Hoof abscess? No stable? No problem!

If your horse lives out and gets a hoof abscess, what do you do, if you have no access to a stable or dry tie up area? Here I have included some photos of how to successfully poultice a hoof without a suitable area to stand your horse. Sadly, my last mare suffered from these on a regular basis, so I became a dab hand at poulticing, even when she lived out 24/7 in a wet muddy field in the winter!

First scrub the foot out, here we are using hibiscrub, a water or dandy brush and a nail brush to really get the mud out from those hard to reach places.

Placing foot on a folded towel will help keep the underside clean while you scrub the hoof and up to the pastern.

No bad! Once the hoof is as clean as you can get it, place your drawing medium over the clean hoof, here I’m using nappies. For a large hoof you may need to use two.

Then using vet wrap bandage in place.

Next, wrap the hoof using thick polythene, plastic feed sacks are perfect, try cutting diagonally across the bag, the corner is the perfect shape for wrapping a hoof.

Duck tape is your best friend here, using the same technique as bandaging, cover the plastic in waterproof tape, it needs to cover the whole of the hoof, especially the toe and hoof wall area which can break through the plastic and tape if not enough is applied over these areas. As long as you use enough tape and reapply the dressing twice a day, it should keep the hoof clean and dry while the poultice does its job.

Just trim any excess plastic to prevent your horse from treading on it with the other leg and hey presto, your dressing will stay in place.


Horse riders: a weighty issue.

Last week (March 25th) the press was buzzing with stories of overweight British riders causing suffering, pain and lameness to their horses, sparking debate amongst horse owners, worried that they were hurting their horses.  The research that these stories were based upon was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour.  As a therapist, these stories drew my attention and prompted me to seek out the original paper.  On reading it, it was clear the press had blown it out of all proportion as usual!

The “10% criteria” as stated in the paper was being examined after an “industry practitioner” proposed that a 10% rider to horse bodyweight ratio to be optimum, 15% to be satisfactory and 20% to be a welfare issue.  All riders in the study were of a healthy body mass index (BMI), a medical measure of healthy body weight, and were found to be between 14.2% and 16.6% of their horses’ bodyweight.  The authors aknowledged that the 10% rule appeared to be unrealistic within the general riding population and that more research was needed.  No measures of rider suitability were made, neither were any measures of lameness or pain associated with increased rider weight.

When looking further into this issue, I uncovered research published in 2008 that found horses could comfortably carry 15% or 20% of their bodyweight, while carrying 25-30% caused increased breathing, heart rate took longer to return to pre-exercise levels, and post-exercise muscle soreness and tightness were more common.  Carrying over 30% of their bodyweight horses were also found to have increased blood lactate levels, a measure of how hard the muscles are working.  The researchers of this study also found that increased cannon bone circumference and horses with wider loins were able to carry more weight, a scientific understanding for measuring the cannon bone when judging weight carrying capacity.

In addition to this, research carried out on japanese native ponies found that they were more than capable of carrying up to 29% of their body weight without detrimental effect.

Riders obviously need to be sensible when following the results of any research.  A 500Kg cob with good conformation and no injuries would obviously be able to carry more weight than a 500Kg Thoroughbred.

Previous injury, age and conformation would all have an impact on how much weight a horse can carry.  Overweight horses would need to carry less weight that a similar horse of normal weight, carrying its own excess weight plus the weight of a heavy rider would inevitably cause problems, possibly lameness or muscle damage.

Regardless of how well a horse and rider are matched, taking into account their weight ratio, conformation, previous injuries and weight of the horse, being ridden with correct technique and training, with a rider that is truely self balanced is the best way to increase performance, longevity of working life, and welfare of the horse.

Preventing injuries in agility dogs

Regardless of whether you train for fun, fitness or competition, having your dog pick up an injury can be devastating.  Vets have recently become increasingly concerned about the number of dogs injured whilst training and competing in dog sports.

Careful management of your beloved pet can make all the difference with regards to lowering the risk of becoming injured.

Recent studies have found that keeping your dog within a healthy weight for its breed, height and age is the biggest factor for preventing injuries, especially concussion injuries and the early onset of conditions such as arthritis.

Research into agility has found that  the most common injuries are soft tissue sprains and strains.  A recent survey found that although the majority of competing dogs were uninjured, 33% of dogs in training had suffered an injury, while 58% of those injuries had occurred at a competition.  The shoulders were most commonly injured, followed by the back, stifle (knee), thigh, hip and toes.  The majority of injuries occurred on the A-frame, dogwalk or bar jump.  Training in Flyball on rubber matting was associated with an increased likelihood of arthritis, foot pad and dew claw injuries than those trained on grass, this would probably be similar for agility training, although no studies have looked at training on an equestrian sand surface, where many clubs often train.

