As I have progressed through the development of my techniques and methods I have been continually asked one question in particular; and it is “What makes you so different?” To that I have tried to answer with many different answers over the years always looking to project the same answer but each time in a more educated and knowingly manner that showed that I knew what I was talking about. But, only recently did I come up with the true answer to that question that plagued me for so long and it is answered with just two words “COMFORT” and “COMPASSION.”
I have realized that my techniques and methods are centered on the total comfort of the horse. It is having the concern for the proper alignment and operation of as many of the working parts that make up the horse and allow them to work the way that they do.
Discomfort and Attention
In order to compare pain and comfort in the horse it might be advisable to look at the two factors, as they would pertain to the human being. First, we need to be able to break the most basic of these two points down to the most general comparison factors and that being bone is bone, soft tissue is soft tissue, pain is pain and comfort is comfort. Both horse and man have all of these factors in their daily life. We both have bone and bone is composed of the same elements, which make up bone. Soft tissue is still soft tissue be it tendon, ligament or muscle and all soft tissue is covered by a membrane that is connected to the nervous system that will tense and relax according to the reaction of that same nervous system. The soft tissue is then attached to some bone in the skeletal structure of the creature we are looking at. How all of these factors interact and work in unison is what has a major controlling influence in the creation or elimination of pain that is caused internally due to skeletal misalignment.
It has been my experience that over eighty per cent of all muscle pain and or structural changes within the horse has been caused by misalignment of the skeletal structure. It has also been my experience that over eighty per cent of problems that have been sent to me, as a farrier, were correctable through the proper alignment of the skeletal structure with correct and balanced shoeing practices. Once that the horses were allowed to operate in their correct manner, the pain of the misalignment was no longer present and the horse was once again the horse that was known in the past.
In order to simply this fact, let me explain. The misalignment starts at the ground level and how the foot strikes the ground, this then starts to throw the alignment of the various joints from the foot to the shoulder and then in the neck and the back. In the case of the hind feet the joints are out off alignment from the ground to the hip, which will then misalign the pelvis and then allow for incorrect alignment of the spine into the area where the pelvis and the spine meet. That then throws out what I call the lower back of the horse and then show up as swelling of the back muscles. Now that you know how the problem is initially created and we can realize that the sore backed horse is a secondary problem, or a symptom, of the initial problem of skeletal misalignment we should realize that in order to treat the sore back correctly we must eliminate the skeletal misalignment first. We have to learn to look past the initial symptom and realize that there is a more dramatic reason that the horse has a sore back.
How does all of this happen from just the improper trimming of the horse’s feet? Simple, once that the foot of the horse is improperly trimmed and stress is placed on the area of the foot where it should not be, it then starts to misalign all of the joints in succession to a stopping point. The only difference is that the pain will magnify as it travels from the starting point to the ending point. Along with the misalignment and the pain that is created a message is generated and then sent to the brain of the horse that controls the nervous system. That signal then tries to correct the problem that has been created through the improper trimming and tense up the membrane that encases various soft tissues, that tensing up of the covering membrane will then exert pressure to the soft tissue that it covers and then the soft tissue will exert pressure to the specific bone to which it is attached to.
This combination of actions from the nervous system to the pulling of the bone will then create the misalignment of the skeletal structure where the affected bone is integrated into the entire structure of the horse. The greatest areas that I have found to be affected by this action are the area of the lower back of the horse, the hip, the neck and the poll. Again, just as in the human animal; when there is lower back pain there is also neck pain. The horse will be affected in the area of the poll when “lower” back pain is realized and since all turns start at the poll, thus affecting the turning ability of the horse.
It has been discovered through many years of research of human “biomechanics ” that certain additional facts do happen when specific areas of the body are misaligned. Through my own field work I have found that was is true for humans is also true for horses. The foremost point that was discovered was that when the area of the lower back is out of its proper alignment there is additional misalignment in the area of the neck. This was first realized in the human and then that same information was taken and applied to the horse and found to be the same.
Whenever I found the lower back of the horse to be out of alignment there was also loss of flexibility in the neck of the horse. When questions were put to the horse owner it was found that the horse would be easier to turn one way more than the other. The owner just put this off as the horse may did not like turning in that particular direction. I found that once the neck was realigned to its proper position that the horse then turned easily in both directions and equally as well. The same horse then started to have changes in their abilities in other areas such as attitude and confidence.
Additionally I have found that the use of a qualified equine chiropractor can be useful to such a horse, but if you do not correct the true condition by trimming and shoeing the feet correctly for the horse in question you will only be treating one of the symptoms. Once a horse is properly trimmed and allowed to use their body correctly for one or two shoeing cycles the majority of the alignment problems diminish and will no longer be apparent. If conditions of misalignment seem to continue after the second shoeing cycle then a equine chiropractor may need to be called in to complete the work that needs to be done to allow the horse to start to work correctly.
Over the time that I have been integrating the study of biomechanics into the aspect of shoeing horses I have found that horses are much more happy and easier to handle as well as having a much better attitude toward all of the day-to-day requirements that are handed to them.
I do believe that this has come from the release of the pain that has been present for some time. In the past a horse may have been hard to shoe or trim due to the fact that there was the constant pain factor that was present from the misalignment of the skeletal structure from the ground up. The horses that have been put into the a balance shoeing program have progressed at very astounding rates and done so happily. And happy horses are horses that want to progress and are willing to do the tasks that are asked of them.
If we look at ourselves and realize that the time that when we are the happiest are the times when there is little distraction in our own lives. We are willing to accomplish tasks around the barn and the house without any thought. It becomes automatic we feel that we are being productive and enjoying our lives. The same is true for the horse, they want to feel needed and have a purpose in life. The comfort factor and the elimination of pain from the daily tasks will allow them the same felling of self-gratification and accomplishment. Not to mention being needed and wanted.
Remember if you or a member of your family is in pain and is suffering, in most cases, they will let you know. They speak to you and tell you where it hurts; you then do all that is in your power to help them get out of that situation. The horse does the same; the only difference is they tell you through body language not through the use of a verbal communication. These are the same body signs that we use if you look closely. When members of your family are in pain and you look into their eyes you might remember that the eyes of the person effected with pain has less than bright eyes. Their eyes are dull and somewhat cloudy, the horse is the same.
Their eyes are very expressive, look deeply into them the more pain that a horse does suffer the more clouded the eye does become. The member of your family that becomes sore and does not what to do anything, so does the horse. That same member of the family becomes crabby and short in their acceptance of situations, so do horses. Again in different ways, the member of your family shouts and yells verbally and the horse reacts through the use of their body by biting or challenging and/or kicking. The horse is not mean; the horse hurts and wants to be left alone, just as you would until you felt better.
Remember to be more observant and relate to the horse in the only manner that the horse can. You need to learn to speak their language and help them through their situation. Remember that pain is pain and comfort is comfort.
Until we meet again, “Ride for the Brand.”
By Bob Burdekin
My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at http://www.BobBurdekin.com