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  Fri Oct 14

The Horseshoe


The Significance of Horseshoes and Rubies
Written and Researched by Margaret Sypniewska


The power of the horseshoe has been recognized since before the birth of Christ. A horseshoe is a U-shaped metal frame, usually of iron, that is nailed to a horse's hoof to give protection against wearing them down on rough surfaces. In legend, a man named Jastrzebryk, a blacksmith(?) (in 999) was thought to be the first Polish man to use horseshoes for the protection of his horse's hooves. However, we know that horseshoes were actually used by the Greeks as early as the 4th century B.C. Since horses were believed to be one of the most sacred of animals, their crescent-shaped shoes became symbols of good luck. Horseshoes were often nailed over the outside thresholds of houses and barns so that witches could not enter. Horseshoes were thought to protect and bring good luck.

On May Day, it was traditional to take down all horse-shoes and turn them, being careful not to let them touch the ground. Horseshoes can also be hung over the fireplace for luck, and even over the entrances of mines. Many think the heels should point upwards (but this is not universal). People think this because they believe if the shoe is hung with the ends pointing downwards, positive ill-luck may be drawn upwards, and all the good luck will disappear into the ground or drip out.

Interestingly enough, the towns of Burlton and Oakham, in England, charged a "toll of the horseshoes," which was collected from every peer and member of the Royal family, who passed through their towns. Horseshoes are prominent in their town's coat of arms.

Horses are considered lucky too, and to dream of a horse or to see a horse is particularly fortunate.


St. Dunstan was a learned metal working, painting and harp-playing man. He was born in the village of Baltonsborough (near Glastonbury) in 909. His parents, Herstan and Cynedritha, were of noble stock. His relative was St. Alphege, the Bald, Bishop of Winchester. St. Dunstan, in legend, once shod the Devil. He did this shodding so painfully that he made the Devil promise to never enter a dwelling where a horsehoe is displayed. Scottish legends tell of how a farmer shod a horse one night to find, the next day, a woman of the village (suspected of witchcraft) lying in agony with horseshoes nailed to her hands and feet. Saintly horsemen include: St. Hubert, St. Eustache, St. Martin, and dragon-slayer St. George.

Early religions considered crescent or u-shaped objects powerful signs. Temples in Middle and South America were built with arched doorways. The Moors built mosques with arched doorways. Arched windows were built in the Middle Ages as a means of protection against evil. The crescent is venerated in the Middle East.

Finding a horseshoe will bring good luck, and found horseshoes have ten times the power of bought ones. Horseshoes are also placed on the foremasts of sailing ships as a amulet for safe voyages.


Iron horseshoes are the most lucky. Iron originally came from Cyrus (in ancient times). Iron was born from the marriage of rock and fire. As most know, iron and fire were two of the basic elements in ancient times. Blacksmiths used these components to produce swords, horseshoes, and many other useful items. Blacksmiths were considered good luck because of their abilities. In ancient times, blacksmiths were always invited to attend wedding, they were thought to be able to keep evil away. Iron is believed to repel all the malignant influences. Iron is often derived from meteorites. In early civilizations, iron objects made from meteorites were considered gifts from the gods and very powerful.

It is customary in North America and Europe to present the bride with an ornament in the shape of a horseshoe, as a token of good luck.


In fairy tales, horses are often prophetic creatures with magical powers. Horses were symbols of supremacy, generosity, and courage, the horse went hand-in-hand with medieval chivalry. The horse carried its master into battles for king, country, and faith. The Polish Cavalry was said to have charged German tanks during World War II (Saunders, 83).

The horse goddess, Epona, was associated with water, fertility, and death. Horses were sacrificed in Celtic Europe, and would become their master's soul mounts for the symbolic ride of death.


