Proprioception is the ability to know where you are, and where your respective body parts are, in relation to the environment. For a horse, a lack of this sensation could lead to injury.
Have you ever tried to walk when one of your legs has “fallen asleep”? Not being able to feel when your foot hits the ground can make walking difficult. Many of us have experienced this temporary proprioception problem. It’s like we can’t even tell where the foot is.
A horse who has a tendency to stumble for no apparent reason may be having proprioception problems in its feet. The problem could be located any place between the foot and the brain.
BODY’S COMMUNICATION IS CRUCIAL
In a complex data transfer system, nerves transmit information from the brain and spinal column to the rest of the body and then back again. Input from your horse’s feet tells your horse which muscles to contract and which ones to relax in order to walk and stand properly. When a horse is standing properly it is utilizing very few muscles and very little energy. This allows the animal to be ready to move in any direction at a moment’s notice, which is crucial in the wild.
A horse receiving improper data, in or out, will stand with legs in positions requiring active muscle contraction to maintain. This abnormal posture requires the horse to relax the muscles before being able to move. In the wild, this slight hesitation could mean the difference between life and death. For domestic horses, this abnormal posture requires more energy to maintain, leaving us with a horse who will become tired easily. One of the major causes of sports injuries is fatigue.
Nerves are extremely sensitive and even a slight amount of pressure can affect their function. Scientist Chung Ha Sue at Colorado University discovered that the weight of a feather can decrease nerve transmission by up to 50%. This decrease in transmission will cause faulty input and output from the brain and spinal column to the rest of the body. A common site for a problem is where nerves exit the spinal canal between two vertebrae. If these nerves receive pressure due to a subluxation, there will be an alteration in the transmission.
Remember, the information has to travel both ways. If your horse doesn’t really know where his legs are, how can he safely transport you on your ride?
The meninges that surround your horse’s brain, spinal cord and some nerves and connect to the spine can be distorted by a subluxation. This can affect the stability and health of the entire spinal column, with or without a rider. When the vertebral bones are misaligned, even slightly, they affect the nerves and the flow of nervous energy.
If you think your horse is having a problem with proprioception you may want to contact a certified animal chiropractor in your area. Check out www.avcadoctors.com
Dr. Bill Ormston graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. After attending Options for Animals in 1998, he received certification from the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and began using chiropractic to treat his animal patients. Jubilee Animal Health is a mobile mixed animal practice in the Dallas Metroplex area, using mostly alternative methods. Dr. Ormston is one of the founding instructors of the post-graduate course in Animal Chiropractic at Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas. He has lectured nationally and internationally on Animal Chiropractic and biomechanics, and gait analysis in the quadruped. Bill and his three teenagers, Riley, Philip and Jessica, live in Celina, TX, with 2 dogs and 4 cats.