If your dog becomes injured STOP.  Do not continue training or competing and seek help from your vet.  Helpful first aid is that anything that feels hot or warmer than usual to the touch should have an ice pack placed against it.  If it is in an area where the dog has less, or thin fur then wrap the ice pack in a flannel to prevent ice burns on the skin.  Try to hold it there for as long as the dog will allow, but no longer than 20 minutes at a time.  Repeat this several times a day until you can see your vet.

There are often signs before an injury happens that owners should pay attention to.  Slower than usual times, knocking poles, slower through the weave or corners are all signs that your dog may not be quite comfortable, or may have a muscle pull or strain.

If your dog is lame, then you need to speak to your vet and get proper treatment for the lameness.  Sometimes your vet may not be able to pinpoint a reason for why your dogs performance has decreased, especially if your dog is not actually lame, under these circumstances you may need to have your dog checked over by a therapist.  Therapists, such as McTimoney therapists, can help to alleviate tight muscles, which in turn can help prevent strain on tendons.  Tendons are more likely to be injured if the muscle associated with it is tight.  Treatment can help increase performance and prevent injury.  The therapist can advise on suitable exercises to help strengthen any weak muscles, this will help improve performance, prevent injury and allow your dog to continue enjoying agility for many years.  Regular treatment, say at the beginning or end of the indoor season, can help to spot any injuries or tight muscles before they prevent the dog from competing.

Following a suitable warm up and cool down routine will dramatically help lower the odds of picking up and injury, as will paying attention to your dogs overall fitness and energy levels, if your dog seems to have less energy than usual it may be necessary to speak to a qualified nutirtionist, veterinary nurse or vet about what to feed to increase vitality or control weight.

Starting out in agility and keeping your dog injury free

If you are thinking about taking agility up with your dog, first think about how fit your dog is.  Discuss with your vet any injuries your dog may have had in the past, and how this will affect his ability to enjoy agility.  If your dog needs to lose weight, then think about increasing your daily walks, walk further or faster, or increase the number of smaller walks in the day if possible, to help your dog to lose weight before starting any fast work.  Walking on the lead is the best exercise for obese dogs.  If you have a puppy, wait until the dog reaches maturity before undertaking any high impact work, such as repeated jumping at speed.  An immature skeleton or being overweight can lead to an increased risk in concussion injuries or affect joint development in the young dog.

While your dog is still unfit you can start to introduce the obedience aspect required for agility, and the agility equipment to your dog, in a safe environment and preferably with an experienced trainer.  They will introduce the equipment slowly and help to increase your dogs confidence.  The dog walk, weave, tunnel, and contact points can all be taught at a walk, on a lead.  For the health of your dog, leave any jumping until his weight is close to normal for his size, breed and age.  Your vet can help advise you when your dog is at a suitable weight to start jumping.

As your dog builds muscle, having him checked over by a qualified therapist can help prevent problems futher donw the road, the therapist will release tight muscles, this will help prevent muscles tears, and tendon strains, they can advise if the training can be pushed on or whether your dog needs to have less exercise for a while, allowing the body to repair and adjust to the increasing demand.

Remember to always warm both you and your dog up properly before starting any training, I have laid out some simple advice about warming up your dog in another article.

Being sensible and following the advise of your vet, trainer and therapist will help you and your dog to enjoy agility and help reduce the risk of any injuries occurring.

Guide to warming up your dog for competition or training

Whatever discipline you compete in or even if your dog is a working dog, the warm up is one of the most important factors in keeping your dog sound for the long term and injury free.  I would advise warming up even when training, whether you are practicing speed and obstacle skills or improving general behaviour training, the warm up will help your dog stay focussed and limber.  Warm up and cool down before and after every training session and competition, even if you are just training in your garden.

More than one study has looked at the effects of the warm up on injury rates, regardless of the sport and has found that dogs need to be warmed up for at least 9 minutes, otherwise muscle injuries are commonplace.

Start by brisk walking for 2 minutes, then trotting your dog for a few minutes (about 3 minutes) then introduce some cantering for a minute or 2, finally introduce some low jumps (for flyball and agility).

Include some active stretches after this, instead of holding your dog in a stretch, active stretching has proven, in both human and animal sport, to increase power and acceleration, while passive stretching, where the handler holds the dogs legs in a stretch, immediately before training and competing actually decreases performance.  Using a baited stretch, where a piece of food is used to move the dogs head around to his flank, while his feet stay where they are!  Move the dogs head between his front legs, by getting his nose to follow a treat, repeat on the other side. Active stretching prevents the muscles from being overstretched before strenuous exercise. Ask your dog to stand with his front legs on top of a box, to stretch the back and hind leg muscles. Teaching or encouraging your dog to “play bow” on command helps to stretch the shoulder, triceps and back muscles.