The most elaborate of all Vedic rituals of India, was the "Horse Sacrifice." The horse was chosen one year in advance by the king. From that time on, until the sacred ceremony, both king and horse had to remain celibate. The horse could wander freely but was always escorted by the king's men. On the appointed day, the stallion was led to the city and presented with a mare. When the stallion neighed with joy, he was suffocated (Waterstone).


  Tue Oct 04

Friesian Description

The Friesian horse has a long head, strong body, full maneand thick tail. Friesians are powerfully muscled with agile with elegant movement. They are always black but can have a small white star on the forehead.

The breed has powerful overall conformation and good bone structure, with what is sometimes called a "Baroque" body type. Friesians have long, arched necks and well-chiseled, short-eared, "Spanish type" heads. Their sloping shoulders are quite powerful. They have compact, muscular bodies with strong sloping hindquarters and a low-set tail. Their limbs are comparatively short and strong. To be accepted as breeding stock in the FPS studbook, a stallion must pass a rigorous approval process.

  Fri Sep 16

Horse Fun Facts

  • There are about 75 million horses in the world.
  • Horses' hooves grow approximately 0.25 in a month, and take nearly a year to grow from the coronet band to the ground.

  • In the state of Arizona, it is illegal for cowboys to walk through a hotel lobby wearing their spurs

  • Cross-country jumps are marked with a red flag on the right side and a white flag on the left side; the horse has to jump through these two flags or it is considered out of bounds and you are disqualified.

  • A healthy adult horse should have a pulse of between 36 and 40 beats per minute while at rest

  • Arabians have one less rib, one less lumbar bone, and one or two fewer tail vertebrae than other horses.

  • Mr. Ed, the talking equine star of the 1960s television series, was a golden palomino. He learned an enormous amount of tricks for his role, including answering a telephone, opening doors, writing notes with a pencil, and unplugging a light. Apparently, Mr. Ed would occasionally have a fit of temper, as befitting his star status, and would stand stock still, wheezing and refusing to move.

  • 7.1 million Americans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers. 3.6 million and 4.3 million of those participated in showing and recreation, respectively, with some overlap in cases of people who participate in both activities. 941,000 people participated in racing in either a professional or volunteer capacity. 1.9 million people own horses. In addition to the people actually involved in the industry, tens of millions more Americans participate as spectators.

  • The horse industry directly produces goods and services of $25.3 billion and has a total impact of $112.1 billion on U.S. gross domestic product. Racing, showing and recreation each contribute more than 25% to the total value of goods and services produced by the industry.                                                                                        
  • The industry's contribution to the U.S. GDP is greater than the motion picture services, railroad transportation, furniture and fixtures manufacturing and tobacco product manufacturing industries. It is only slightly smaller than the apparel and other textile products manufacturing industry.                                                                                      .
  • “If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse” -  Anon
  • “The horse is God's gift to man”. - Old Arab Proverb
  • “Show me your horse, and I will tell you who you are”. - Old English saying
  • "The one great precept and practice in using a horse is this, never deal with him when you are in a fit of passion." Xenophon, The Art Of Horsemanship, 400 BC

  • Adult respiratory rate is 8-16 breaths per minute

  • A horse typically sleeps two and half to three hours a day

  • Horses younger than 4 years can concentrate for a maximum of 10-15 minutes

  • Horses lie down only about 43.5 minutes a day

  • Horses sleep longer in the summer than in the winter

  • A horse’s heart weighs nine pounds

  • The horse is a herbivorous mammal

  • All horses (including zebras) belong to the genus equus

  • Horses began to evolve on the American continent over 60 million years ago, they later died out and were reintroduced by Spanish settlers

  • A zedonk is the offspring of a zebra and a donkey

  • No two horses are identical

  • The left side of a horse is called the “near side” and the right side is the “off side”

  • A horse has approximately 205 bones

  • A horse is described as a ‘foal’ for its first year of life

  • Foals have milk teeth, which are replaced by permanent teeth around 3-5 years old

  • A horse’s teeth can be used to estimate its age

  • Horses generally dislike the smell of pigs

  • A female horse is called a ‘filly’

  • Horses are traditionally measured in ‘hands’, this was originally the width of a man’s hand and has been set at 4 inches

  Thu Jul 21

Parts of the Horse

  Thu Jul 21

Blanket Chart

Horse blanket2: Here's how to choose the best blanket for your horse.


