Jenny E. Johnson, V.M.D.

Calabasas, CA

(818) 809-SHWV (7498)
(818) 878-9458 - fax

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  In This Issue  
What's New in 2014

Engagement: What is it

   & Why is it Important?

Ask Dr. Johnson

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Previous Issues
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  Previous Issues  

January 2012
Treating Kissing Spines with Shockwave Therapy

May 2010
Jumping Radio Show, Expanded Services

October 2009
Treating Arthritis with Shockwave Therapy

March 2009
Veterinary Chiropractic Services

September 2008
Shockwave Therapy and the Equine Foot

June 2008
Suspensory Ligament Injuries

April 2008
What is Shockwave Therapy?



What's New in 2014 with Oakhill Shockwave and Veterinary Chiropractic
January 2014

The start of a new year is always a time of excitement, a time of looking forward to what the new year brings, and a time to institute changes and improvements.

PodcastWe are excited to announce Dr. Johnson's Veterinary Tips podcast and her educational video series - with topics including "The Sale Horse Pre-Purchase Exam", "Colic, and What to do Before the Vet Arrives", and "Lameness in the Jumping Horse". You can find them and subscribe on the Media Page.

We will keep you informed of new offerings as soon as they are available. In addition, we would welcome any requests you may have either for additional services you would like to see offered by Dr. Johnson or for topics you would like covered in podcasts or a newsletter. Please forward all suggestions to

And we'd love to have you find and like Oakhill Shockwave and Veterinary Chiropractic on Facebook!

Thank you all for your continued support and we look forward to a successful partnership in the new year.

Engagement: What is it and Why is it Important?
As every rider who has ever aspired to advance his or her riding knows, the ever elusive concept of "engagement" is always touted as the ultimate accomplishment that we must be able to achieve consistently in order to attain a true connection with our horse and to reach new levels of success in our riding. Indeed, any of us who have actually achieved "engagement" with our horse, however fleeting, recognize the unmistakable feeling of power and grace that come with this phenomenon. So what really is "engagement" and why is it so important in the equine athlete?

At the simplest level, engagement is the initiation of forward movement. True engagement, and what we typically think of as "engagement" is the build-up of power in the hind end that is needed in the preparation to move forward.

To understand the biomechanics of engagement, it is helpful to think of the horse as a "bow and string". In this description of the biomechanics of the horse, the topline is thought of as the bow, and the ventral or lower aspect of the horse (abdominals) is thought of as the string. In order for there to be biomechanically correct movement in the horse, the abdominals contract, the low neck rises, and the lower back and pelvis flex (lift).

false engagment

With the initiation of movement and engagement, the rear leg comes under the horse, the lower back and pelvis flex upwards and the hind foot is prepared to land on the ground - this is called the swing phase of the stride.

When the hind foot lands on the ground, forward movement is initiated through the power that has been developed by bringing the hindlimb forward and flexing over the back and pelvis. The center of gravity shifts to over the rump of the horse and this power phase of the stride creates the energy that is transferred through the lumbosacral area and forward as the horse moves forward.

The center of gravity now moves forward as the horse is propelled forward and now the lower neck raises and telescopes and elongates in front of the horse, and this allows for natural flexion at the poll. Using the reference to the bow and string description, true engagement "cocks" the bow and prepares the horse to commence forward movement.

So what is the importance of understanding this progression of forward movement? If we now understand the role that the entire body plays in true engagement, we understand how important it is that the horse have freedom of movement through not only the pelvis and sacro-iliac joints, but also through the entire vertebral column. If the power is generated in the hind end and is transferred through the pelvis and lumbosacral spine forward, the horse cannot have a biomechanically correct gait if there is not normal flexibility through the pelvis and lumbosacral spine. The kinetic energy has to be able to flow forward through the spine in order for the horse to have a properly engaged gait.

How do we insure that the horse has appropriate mobility through this area? With chiropractic care.

Through chiropractic evaluation and adjustments, the nervous system is normalized so that the appropriate nerve signals are sent to the muscles of the abdomen and pelvis as well as to the muscles that provide support to the spine. If these muscles are firing properly, then they can support the skeletal system appropriately, allow for movement of the vertebral column as needed, and properly coordinate the process of engagement. If there are restrictions of mobility to the vertebral joints, then both the sensory input of the nervous system to the brain as well as the motor output from the brain to the body will be compromised and true engagement will not be possible.

While other therapies such as massage and proper exercise can help with a horse's mobility and comfort, chiropractic is the only treatment that can identify and correct the restrictions of mobility in the vertebral column that alter the normal functioning of the nervous system.

In our next issue, we will discuss how collection relates to engagement.


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