Welcome to this website where you can find information about the horse’s lymphatic system, conditions which affect it, and the use of manual lymph drainage and combined decongestive therapy with animals.
I started Equine MLD in 2006, after training to use manual lymph drainage with horses under the tutelage of Prof Berens von Rautenfeld, Hanover Medicine School. I had no idea until this finished that I was their first “overseas candidate” to qualify, through the Europäisches Seminar Für Equine Lymphdrainage. I returned to Britain full of enthusiasm for this treatment which could be used with so many equine disorders, including lymphoedema, a condition to which horses are prone but which, if veterinary manuals and horse magazines were to be believed, did not exist in the English language speaking world. In fact, it often seemed that they didn’t possess lymphatic systems!
Although there are references to the lymphatic system going back nearly two and a half thousand years, historically it’s been difficult to visualise, resulting in neglect when compared to other aspects of the body. It’s largely through the pioneers of manual lymph drainage and combined decongestive therapy in the last hundred years that the science of modern lymphology was born, and its clinical practice developed.
Therefore my website, the first of its kind set up in English, was intended to educate about the equine lymphatic system as well as the use of manual lymph drainage. That there is a demand for such information has been confirmed many times by the range of enquiries I’ve received, and hearing from so many people has been an unanticipated pleasure. It’s also been an education. Through working with horses in America and the United Kingdom, and through email conversations stretching literally all over the world, I have been able to gain understanding about the role of the lymphatic system in conditions affecting the horse which simply isn’t available elsewhere, and to share this with horse carers.
I’ve also had the opportunity to undertake original research into the use of MLD to control Chronic Progressive Lymphoedema with Dr Verena Affolter, one of the team at UC Davis who discovered this disease, which has since been published in the Equine Veterinary Education Journal.
MLD is used by Olympic athletes for pre- and post competition maintenance which is therefore included here. Human MLD treatment was originally being developed for use with dogs before it was realised that horses are prone to lymphatic problems, and dogs and other animals are here too.
In the last two decades, advances in visualisation techniques have led to an enormous new interest in lymphatic research, confirming the background to manual lymph drainage and revealing that the lymphatic system has much greater importance and influence than previously realised. It’s a truly exciting time, as much of this work suggests links to conditions affecting horses and hopefully this is starting to be recognised. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of ‘information’ about equine lymphatic conditions, particularly on the internet but also in practice, which doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, and a lot still waiting to be discovered.
You may be looking at this site specifically because you’re interested in finding out whether manual lymph drainage can help your horse, but I would invite you to also look at some of the more ‘theoretical’ content about the lymphatic system, and how new research may one day benefit horses too.
A word of caution. As lymphatic conditions become better known, interest in treating them by people without qualifications to do so is growing. Please don’t contact me asking how you can use these treatments for a horse you have come across while using other therapies. I would not attempt, for example, chiropractic treatment of a horse, and would expect other therapists to respect the boundaries of knowledge too. Using combined decongestive therapy takes skill in application, and there are occasions where it is also inappropriate, which also applies to taping for oedema, nor is treatment simply a case of using the correct type of bandage, so please don’t ask me where to obtain these from with the view to ‘trying CDT’ on one of your cases, or you will be disappointed.
You’ll find sections on the equine and canine lymphatic systems and on conditions that specifically affect them, as well as conditions which benefit from MLD treatment. There’s also a section on research into the use of MLD for laminitis and for Chronic Progressive Lymphoedema. There aren’t many photographs of me doing MLD because it’s a subtle manual technique and makes for uninformative pictures, but you will find some of my favourite horses, present and past.
Because knowledge about the lymphatic system, its functions , influence and the conditions in which it’s involved is continually growing, this website will hopefully grow too, and keep you up to date with developments.