Horse blanket2: Choosing A Blanket for Your Horse

Here are 5 factors you must consider when choosing and using a blanket for your horse.

1. Fabric: Nylon is very strong and resilient and it doesn't hold stains, but it's very expensive. Polyester is lightweight, more affordable, and but it’s not as strong as nylon. A blend often gives you the best of both worlds.  The strength (and thus durability) of a blanket's outer layer is expressed in denier units  The higher the denier number, the stronger the material. It takes a 1,200-denier polyester to match the strength of only 840-denier nylon.

2. Linings: Polycotton, nylon, and fleece-like wicking material are the most common. Many people prefer a wicking liner because it's more breathable than the others, and breathable blankets are usually healthier and warmer for your horse.

3. Fit: Measure from the center of the chest at the point of the shoulder, around the shoulder, along the barrel following closely to the skin, continuing around the hip to the center of the tail.  The size of the blanket corresponds to the inches you just measured. For example, if your measurement comes out to 78 inches, then your horse wears a size 78.  A blanket measured this way allows four fingers at the chest and a few inches below the top of the tail.

4. Placement: Don’t make the legs straps too tight or else your horse’s hind legs will pull the blanket backwards and rub the chest. If they’re too loose, your horse can get its hind legs caught in them. It is safer criss-cross the straps for most horses.

5. Blanketing Your Horse: If your horse freaks when you try to pull the blanket over his head, you have two choices. The first is to unhook it entirely and place it gently over his back so he doesn’t freak out. Better: Work with a trainer to desensitize your horse to movements like this. It will make your horse braver, encourage him to trust your leadership, and make it immeasurably easier for the staff at your barn (or your friends) to blanket your horse for you.

  Tue Jun 06

What is a PONY ?


A horse of a small breed.

A pony is a breed of horse which has a number of distinct traits, most notably a small size. Numerous pony breeds can be found all over the world, and some well known representatives of this equine group include Shetland, Welsh, and Connemara ponies. Just like their larger relatives, ponies have been used for work, sport, and pleasure for thousands of years, and they are incredibly diverse creatures.

A pony is not merely a small horse. There are several distinct physical differences between horses and ponies which make the two easy to distinguish. Ponies tend to very stocky, with thick bones, wide chests, and small heads. Their manes, tails, and coats are often thicker than those of horses, perhaps because many pony breeds evolved in colder climates where a thick layer of insulation would be vital.

Ponies are also incredibly strong for their size, thanks to their muscular bodies. A mature pony can sometimes pull the same weight as a draft horse, for example, and many ponies are capable of carrying adult riders. Pound for pound, ponies are much stronger than horses. They are also known for being extremely hardy, and tolerant of a wide range of conditions including extreme cold. The pony is also famous for being extremely intelligent, and sometimes a bit stubborn.

Showing purposes

14.2 hh and up is a horse

Sizes and Scales:Ponies are 14.2 hands (abbreviated hh) (1.47 m) at the withers or smaller, while a horse is anything taller than 14.2 hh at the withers.

What's in a Name? The term "pony" can be used generally for any small horse, regardless of its actual measurements. It is interesting to note, however, that some equine breeds are not considered ponies, even if they are under 14.2 hh, because of their fiery temperament.

All For Show:
For showing purposes, ponies are grouped into small, medium, and large sizes. Small ponies are 12.2 hh and under, medium ponies are over 12.2 but no taller than 13.2 hh (1.27 to 1.37 m), and large ponies are over 13.2 hh but no taller than 14.2 hh (1.37 to 1.47 m).

