by Cindy Lattner, Lattner Equine Performance
What blanket should I buy? What supplements do you recommend? What are the best training aids? Just a sample of questions I get asked on a daily bases.
My question is; Why are our horses so out of balance that we need so much therapy, drugs etc. for our horses to perform at their optimal level? Obvious answers would include our environment, which by the results of hair analysis is at the top of the list!
Horses are not in shape, putting tension on muscles, resulting in tendon, ligament tears, improper warm up, cool down sessions, resulting in increased inflammation throughout the body. Increased travel time to shows and not providing adequate stops on those long hauls resulting in increased stress, dehydration. And the list could go on. All of these issues are part of the picture, but in my experience, many horses are also dealing with TMJ issues. As you begin to restore this link to optimal wellness many psychological and physical issues, internal organ balances and body compensations disappear.
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is critical for a horse’s survival and wellbeing. Anatomically, it refers to the area of the cranium where the jaw or mandible, contracts and articulates with the temporal bone. It consists of two parts- a upper sliding joint, and a lower hinge joint. An articular disc separates the two compartments and the entire joint is encapsulated and contains synovial fluid. It is a very tight joint, reinforced by tendons and ligaments and supported by many muscles that coordinates movement of the mandible for proper mastication. Any tightness in the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the TMJ Mechanism will inhibit function of the TMJ, which is responsible for grinding food and balance. It is also very interesting to note that the horses TMJ is more complex, than that of a humans because they have mobile ears, the hyoid bone articulates with temporal bone and the horse’s teeth are continually erupting.
The TMJ can affect the health of the horse in several areas; Chewing food properly is the first step to healthy digestion. The horse must be able to move the jaw, from side to side, forward and back, and up and down. When dysfunction occurs, the horse will make many adaptions, but these changes will affect the entire body. Restoring proper biomechanics to the jaw point requires an accurate examine and dental work from your equine dentist.
The TMJ is highly complex. The temporal bone, home of the auditory tube is the place where balance and equilibrium are recorded by vestibulocochlear nerve. Any tightness of the muscles of the TMJ mechanism adversely affects the horse’s balance. The next major bone is the mandible and considered to be one of the pattern setters in the body, which is a term used to describe a body part or condition that sets up a pattern of habitual compensatory movement of other parts of the body. If the mandible function is compensated, it creates negative compensation throughout the body, especially the pelvis area. The final bone of importance is the hyoid bone, which is a part of the hyoid apparatus, consisting of 10 bones that give that give biomechanical form and function to the larynx, pharynx and tongue.
The TMJ is also more than bone matter and consists of several muscles responsible for movement and proper functioning of the jaw, which include the masseter, temporalis and the pterygoid muscles. In addition, there are 21 muscles in each ear that aid in the movement of the ear. All of which add to the complexity of the TMJ. When any of these muscles become shortened or tightened, it will negatively affect the proper functioning of the mandible and cause improper wearing of the teeth.
It is very important to remember that the TMJ does not function independently, but is intricately interconnected to the rest of the body through the stomatognathic system. This system consists of the parts of the head, the neck and the upper thorax. This system is concerned with muscular, bone, ligamentous, facial and nervous system control of biting, chewing, swallowing and is comprised of 27 bones. Changes in muscle tone in the head and neck increase tension all the way to the sacrum.
Grazing is one of the most preventive practices. The horse is a grazing animal and depends on the healthy functioning of the jaw to survive. For horses who do not get turned out to graze on pasture, it is critical to keep hay on the ground in their stall ALL day, as horses graze about 16 hours a day. This will allow the mandible to come down and forward in the joint capsule, the atlantoaxial joint to open and the mandible to move up and down, side to side, forward and backward without any inhibition. It also allows the teeth of the maxilla and mandible to occlude properly. Besides maximizing grazing, preventive practices include minimizing training restraints, use sensible and feeding and management practices. Maximize locomotion with continual turnout, Theraplate treatments and utilizing a progressive conditioning program when getting them in shape. Include gentle, on hands bodywork in the horse care program to keep the tissue soft.
To treat TMJ or TMD issues it is first and foremost imperative to correct any mechanical issues such as foot trimming, saddle fit, bit use, feeding practices dental work or any physical issues. It is important to correct these issues first, through consultation with your veterinarian, dentist and farrier. However, with even the best of these it takes a holistic approach to completely resolve any TMJ or TMD issues, so it is critical to pull in body and/or energy workers who do soft tissue work, chiropractors, utilizing laser, THEraPLATE treatments, Bioelectromagnetic regulators or acupuncture.
A healthy TMJ helps to make your horse feel and look their best!!
Lattner Equine Performance will be at the following shows Combining Sports Massage with the Theraplate and Equisports massager. Both are available for purchase at the show! Now a distributor for BEMER equine blankets! Made in Germany.
May 26-29: NYS NBHA State Championships, Fonda Fairgrounds, Fonda, NY
June 9-11: Ohio, NBHA Buckeye Summer Jam, Champion Arena, Springfield, Ohio
June 16-18: NBHA Syracuse Spectacular Super Show, NYS Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY
June 23-25: Midland Barrel Racing Series, Fonda Fairgrounds, Fonda, NY