Peter Van Den Eynde

an evolutionary view on equine osteopathy

peter van den eynde d.o

Peter Van Den Eynde D.O obtained his diploma in physiotherapy, manual therapy, podology, sports therapy and aetiopathy. After this he studied a 5 year human osteopathy course at Sutherland College.

Due to his personal interest in horses he went to study equine osteopathy in France. He subsequently carried out some research on the influence of an osteopathic manipulation on the os carpal accessorium bone in relation to the mobility of the distal phalanx, using a force plate as a measurement tool.

In 2009 he started the unique Evolutionary Osteopathic Course, which gave him another view on Evolution of life of Nature’s and evolutionary principles.

If you have any further questions, need any assistance, please do not hesitate to make contact.


Combining human osteopathy and equine osteopathy with Evolutionary Osteopathy (Evost) permits new perspectives in the equine osteopathic approach of diagnosis, treatment and education. We thus try to offer a certain chronology and hierarchy in the diagnosis and treatment, instead of splitting up the horse or patient into specialist visions of the musculoskeletal system, the visceral system, the

cranio-sacral system and so on. Respecting life’s chronology and hierarchy that is +/- 3.8 billion years old, and working hand in hand with it.


This means that the observer of Nature should be constantly aware of two major gears of Life:


  • Hierarchy – Chronology (which are the fundaments of the complexity level-layers of development observed and what is the emergent behaviour that sprouts out of it)
  • Dimension (which dimension are we observing? Molecular, tissular, human, animal, biotope, etc…)


The puzzling fact is that humans, animals and most of nature we observe are in essence self-organized systems, each level is nested. This means that each single level layer of organization and complexity encloses all other levels within itself. (like the Russian Babushka dolls) Each jump in level-layer of complexity demonstrates in an emergent behaviour.


Evost in a nutshell:

Health is as old as life, which means, at best present scientific guess: +/- 3.8 Billion years. The mechanism of evolution since then complexified and differentiated abundant life forms, generating as such an incredible biodiversity that dynamically adapts to each local environment, filling in the ecological niches, layer by layer and dimension by dimension.


Horses based in Europe will show different health problems than for example horses based in the Emirates. The climate, flora and fauna will influence the horses health-system. The older level-layers (see article: An Evolutionary view on Equine Osteopathy) will depend on it, and influence the function.


For example if there is a problem with the absorption of inorganic minerals due to the climate, feeding or general stable management, the first spectacular symptoms will become obvious in the neural or/and vascular systems functions, (organ level) which most of the horseman won’t observe in this stage. They’ll recognise it as stiffness, difficult to bend, resistance to the bit, painful muscular system or lameness.


The mechanism behind this is where complexity theory comes into play; if we have a scientific-holistic tool, we don’t have to focus on the separate facts or details, but on the Mechanism itself. And that is what the system-complexity theory does.

The first round of the mechanism in a shoebox (the beginning of our time +/- 20 Billion years ago…)



  • Polarity (Just before the Big Bang)
  • Space – Time (Hierarchy – Chronology)
  • Pattern (Tension – or Force Field)
  • Direction (Position change – Vector)
  • Form and emergence (Behaviour or function creates structure, when structure is formed it governs function)


The aim of Equine and Human Evolutionary Osteopathy is to focus on Health and not to find the dysfunction or disease. We try to work with the health-potential still present in the mechanism, to maintain the system. It’s very important to integrate the basic osteopathic principles:



The four principles of osteopathic philosophy are:

(Kirksville Consensus)


  • The body is a Unit; the person is a unit of body, mind and spirit, thus DON’T LOOK AT THE SYMPTOMS, BUT LOOK AT THE MECHANISM.
  • The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health-maintenance, thus THE HEALTHIER THE SYSTEM IS, THE MORE COHERENT AND DYNAMICALLY STABLE.
  • Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unit, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.




“How do we apply the Evost Fellowships’ thoughts and Nature’s principles in equine practice?”


The answer is: Evost is a philosophic approach, where we develop a critical attitude, and learn “to see” instead of “gazing” . We can apply the insights of ‘the mechanism at work’  at just about every level and dimension, this means that the principles are applicable on virtually every theme.



An Evolutionary view on Equine Osteopathy




Most of what we know about equine osteopathy has been borrowed from human osteopathic techniques, theories and research. Human osteopaths have often been asked to treat the animals of clients that have experienced the benefits of osteopathic treatment for their own problems.


It is very important to know why a horse displays a change in attitude. Animals do not speak our language, but they have their own way of expressing themselves ultimately telling us more than we think. It is up to us to learn an recognise their communication and react accordingly. Equine Evolutionary Osteopathy is a philosophical approach, with a critical attitude, to learn, see and feel. We can apply ‘the mechanism at work’ at just about every level and dimension, when for example a horse got:


  • a decrease in performance
  • a sprain, fall or other trauma
  • a decrease in mobility or associated pain with movement
  • pain and stiffness
  • resistance to the bit
  • refusal to perform
  • viscera problems
  • immunity problems
  • Change in attitude


These are undoubtedly some familiar situations to horseman. The essential requirements to recognise this situations are:


  • Your knowledge of facts in the particular domain involved
  • Your knowledge and deeper understanding of the evolutionary-developmental chronology and inherent hierarchy of the system and environment involved
  • Your aptitude to observe, ‘see the mechanism,’ and recognize its returning principles.
  • Train the basic questions ‘methodology’ you apply systematically until it has become an unconscious mode of functioning.


These are in chronology the questions you should ask yourself when you observe “the mechanism at work” in a certain dimension and thus a certain level layer of complexity.