Note, however, that miniature horses are not the same as ponies. A miniature horse is in fact much smaller, required to be no taller than 8.2 hh (86cm) at the withers. There are also miniature pony breeds.


Wild Ponies?There are several wild breeds of pony, and these have often been captured and bred for various purposes, especially in Britain and Ireland.

These wild breeds along with domestic breeds were used as "pit ponies" hauling loads of coal up from the mines, for freight transport, as children's mounts and for entertainment, and later as competitors and performers in their own right. They were also ridden (and continue to be ridden) by adults, as ponies are usually very strong.

Ponies are often said to be mean, untrustworthy, spooky or devious. Properly trained ponies can be gentle, and are appropriate mounts for children who are learning to ride.

The Riding Pony was developed in the United Kingdom, and was such a success that it is now bred all over the world. They are excellent show ponies. The breed is an extremely elegant animal, more like a small horse than a pony. It has a small head and small, neat ears.

They are compact, with sloping shoulders and a narrow front. Their feet are tough and they possess strong limbs. They are well-proportioned with comfortable gaits and free-flowing movement.

What's Your Type? There are three types of ponies:

* The show pony: super-elegant miniature show hack with pony features
* The show hunter: similar to the show pony, but with more substance
* The working hunter: stockier, and more workmanlike

Shetland ponies, also known as shelts, are small (on average up to 42 inches to the wither) but strong for their size. The Shetland Pony originated from the Shetland Islands - North East of Scotland.

The ancient ponies' roots are unknown, though it is believed that they are related to the ancient Scandinavian ponies from when the islands were joined with Scandinavia
(up until 8000 BC).

They were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, taken by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BC. The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into extremely hardy animals. They were first used for carrying peat and ploughing. Then, in the mid-19th century, when laws were passed prohibiting children from working in coal mines, thousands of Shetlands traveled to Mainland Britain to be 'pit ponies,' working underground their whole lives
hauling coal.

Versatility in a Pony: The United States mid-west coal mines also imported some of these animals. The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society was started in 1890 to maintain purity and encourage high-quality animals. In 1956, the Shetland Islands Premium Stallion Scheme was formed to subsidize high-quality registered stallions to improve the breeding stock. Today, Shetlands are used as children's ponies and are also featured in the Shetland Pony Grand National, galloping around the course with their young jockeys.


What sizes do pony halters & bridles come in?
We have labeled all of our halters and bridles to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned. These are guidelines only! Sometimes an animal will have a smaller or bigger head for his size, plus different breeds have different shaped heads. For example, Welsh ponies usually have small muzzles and broad foreheads. Stallions will have much larger jowels as will Arabians or part Arabs.

Size Height Notes
Small Pony 12.2 hands and under Sometimes called 'Shetland'
Medium Pony Over 12.2 and up to 13.2 hands  
Large Pony Over 13.2 and up to 14.2 hands Often equivalent to 'Horse Yearling'
Cob Over 14 and up to 15.2 hands For larger Larges and Small Horses
Small/Med 12 - 13 hands For larger Smalls and smaller Mediums
Med/Large 13 -14 hands For larger Mediums and smaller Larges
Large Pony/Cob 14 - 15 hands For larger Larges and Small Horses

How do I measure for a pony halter?
To measure for a halter, use a flexible measuring tape and take the following measurements. You can then email them to us and we can check the measurements against any of our products. We have labeled all of our halters to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned (see first FAQ)

  1. The distance from an inch or two below the point of the cheekbone on one side, over the crown, to the same point on the other side. The starting and end points are where the halter side rings will be.
  2. The distance around the nose (circumference) at the points mentioned above.

