands of times, many without ever really considering it an ‘incident’. We go through childhood bouncing around like kids do, we spend our school years carrying increasingly heavy loads on our backs and spending increasing amounts of time sitting in front of a desk. We then join the workforce where we typically do one activity repetitively, whether that’s more sitting at a desk, manual labour or driving or … well you get the picture. All of these factors ever so steadily use up our body’s ability to compensate for the little restrictions that build up in our body. That slip when you fell on your backside in the big freeze might have created a restriction through your sacroiliac joint between your spine and your pelvis, or perhaps a restriction in the lumbar spine. The fatigue you feel in your thoracic spine and neck when sitting in your desk chair each day at work coupled with a minor prang in the car several years back might be representative of restrictions through the thoracic spine and the musculature associated with the entire shoulder girdle, which of course, given the human body’s love of sharing it’s woes around, begins to affect the muscles headed up into the neck. These are just two examples of the simple things we do to ourselves day in and day out. Usually we get ourselves out for a good walk, maybe do some stretches or have a hot shower and a good sleep and we feel pretty close to functional again to battle on the next day. Ultimately the body compensates for joints with restricted movement by increasing the movement in other joints and regions. Everything seems pretty hunky dory.

Then pregnancy happens and we can’t quite fathom why our body suddenly begins screaming at us.

One of the most common factors in pelvic girdle pain in general, but in pregnancy in particular, in my experience is that the sacroiliac joints and the pubic symphysis are joints which aren’t designed to move very much at all. They are also joints which don’t have any muscles directly supporting them, so once ligaments begin to be hit with the effects of relaxin, they are prime candidates for strain when related areas of the body aren’t moving the way they ideally should be. This makes treatment of pelvic girdle pain often quite simple. Get the restrictions elsewhere moving and the body is no longer forced to seek extra movement through these little joints which aren’t designed to be moving a whole lot. Often, simply balancing the pelvis and getting the thoracic spine moving is sufficient to get a woman out of pain. Naturally the body, being the wondrous complex marvel that it is, doesn’t always make things so simple, however this simple case serves to demonstrate how Osteopathy seeks to help return the body to a state where the pains related to the strains and stresses of pregnancy can be significantly reduced or removed.

If you have any questions with regards how I can help you to enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible don’t hesitate to contact me.

Your Horse’s Body Type – Training to Avoid Injuries

When bringing a horse into training for any discipline, it is important to consider an individual plan aiming to get the best improvement in muscle strength, tone and flexibility while minimising the risk of injury. Anyone who has dealt with a range of horses within various disciplines, or even within one discipline alone will know that some horses seem so much more prone to injuries during training than others. Many times this can be due to the horses past work, for example ex-racers often come into their second career with variable degrees of ligament or joint damage due to the nature of their previous training. Starting with a fresh horse with a known history can be a major headstart, however every horse has his own physique and as such care in formulating a program accordingly can minimise the chance of injury.

Human professional athletes and their coaches have long considered their physique in optimising their training programs to get the best outcome from their training regimes and similar principles may be of great value in ensuring our horses perform their best. Three types of body type are widely recognised, the Ectomorph, the Mesomorph and the Endomorph. These three represent three distinct physiques, however in reality most individuals show elements of 2 or more.

The Ectomorph – The typical lanky thoroughbred type, light of bone, lightly or poorly muscled with weak connective tissue, they are long necked and small shouldered. They have small joints and relatively long legs in relation to their body size. They often carry low body fat, and are difficult to get good condition on, even with higher than average feed consumption. They are often also quite sensitive to temperature extremes and changes. Having poor natural muscle tone and weak connective tissue, this type is most prone to overtraining, and require the most care to build their strength gradually to allow them to perform without joint or ligament damage.

The Mesomorph – The athletic, well proportioned type with mature muscle, strong connective tissue and large bones. They tend to carry themselves well naturally, gain fitness and body condition readily. They are typically quite stoic and due to their inherent strength are more physically forgiving of errors in training than the ectomorphic type.

The Endomorph – Low natural muscle tone however, unlike the ectomorph, with work will gain muscle bulk readily. They have soft bodies and gain weight readily. They typically have smaller bone structure than the mesomorph, and due to their propensity to be ‘pudgy’ often resemble the typical “Thelwell” pony, with a big round body and little legs. This type are more resilient in training than the ectomorph, however require an awareness during training of the imbalance between body weight and the relatively small bone structure carrying this large body along.

Regardless of body type, basic principles of training are common to all. Following these guidelines you can help keep your horse fit and healthy while aiming for your ultimate performance goals.

  • Avoid excessive fatigue. Soft tissue injuries are far more common when muscles are fatigued.
  • Increased training should be matched with increased rest. It is during rest that significant increases in muscle strength and power are developed.
  • Resistance training increases the ability of muscle to endure hard training. Combinations of poles or cavalettis and working in varied and deeper surfaces build a horses core muscles required for support during faster and more jarring activities.
  • Introduce new work gradually. The more time the horse is given to build strength, the less likely he is to injure himself when being pushed during training or competition.
  • Train on as many different surfaces as possible. Varied ground stimulates the proprioceptors in the joints and improves the horses ability to maintain good stability when moving quickly over uneven ground.
  • Always incorporate a good warm up and cool down period to ensure maximum elasticity and power in the ligaments and muscles respectively during work, and preventing stiffness after work.
  • Professional athletes make use of manual therapists to ensure their bodies are working at their best and small injuries are dealt with before they become large problems. Your horse benefits in the same way from an Osteopathic consultation allowing his joints, muscles and tendons to work most efficiently and thus minimising the strain and risk of injury during your training and competition.
  • Do yourself the favour of considering your own balance and its effect on your horse. The daily impact of your imbalances can greatly affect your horses balance and work.

Following these guidelines will help both you and your horse work your best and pretty soon, you’ll start seeing the results in training and competition.