Equine Wellness Symposium

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Whether you are an equine veterinarian, an equine chiropractor, equine physiotherapist, equine bodyworker, massage practitioner, farrier or a rider concerned to giving your horse the very best, the combination of these two great equine experts together in the UK, was an amazing opportunity to observe and learn about equine laterality from the very best.

Equine soundness and performance

Designed to teach those interested and involved in whole horse health about the causes of equine laterality (crookedness & unevenness) and its consequences on equine soundness and performance, this symposium took attendees through the real-life assessment and treatment of a number of sports horses suffering from common sports horse ailments including ulcers, tendon and ligament injuries, sacroiliac and lumbar pain, TMJ, hyoid, atlantooccipital pain, and more.

Attendees learnt to assess horses and develop a better understanding of how to straighten and rebalance horses using Dr Ridgway’s highly effective integrative medicine approach, in tandem with the in-hand and ridden corrective work practised by Manolo Mendez.

manolo inhand

Focus on equine fascial, CNS and musculoskeletal systems

Dr Kerry Ridgway, DVM demonstrated and explained his evaluation process and the unique acupoint diagnostic and treatment protocol he has discovered to treat musculoskeletal pain and ulcers. He also covered the advanced soft tissue mobilization techniques he uses to investigate musculoskeletal issues in horses, especially the performance horse.

Manolo Mendez, horseman and dressage specialist demonstrated his checking process and in-hand, hands-on and ridden re-alignment and rehabilitation techniques.

Develop a “whole horse” perspective of equine laterality issues

The weekend course consisted of the following:

  • Equine laterality pattern evaluation tutorials (dynamic and static)
  • Lecture explanation and demonstration of the best integrative medicine treatment plan (acupressure, stretching, bodywork and more) for each case
  • Demonstration of the best course of in-hand or ridden corrective gymnasticising exercises for each case.

When the weekend course concluded, attendees were able to:

  • Look at a horse’s body and identify what specific patterns of equine laterality may be present
  • Recognise unhealthy equine postures, and understand how and why they contribute to crookedness and lead to unsoundness
  • Recognise good equine postures and understand how and why they are healthy and lead to soundness and better performance
  • Understand the role of integrative medicine and training in supporting, restoring or enhancing equine straightness and balance.
A small number of attendees  booked an extra two days, where they were taught personally by Dr. Ridgway in a small group situation, the hands on techniques for assessing patterns of muscular tension and then using acupressure, stretching, bodywork and more to improve and release equine muscular tension. 

This symposium was designed for equine wellness professionals such as veterinarians, osteopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, vet nurses, farriers, equine massage practitioners and individuals wishing to understand basic training principles that promote equine straightness and balance interested in the relationship between biomechanics, training and equine soundness.

Why did they come to the Equine Wellness Symposium?

Every horse is born with a degree of laterality, which can be lessened or worsened through training and management. Crooked, asymmetric, and uneven are also terms used to describe equine laterality.

The consequences of uncorrected crookedness include impaired performance, lameness, training and behavioural issues. Most of the musculoskeletal issues (including lameness) that veterinarians treat every day in their practice have their roots in the issue of crookedness. From a training standpoint, crookedness unaddressed leads to horses with un-pure gaits, straightness, suppleness, bend and balance issues.

This can translate into lowered performance and career-interrupting or ending lamenesses. Most hoof growth patterns and asymmetric heel height patterns that are seen daily by farriers result from a specific forelimb dominance. The muscle patterns seen by equine bodyworkers are over 90 percent related to crookedness. Many performance issues seen by trainers are related to unidentified and unaddressed laterality.

manolo and kerry

Understand equine laterality and the implications

Without understanding the causes and biomechanics of asymmetric heel heights that are a serious compromise to the long term use and soundness of the horse, the problem will likely not be addressed. Veterinarians will only treat the symptoms and consequences. Through understanding the causes and biomechanics, Equine Wellness Professionals and other individuals involved with horses, can work as a team with owners, trainers and farriers to correct, or at the very least, manage the condition to keep the horses more comfortable and sound.

Symposium description

Over the course of two days and the assessment of sport horses, attendees were exposed to two key concepts affecting equine health:

Laterality: The Crooked Horse Syndrome

Attendees listened to and watched an examination and explanation of the biomechanics of the “natural horse” and how the biomechanics must be changed for the horse that is to be ridden. Dr Ridgway discussed and showed how “laterality,” i.e. right or left forelimb dominance is the source of the “crooked horse syndrome.” The human biped (right or left “handed”) was contrasted with the forelimb dominance of the quadruped horse. The examination showed that the owner/trainer/veterinarian can identify the dominance and the associated problems.

The Causes and Biomechanics of Asymmetric Heel Heights

Any horse with a high/low heel problem is by definition a crooked horse and his performance and soundness will be compromised. Over 70 percent of horses show front foot heel height asymmetry. The most common cause is associated with laterality, but this is not the only source. The lecture and demonstration covered both causes and corrections. Asymmetry changes joint angles from the ground up, causing a marked asymmetry of the shoulder and muscles behind the shoulder. This results in serious problems with saddle fit and the ability of the rider to sit straight and properly in the saddle.

On both weekend days, Dr Ridgway and Manolo Mendez conducted:

  • Practical Equine Locomotion Evaluations and Equine Musculoskeletal Evaluation Techniques.
  • Assessment using chalk and dots, Dr. Ridgway and Manolo Mendez demonstrated how to evaluate horse’s gaits for symmetry, regularity, scope and straightness. At a halt and in movement, particular attention was placed on healthy diagonal pairing, whole body placement, head and tail position, and how the pectoral and gluteus muscles move in contrast to one another and more.