How do I measure for a pony bridle?
To measure for a bridle, use a flexible measuring tape and take the following measurements. You can then email them to us and we can check the measurements against any of our products. We have labeled all of our bridles to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned (see first FAQ)

  • The distance from the corner of the mouth on one side, over the crown, to the same point on the other side
  • The distance around the nose (circumference) where you want your bridle's noseband to lie
  • The distance around the throat and over the crown where the throat latch goes. Make this measurement as loose as the throat latch will be
  1. The browband measurement from behind the ear, across the forehead, to the same place on the other side (where the browband will be)
  2. The type of bit you will be using (Dee, Eggbutt, Full Cheek, etc.) The size of the rings in various bits will affect the fit of your bridle

How do I measure for a pony in-hand bridle?
Please send us the following measurements, following the diagram, to ensure a good fit. Also, if you're ordering a bridle that uses a bit, please indicate the type of bit you'll be using including the size of the ring.

  1. From the corner of the mouth on one side, over the poll, to the corner of the mouth on the other side
  2. Noseband - measure completely around nose where noseband will be - about two fingers below cheekbone
  3. Throat - from the poll, completely around, going under the throat. (fairly snug)
  4. Browband - from behind the ear, across the forehead, to the same place on the other side
  5. Distance between splits -From where the browband meets the bridle (about 1" below the ear), over the poll, to the same place on the other side

  Sun Oct 02



By Maureen Rogers

During grazing the mandible is allowed to slide down and forward, and the atlantoaxial joint can open. This relaxes TMJ muscles and allows for proper teeth contact.

Horses rely on the proper function of the temporomandibular joint mechanism, or TMJ Mechanism, just like we do, if not more! The ability to move the jaw properly - side to side, up and down, forward and back - affects not only the ability to chew and digest food, but also affects the body’s balance and biomechanics. Proper function of the TMJ Mechanism is vital to horse health.

Today, all horses are exposed to a variety of contributing factors that affect the proper movement of the jaw. Some of these factors include the wearing of certain types of bits or nosebands, eating out of hayracks, getting stuck between fence posts, undergoing various types of dental work, and lack of proper dental work. Due to these and other factors, horses are prone to the condition known as Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.


What Are TMJ and TMD?
TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint. Anatomically, it refers to an area of the cranium where the jaw, or the mandible, contacts and articulates with the temporal bone. The temporal bone is the area of the skull where the ear resides. When these bones are misaligned and not articulating properly and the surrounding tissue of the TMJ is stressed, the TMJ Mechanism is out of balance and cannot function optimally. This condition is known as Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.

The term TMD is used in the field of dentistry as a diagnosis for people who experience tightness or dysfunction of the TMJ mechanism or jaw. TMD affects overall health. Indicators of a TMD condition include popping and clicking in the joint area, headaches, bite misalignment, and gritting of the teeth. If the condition is left untreated, the cartilage that makes up the articular disc that allows the mandible to move will be worn down and damaged. In severe cases of TMD, the precious cartilage is completely worn away.

The condition known as TMD occurs in all horses regardless of discipline. Horses exhibit signs of possible TMD discomfort in several different ways. TMD goes hand-in-hand with the misalignment of the upper and lower incisors and/ or any imbalances that may appear in the wear of the teeth, such as hooks or waves, and each perpetuates the other.


Figure 2
Click here to view a larger image (43 Kb)

Different Signs of TMD and Imbalances in the TMJ Mechanism
TMD shows up in many different shapes and sizes and cases differ in levels of severity. Horses with TMD will clearly show low levels of performance, improper gaits, uneven wear of the teeth, possible head shaking, signs of headaches, cribbing and/or various behavior problems. In some cases, even a slight retrusion in the lower jaw can be seen - the lower incisors of the mandible come behind the upper incisors of the maxilla. Any horse that has TMD will have some level of difficulty in performance.

A way to check to see if your horse has any form of TMD is to look at how your horse’s incisors align. The upper six incisors should align with the lower set, directly in the middle. If you see a pull to one side or the other, it is likely that your horse has some discomfort with its TMJ Mechanism. Even though the teeth may align, the muscles that make up the TMJ may still be tight, causing discomfort.

