The TMJ (temporal mandibular joint) is made up of more than just bones. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons surround the synovial joints (one on each side of the head) and play an important role in the whole function of the horse, including leads, gaits, balance and equilibriumin.
The manible and the temporal 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 by strong ligaments and covered by the muscles that coordinate the movement of the mandible for proper chewing also known as mastication.Any tightness in the muscles, tendons or ligaments will inhibit the proper function of the TMJ.
So what can we do to protect our four legged friends.
1. REGULAR DENTISTRY. This will reduce the presence of sharp edges and points that could disturb the normal gliding pattern of the TMJ.
As a massage therapist i always take note of the muscles on the forhead. If one side becomes over developed it can be a good indication of an imbalance in the tmj. The height of the eyes can also be a good assessment tool. The bottom corner of the eyes should be level. A difference from left to right can indicate a discrepancy in the length of teeth from right to left.
2. MASSAGE. Most horses enjoy having their heads rubbed, however paying special attention to the massetters muscles on the cheeks and sternohyoid muscles along the front of the neck can alleviate tension and muscle imbalance allowing the TMJ to work properly.
3. PROPERLY FITTING TACK
A riders we are responsible to our 4 legged friends to make sure the bit is not sitting too high or too low. Problems with bridling or stearing can indicate a problem with the tmj or sharp points on the teeth.
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