A number of sports horses were evaluated in-hand at walk, trot and canter. In addition, Dr Ridgway and Mr Mendez demonstrate d and discussed how to evaluate horses for laterality patterns (crookedness & unevenness) from a musculoskeletal perspective and how to “scan” the horse’s body for existing and future issues, paying special attention to how to recognise irregular hoof alignment, detrimental postures, poor or good neck, back, and croup muscle development, tone and shape, coat texture and patterns and more.

Using different sports horses throughout the days, Dr Ridgway and Mr Mendez covered how to:

  • Identify key bony and muscular landmarks, and discussed the importance of each landmark, what to look for in muscle tonus, size and feel-wise, and why it matters. They compared and contrasted both halves of the horse, defining and demonstrating symmetry and explaining why it matters.
  • Execute range-of-motion exercises and help Equine Wellness Professionals evaluate horse’s strong and weak points to develop a muscular rebalancing and straightening training program accordingly.
  • Use in-hand or ridden exercises designed to straighten and rebalance the horse according to its specific needs.

Dr Ridgway covered the following:

  • Acupoints indicating musculo-skeletal issues
  • Theory of acupoints for assessment
  • Contraindications (and common sense)
  • Related pathologies of thoracolumbar region/pelvis Related pathologies of the cervical region
  • Related pathologies of the forelimb and the hindlimb
  • Gait Assessments in regards to clinical reasoning and applications

Soft tissue techniques used by both Dr Ridgway and Mr Mendez to address musculoskeletal, CNS and fascial issues included:

  • Massage techniques
  • Myofascial techniques
  • Soft tissue mobilization and releases
  • Range of motion exercises targeting regions of the spine, pelvis and limbs.
Equine laterality and training

Biography of Kerry Ridgway DVM

Kerry J. Ridgway DVM was a US-based “Integrative Medicine” specialized veterinarian, competitor, author, judge, and instructor who lectured around the world teaching veterinarians, trainers, and riders about issues that compromised equine health such as laterality, high and low heel syndrome and ulcers.

Dr Ridgway’s “whole horse health” approach married conventional medicine and alternative treatment modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, hoof care, saddle fit, kinesiology, neuromuscular and myofascial therapies, as well as dental health and nutrition. Dr Ridgway contributed a chapter to Pete Ramey’s new book “Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot,” and studied for several years in the USA and Germany with Klaus Schoeneich, author of “Straightening the Crooked Horse: Correct Imbalance, Relieve Strain and Encourage Free Movement with an Innovative System of Straightness Training.”

Dr Ridgway was elected to the Endurance Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport, and for his development of the “Cardiac Recovery Index,” a standard adopted internationally. He became the first approved FEI Judge when the sport of endurance riding was officially recognized as a discipline by the FEI. Dr Ridgway was also a founding member of the “International Association for Equine Sports Medicine,” and served many years as the chairman of the American Veterinarian Advisory Committee for the American Endurance Ride Conference. Sadly Dr Ridgway passed away in 2016.

Dr Ridgway is also the author of two DVDs on Saddle Fitting and Ulcer identification and treatment through acupressure. For more information visit Dr Ridgway website.

Biography of Manolo Mendez

At 18, Manolo Mendez was one of six founding members of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and its very first Head Rider, working closely with School Director Don Domecq. Based in Jerez, Spain, the school is one of the four classical schools of riding, which include the Cadre Noir in Saumur, the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art in Lisbon.

An expert horseman with over forty years of experience spanning classical dressage, Doma Vaquera and jumping, Manolo Mendez is considered one of the world’s leading experts on piaffe, passage and pirouettes. However, it is not this facility with the 3Ps that sets Manolo apart but his ability to rehabilitate horses.

Always a considerate rider and trainer, Manolo became increasingly passionate about the intersection of equine soundness, wellbeing, welfare and training in the early seventies and began experimenting with bodywork, in-hand and riding to develop, enhance or repair the horses that were entrusted to him.

To this day, Manolo uses his custom three-prong approach daily. He will dismount and use in-hand or bodywork to unblock a horse or facilitate its learning. His work is characterized by an ability to inspire trust and confidence in horses, feel and create spinal alignment – including under saddle – and create and restore rhythm, balance and straightness.

One could say Manolo works within what Dr Bennett calls “the envelop of release” and what Dr Denoix speaks off when he notes the relationship between muscular tonus and emotional equilibrium.

The horse’s muscles provide the earliest indications of anxiety. Muscular tonus is closely involved with variations in its psychological state. It is important to recognize that emotional equilibrium is as vital to optimum sporting performance as the physiological readiness of the underlying mechanical structures, which will not perform on command unless the horse is comfortable and confident  ~ Denoix & Pailloux, Physical Therapy and Massage for the Horse

In all his work, Manolo is dedicated to a soft, sympathetic and thorough training method, which prepares horses physically and psychologically for each stage of training, from Training Level to Grand Prix.

He uses the same approach while working with horses from every discipline including western, jumping, eventing, working equitation, hacking and even…driving.

Over the years, Manolo has become sought after by riders, veterinarians, chiropractors and other equine wellness practitioners for his holistic approach to training, developing and rehabbing horses, which incorporates his unique brand of bodywork, in-hand work and riding.

For more information visit the Manolo Mendez website.

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Last Updated on December 23, 2021 by Forageplus Team