Other indicators of possible TMD and/or dental problems may be ear sensitivity, head tossing, difficulty taking the bit in the mouth, leaning on the bit, difficulty with specific leads or gaits, difficulty flexing at the poll, signs of headaches, head shyness, and/ or sensitivity to any touch in the jaw area.


Figure 3
Click here to view a larger image (42 Kb)

Exploring the Anatomy of the Temporomandibular Joint
The TMJ Mechanism of the horse is more complex than that of a human. This complexity is due to three main reasons. The first reason is that horses have movable ears. The second reason is that in horses, the hyoid bone articulates with the temporal bone. The third reason is that horses have erupting teeth throughout their lifetime.

The TMJ Mechanism is more than just bone matter. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons surround the synovial joints (one on each side of the head) formed between the condyles of the mandible and the temporal bone. These bones connect in a capsulated joint where an articular disc allows for a gliding movement of the condyle. The mandible articulates and communicates with the temporal bone in this very strong, tight synovial joint capsule. It is supported and reinforced by ligaments and is then supported by the muscles that coordinate movement of the mandible for proper mastication. Any tightness in the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the TMJ Mechanism will inhibit the function of the TMJ. In the event of these muscles tightening and shortening, the body then negatively compensates for the imbalance. The proper function of the TMJ Mechanism therefore plays an important role in the whole function of the horse, including leads, gaits, balance and equilibrium.


Figure 4
Click here to view a larger image (32 Kb)

Bones of the TMJ Mechanism
There are important individual bones that make-up the TMJ Mechanism. The temporal bone is home to the auditory tube (eustachian tube), the place where balance and equilibrium are recorded by way of the vestibulocochlear nerve. Any tightness of the muscles of the TMJ Mechanism can therefore adversely affect a horse’s balance and equilibrium. It is important to note the cranial nerve, also known as the trigeminal nerve branch, rests on the inside of the temporal bone. One of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve contains the motor nerve for the muscles for mastication/ chewing.

The next major bone is the mandible. At birth, this bone consists of left and right halves that join at a cartilaginous center (like that of the pubic bone of the pelvis). Between two to three months of age, these two halves fuse together and form one complete bone. The mandible is considered to be one of the largest pattern-setters in the body. A pattern-setter is the term used to describe a body part or condition that sets up a pattern of habitual compensatory movement of other parts of the body. For example, when the mandible’s function is compromised in some way, it creates areas of negative compensation throughout the body. Any tightness in the TMJ mechanism affects other areas in the body, especially pelvic movement.

It is also important to mention the contact the lower jaw or mandible has with the 'upper jaw' or maxilla, through the teeth.

The final bone of importance is the hyoid bone, which is located in the throatlatch area. The hyoid connects to the larynx, pharynx and tongue and articulates with the temporal bone.


Figure 5
Proper alignment of the lower jaw and upper jaw, however notice the slight retrusion in the lower jaw.

Major Muscles of the TMJ Mechanism
There are several major muscles responsible for the movement of the jaw and its proper function. The largest of these muscles is the masseter muscle. The function of the masseter muscle is to bring the upper jaw and lower jaw together. The masseter muscle attaches to the ridge of the maxilla and zygoma bone, which is directly under the orbit of the eye. It then attaches to the angle of the body of the mandible. The masseter is the large muscle that can be seen moving while a horse is chewing. (Figures 2 and 3 show the primary muscles the horse uses in chewing/ mastication.)

The next major muscle is the temporalis muscle. The function of this muscle is to close the mandible. The temporalis muscle works in conjunction with the masseter muscle. The origin of this muscle is the temporal bone and it attaches to the coronoid process of the mandible.

Lastly, are the pterygoid muscles. The function of the pterygoid muscles is to pull the mandible side to side, as in chewing. These muscles attach from the sphenoid bone, the central bone of the cranium, and insert onto the medial (inside) portion of the mandible.

