Back pain is a common problem in riding horses. (Jeffcott 1979).
While it has been known for centuries that horses have back pain, the technology to accurately diagnose the cause of primary or secondary back pain has only come about in recent years, and this new technology has far to develop to become sufficient. The main problem in the traditional treatment of horses is the Lack Of Education of horse owners and riders. Here in Academia Liberti, we are successfully building the bridge between equine science and the average horseman who sees horses as objects for use and riding.
I am convinced that as soon as the average horsemen gets to know about the anatomy and the biomechanics of his/her animal, and accepts the harm which he/she unknowingly causes through riding, that riding a horse will be seen by all respects, as the harmful act it currently is performed to be. There are times and ways of riding that prevent this harm and damage from occurring, as mentioned in the preface of this study which are largely unknown by the conventional riding fraternity.
Let us take a look at the horses’ vertebrae closely in order to understand what happens there, and what we have to take responsibility for. The thoracic vertebrae are designed with a series of rib joints and planes which are built through caudal costal fovea (fovea costalis caudalis). They are very deep in the cranial area (front) of the thoracic vertebrae, and become shallow towards the caudal area (back). In the last three thoracic vertebrae, fovea costalis cranialis merge with fovea costalis tranversalis in the transverse processes. The mobility of the single vertebrae with one another reduces as it moves distally down the spine. The reason for this is that joint planes of the articular process in the cranial part of the thoracic vertebrae [st??] are tangential (nearly touching), and further caudal they rotate and the last two thoracic vertebrae are sagittal (more solidly connected). (Jeffcott and Dalin 1980; Towsend 1985;). From this area they are merged with the mamillary process of the lumbar vertebrae to the sacrum.
Extremitas craniales and caudales (spaces between) are narrow and the vertebrae are connected with epiphyseal plates (cartilage). In areas of the sensitive and fragile crista ventralis (ventral crests) of thoracic vertebrae 10 through thoracic vertebrae 15 (which is the saddle/rider area), under a weight load - exostosis (boney growth) and osteophytes (bone spurs) develop. Over time this will often lead to the complete fusion of the vertebrae. Spatium interarcuale is the dorsal (upper) space between the vertebral arches of each vertebrae. Under the weight of a rider, the vertebral arches overlap and there becomes no space between them any longer – until the rider and saddle are removed.
Graphic Copyright Academia Liberti
The length of time for complete growth of the epiphyseal plates (cartilage) in the body of the lumbar vertebrae of thoroughbred horses for example, is not until they are (on average) between 6 and 9 years old! (Wissdorf, Gerhards, Huskamp, Deegen, 2002)
In the thoracic area of the spine, the spinous processes thicken and grow upward forming tuberositas. This building of the spine of the vertebrae (spinous process) starts at the age of six months to one year, and generally takes until the end of the horses third year to reach their end shape. The complete building of the epiphyseal plates can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years! (Grimmelmann, 1977)
This leads to the conclusion that NO horse should be mounted before AT LEAST 5 years of age. The common practice is that horses are, at the latest, broken-in by 3 years of age… many even at the age of 2.
This is not acceptable. This must be changed.
These questions are unavoidable... Why do vet’s not educate people about this?
Why do they recommend riding as therapy to help horses who have health problems?
Why are they not fulfilling the aim of their calling?
Why do they not help horses which are ridden, and with this tortured and misused, whose health is HARMED right in front of their eyes?
I would like to ask you all to write down these facts and ask your vet these questions. Please write your report in the “Riding Harms Horse and Human” topic on our forum.
The columna vertebralis of the horse is not very flexible. The following directions of movement are possible:
- Lateroflexion (movement to right or left)
- Dorsoflexion (sinking of the back)
- Ventroflexion (bending upward/ lifting of the back)
- Axial rotation (rotation around longitudinal axis)
Graphic Copyright Academia Liberti
Towsand and Leach (1984) investigated mobility of the vertebral column without soft tissue on it, same as Krueger did with the muscles on it (1939). The conclusions are:
T1-T2 good dorsoventral flexion
T2-T17 minimal dorsoventral flexion, distinct axial rotation and lateral flexion
T17-L6 reduced axial rotation. Through the transverse processes lateroflexion is NOT POSSIBLE.
L6-S1 good dorsoventral flexion
Anatomie und Propädeutik des Pferdes (Wissdorf, 2002)
Through the movement of the vertebral column in a dorsoventral (up and down) motion, the space between the spinous processes changes. Dalin and Jeffcott (1980) recorded these changes by measuring the space between the spinous processes in the area of thoracic vertabrae 10 through lumbar vertebrae 2. By manipulating the spine to a maximum dorsoflexion state, the change in the distance between the spinous processes was 0.8-3.8 mm, and by manipulating the spine to a maximum ventroflexion state, the spaces between was 1.1-6.0 mm. The narrowest spaces between the spinous processes were measured in the middle area of the back (thoracic13- thoracic15), right where the saddle area is.
During dorsoflexion (sinking) of the back, the spinous processes of the vertebrae come close to each other and the vertebral bodies move away from each other, and are only held by the ventral longitudinal ligament. When the horse is ridden (without NATURAL, FREE collection) the dorsoflexion is Extreme, and after a very short time (depending on the weight of the rider) the horse feels Pain. The intervertebral discs are also heavily stressed. The free collection is the collection of all muscles and thus supports the horse to carry her own body as well as eventuall unnatural additional weight for some short period of time.
Horses that are not taught through fear and punishment, show this pain CLEARLY.
Free horses have free will, slaves have no free will. Slaves have no voice.
To be continued…
*English Edit Courtesy of Tamlyn Labuschagne Ennor