Finally at the end of the session remember to cool down effectively, 10 to 25 minutes of walking, start at a fast walk, then gradually change to a slower pace.


FlyBall is a high impact sport where injuries can occur, mainly in the shoulder, back and stifles.  The picture below shows hyperflexion of the carpal joint, or wrist, that occurs when a dog hits the box at speed.  To help prevent injury warm your dog up for 10 minutes before training or competing.  Keep your dog a healthy weight, this will help lower the risk of concussion injuries.

Having your dog treated during the competition season can help to indentify any tight muscles that have developed that could lead to injury if not recognised early enough.  Treatment can also help if your dog starts to produce slower times or doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself as much as usual.

Pacing gait in dogs, what does it mean?

In general dogs will move by using a walk, trot, gallop or pacing gait.

The walk is a four time gait, with each leg landing before the next foot leaves the ground.  The trot is a two time gait, with diagonal pairs of legs landing and pushing off at the same time, as seen below.

The pace occurs where the legs on one side of the body land and push off at the same time (see below).  Dogs can pace in walk or trot (a walk type pace or a trot type pace).  Some breeds of dog are more likely to pace than others, for instance labradors and retrievers are dogs with a natural pacing gait.  Dogs with long legs and short backs, especially crossbreeds, will pace to prevent the back feet from stepping on or interferring with the front feet in trot.

The pace is an efficiant gait, many owners may observe their dogs pacing towards the end of a long walk, or if the dog have been particularly energetic whilst playing.

dog paceIf, however, the owner were to notice the dog pacing most of the time in walk and trot, this could be a sign of discomfort or even pain in the muscles through the middle of the back.

The reason a dog will pace when this happens is that when trotting there is considerable rotational movement through the middle of the back.  If the muscles here are sore the dog will pace to avoid that rotational movement, stabilising and splinting the centre of the back.

As long as there is no problem with arthritis in the spine or a problem with the vertebral discs then getting your dogs back treated by a specialist, such as a McTimoney therapist, can help relive this discomfort.  After treatment the dog is less likely to pace (although there may be an adaptation period while the dog realises that trotting no longer causes discomfort) and the dog will appear to have much more energy.

McTimoney Manipulation and Sports Massage Therapy for the Retired Greyhound

racing greyhoundRehoming a retired greyhound can be an extremely rewarding experience.  Many greyhounds retire either because they were too slow or they picked up an injury.  Left forelimb and right hindlimb injuries are most common, including muscle tears, ligament damage and fractures.  Because of running in the same direction on a tight, oval track, a recent study found that most greyhounds had their pelvis tilted to the left, while racing this gives an advantage when cornering, but once retired this can put strain on the muscles and joints as the greyhound begins to age.  Tight and tense muscles over the back may cause discomfort and lead to compensatory injuries.  Getting your retired greyhound treated may help him settle into his new lifestyle as treatment promotes a sense of calmness and well being, it could help discover any potential problems that can be addressed with guidance.  For more information or to book an appointment go to www.whisperingequus.co.uk

McTimoney Therapy for Cats

It’s not just dogs and horses that can need some help with physical therapy.

Most cats owners don’t think about having their cat treated when it looks stiff or sore.  Cats can get into all kinds of mischief, especially when they have free access to the outdoors. Jumping over fences, scaling walls, being chased or fighting with other cats can all cause misalignments which leads to tight muscles and eventually discomfort.  Repeated jumping or falls or slips from high place can lead to the cat compensating for a pulled muscle.

Limping or favouring one leg can cause muscle injuries elsewhere in the body.  McTimoney treatment can help compensatory injuries from developing, allowing your cat to live a long and active life.  I have three cats of and am experienced in handling them, I realise that cats are unused to being handled by strangers and work to help the animal feel relaxed during the treatment.  Continue to read about the case study of Pickle, pictured.

Pickle: Case Study.

Pickle had been lame for a couple of weeks after a fall, the vet suggested to keep her quiet until the lameness had gone.  After this time Pickle still walked “unusually” and had started to canter everywhere with an unusual gait, she was brought to me for treatment.

Pickle was a bit unsure at first but allowed me to make the first few adjustments, after that she relaxed enough for me to stand her square and was treated without any restraint.

After the treatment Pickle was back to her old self, chasing anything that moved, galloping at speed everywhere and seemed much more comfortable, even sleeping soundly where before she had woken often and moved around a lot.

Hello world!

Hi, thanks for reading!  I have started this blog as an outlet for the many ideas for articles and advice I have regarding my profession of McTimoney Animal Manipulation Therapist.  Based in Sussex in the UK, I run a business partnership called Whispering Equus with my good friend Chris Morris, a Monty Roberts Instructor.  I am an animal bodywork therapist and believe that small changes to an animals life, routine or management can bring increased comfort and well being for the animal, and a better relationship with the animal for the owner.