There are also twenty-one muscles in each ear that aid in the movement of the ears. These muscles add to the complexity of the TMJ Mechanism. When any of the above muscles become shortened or tightened, it will negatively affect the proper function of the mandible and cause improper wearing of the teeth. A crucial concept to remember is that the TMJ does not function independently, but is intricately interconnected with the rest of the body - through the Stomatognathic System.


The Stomatognathic System and Guzay’s Theorem
The TMJ Mechanism connects to the body through an intricate system known as the Stomatognathic System. The Stomatognathic System consists of the parts of the head, the neck, and the upper thorax. This system is concerned with muscular, osseous (bone), ligamentous, fascial and nervous system control of biting, chewing and swallowing, and is comprised of twenty-seven bones, one of those bones being the mandible. Thus, each part must be addressed to truly treat any TMD condition. However, another joint area that is connected to and highly affected by the condition of the TMJ is that of the atlantoaxial joint. This is the area where the atlas, the first cervical vertebra (C1), articulates with the axis, the second cervical vertebra (C2).

Figure 6 Equine Craniosacral Workshops Figure 7
Side view of a retrusion of the mandible, TMD - the masseter muscle here shows slight atrophy and other muscles have started to compensate for this.   Guzay's Theorem. a: mandible, b: temporal bone,
c: condyle, d: occiput, e: atlantoaxial joint
Guzay's Theorem was adapted by Maureen Rogers, who was the first to apply this to horses,
which is why it is now referred to as Roger's Theorem.

Guzay’s Theorem states that the atlantoaxial axis of rotation acts as the primary joint for mastication/ chewing. Although the TMJ, in the immediate structural and physiological sense, seems to be the axis of rotation of the mandible, a deeper look shows that the TMJ acts as the secondary joint of mastication. These two joints, the TMJ and the atlantoaxial joint, interact in every moment to provide healthy function for the mandible (see diagram). To properly address any TMD condition, it must be treated holistically, attending to the whole Stomatognathic System. Treatment that does not address all parts will not rectify a dysfunctional component of the Stomatognathic System; treating a singular area will only achieve a rearrangement of symptoms. This is the reason that, although it is a vital component, dental work alone will not resolve most TMD conditions.


Figure 8
TMD comes in many forms. Note the tongue between the upper and lower teeth to take pressure off of the TMJ. Proper dental work is highly necessary, as is soft tissue work, for this horse.

How Does TMD Start?
In some cases TMD patterns can start as early as birth. Getting a clear idea of when TMD patterns may have started is sometimes impossible. However, the following are some of the influences that start to affect the function of the TMJ Mechanism:

  • An early injury in life possibly stemming all the way back to birth
  • The use of bits in the mouth
  • The amount of tension applied to the bit by the rider
  • Dental work - depending on how it is performed
  • The use of the speculum during dental work (though it is usually a must)
  • The use of sedatives during dental work (often necessary) or otherwise - although the horse is 'quieted', the muscles are still active and functional under sedation, tightening the muscles of the TMJ
  • Lack of pasture grazing
  • Feeding from hayracks of any sort
  • An injury to the head, poll or pelvis; "pulling back"

Any of the above may be contributors to a TMD condition.


Physical Signs of Discomfort of the TMJ Mechanism
There are several questions you need to address to assess if your horse has physical signs of discomfort of the TMJ mechanism. They consist of the following:

  • Does your horse’s tongue rest between his upper teeth and lower teeth?
  • Does your horse drop large amounts of food?
  • Does he pass whole food in his manure?
  • Can you hear a popping and/or clicking while your horse chews?
  • Does your horse have difficulty flexing at the poll?
  • Does your horse chew more on one side compared to the other, or always in the same direction?
  • How does your horse hold his neck and move in leads?
  • How are your horses’ teeth wearing? (Accessories as simple as nosebands can and will affect the TMJ Mechanism and the body.)

Next, get physical and gently palpate the muscles on and around the mandible. Notice the quality of the muscles. Do they feel soft or do they feel like a rock? Does the muscle invite you in or push you out?


Figure 9
The alignment of the TMJ is off by one full incisor - a sign of TMD. Dental work and soft tissue work are needed.

Preventive Practices
Grazing is one of the most important preventive practices. The horse is a grazing animal and depends on the healthy function of his jaw to survive. Grazing allows: 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 back with out any inhibition. It also allows the teeth of the maxilla and mandible to occlude properly. Normally, a horse grazes about sixteen hours a day. For horses who do not get turned out to graze on pasture, such as many performance horses who are kept in stalls, it’s best to have hay available throughout the day - on the ground, not in a rack. It is important that, when a horse eats, his head is down and extended, just like that of a horse grazing. Grazing also allows for horses to relax, and allows for the necessary wear of the incisors, which doesn't happen when eating hay.

Besides maximizing grazing, preventive practices include maximizing horsemanship to minimize restraints. Maximize nutrition and use sensible feeding and management practices. Maximize locomotion with continual turnout and regular, sensible exercise. Include gentle, hands-on bodywork in the horse-care program.


Treatment of TMD
It is beneficial to first address and correct any existing 'mechanical' contributors such as hoof trimming, saddle fit, bit use, feeding practices, and dental issues. Without addressing these issues first, the results of bodywork will be limited. In addition, it is absolutely necessary to address the soft tissue and help bring balance back to the body - through massage, TTouch, acupuncture, Feldenkrais, myofascial work, and/or especially craniosacral work, which specifically address the Stomatognathic system. Another consideration may be to change the horse’s training regimen. There is no simple answer or single approach when dealing with horses that have progressive cases of TMD, or when dealing with any problems. Remember to always consult with your veterinarian, equine dentist, and other qualified professionals who understand your horse, the TMJ, and TMD conditions.

Figure 10 Equine Craniosacral Workshops Figure 11
The use of a speculum applies some pressure on the atlantooccipital area. The muscles of the TMJ are also affected. It is important to have it as loose as possible during dental treatment.   A severe case of TMD; once again, dental work and soft tissue work are necessary here.


When TMD exists, the reality is that dental work alone will not fix this problem. The soft tissue needs to be treated, along with having dental work, to achieve substantial improvement and complete recovery. Therefore, the treatment of TMD is a bit more complicated than one might think. Because of the complex connection the mandible has with the rest of the body, "filing down" a horse’s teeth will not “fix” the problem. [See NHM Volume 4, Issue 5, Equissentials.] In some cases, filing down the teeth will worsen the TMJ condition that may already exist. In many cases, it is the soft tissue that has started an improper wear of the teeth. The soft tissue must be addressed and treated, as well as the energy patterns holding the TMJ in a “dysfunctional pattern”. Depending on the length of time the condition has existed, it may have worked its way through the entire body, causing the horse to compensate in his work, thus unbalancing him and inhibiting his performance and athletic abilities. Over time, if the soft tissue is not treated, the same patterns will continue and worsen, and bone structure and shape can be affected.
Proper dental work must be performed in combination with soft tissue work; these cannot be individual of each other.

Figure 12
Once again a case of TMD clearly shown.

About the author
Maureen Rogers is a consultant who specializes in Craniosacral work with horses and other animals. She is the founder of Equine CranioSacral Workshops© based out of Southern California. She has studied Craniosacral work extensively and her private practice includes performance horses, dressage horses, racehorses, cutting horses, hunter-jumpers, humans and small animals.

Thank you to both Laura Zuckerman and Linda O. Drake for your help in putting this article together.

© 2002 Equine Craniosacral Workshops, Maureen Rogers


For more information regarding Equine Craniosacral Work, contact Maureen Rogers at Equine Craniosacral Workshops,
by phone at 831-642-2210,
or by E-Mail



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