To know what the dimension is we’re dealing with, we have 4 elementary questions:

  • What is the system?
  • What is the environment?
  • Where is the border?
  • What is the stimulus from the environment?


To know what the level-layer or the complexity level is we’re dealing with, we have to know:

  • What are, who are the agents?
  • What are the interactions?
  • How strong are the interactions?
  • What is the state of these? (Potential Health, resilience or redundancy is as high as the absence of patterns)


When these questions are answered, when dimension and level-layer of complexity are obvious, comes the next question: where does this fit in the entire chronology and hierarchy?


The answer of this question gives you the preceding steps or underlying level-layers and dimension to check for their form, because it is usually there that lays the cause of the pattern formation or health resilience deficiency.

Practical Evaluation

  • A general inspection of the system gives us a first idea about the condition, behaviour and eventually pattern of the horse mechanism. At the same time we observe the environment/border where the horse is stabled. Is there enough space, light, social interaction with other horses, how often are the horses going out in the field, how often are they ridden, what’s the training program, what’s the feeding program, what’s the vaccination program, surgery, was there a change in the stable management, etc…


  • After this general observation, we take the horse out for a walk, trot and canter on a circle and straight line, looking for lameness, stiffness and irregular movement.


  • Dentistry is checked, because of the important relation with the digestive tube (absorption-elimination) and the influence on the rest of the mechanism.


  • A general inspection of the trajectory system, this means the intercellular system, intercellular fluid streams = fluid who is in the tissue and not in the vessels yet. This system tells us more about the quality of the connective tissue (H2O, matrix, cells, fibres), and is important to know what’s going on in the system. What is the texture, is it systemic, regional or local?
  • Then we check the vessels (venous, arterial and lymphatic system) Looking for pulsation at the front and hind legs, which gives an indication if we got a local, regional or systemic problem.


& pulsation in one leg is often a local problem, like for instance a drop in the hoof.

& pulsation in two or more legs is often a systemic problem, for example due to excessive

proteins or sugar and/or viral infection.


  • Visceral system (gastro-intestinal tube, liver & kidneys, uro-genital system,…) A lot of structural problems have their origin in this systems.



Difficulties or resistance by tighten the girth, often means a stomach, liver or first rib problem, or sore muscles in general due to a physiological disturbance. More and more we see visceral problems due to feeding problems, which are influencing the absorption-elimination function. A lot of horses’ feeding program doesn’t fit in relation with their work they do, and is influencing their health system in a negative way.


  • Nervous system: do we have a communication problem due to a local, regional or systemic disturbance.


  • The structural system is checked in consideration with the above parameters, and treated in relation with the agents and the interaction of the agents, finally to know what the stimuli is from the environment.



The main goal as an Evolutionary Equine Osteopath is to look what the chronology of the problem is, and how we can try to help the horse to solve it, or why doesn’t his own health-maintenance functions properly?



The affections of the biomechanical system are one of the first and most significant causes of lameness in sport horses (Seeherman 1992b). 60% of the dysfunctions are situated in the anterior leg, 95% of which are under the carpus , and which influence the osteo-articular structures (Stashak, 1987; Trotter, 1996). The os navicular problem for example is responsible for 35% of chronical lameness  in the front leg (Colles, 1983: Turner, 1990), and creates a lot of others problems in the mechanism/system at work.


In 2004 we made a scientific work about: The influence of an osteopathic manipulation of the os carpal accessorium (os pisiforme)  bone (A) related to the mobility of the distal phalanx (B), using a force plate as measurement tool.


With this work we proved out the functional importance of the os carpal accessorium bone in relation to the mobility of the distal phalanx, in order to obtain a better distribution of the vertical forces in the hoof. In  literature the importance of equilibrium in the distal phalanx (HOOF BALANCE) is accepted, but no documentation on the interrelation between the os carpal accessorium bone and the distal phalanx can be found. In practice, orthopaedic shoeing is used to improve equilibrium in the hoof, usually without reference to the structures above. Can you imagine what the forces are in a horse foot, if a horse is landing after jumping fences from 1.50 – 1.60 m. with a bad hoof balance (fig.1), if you know that a horse is carrying 65% of his weight in his front legs.


We observed  a lot of horses with this problem, and this author can say by now that the relation os carpal accessorium bone and the rest of the body is quite relevant. What this author want to demonstrate is, that a simple dysfunction of the os carpal accessorium bone can cause a change in how that dimension works, and that a repeating structural dysfunction of the os carpal accessories bone is showing us often  visceral problems (liver, stomach). So,  if we find a structural dysfunction the first question we have to ask ourselves is why does the system functions this way? Is it due to the systems’ environment, border or stimulus from the environment. What are the agents, interactions, how strong are the interactions and what is the state of the interactions. For example is the problem due to

  • a structural problem, for example a hyperflexion or a hyperextension of the carpus
  • an adaptive behaviour to find a new balance, with structural origin
  • a compensation due to a visceral or physiological problem
  • a shoeing or trimming problem
  • a teeth problem (TMG)
  • a rider or training problem
  • a surface problem
  • …:


The main goal as an Evolutionary Equine Osteopath is to look what the chronology of the problem is, and how we can try to help the horse to solve it, or why doesn’t his own health-maintenance functions properly?


As a human and equine osteopath I’m convinced, that if we focus on HEALTH = NO PATTERN, we can maintain the system, and focus on structure and function as one, to create harmony in the whole system, at all levels. Whatever the horse body tells us about structural dysfunctions, the following systems are checked in chronological order, to try and understand why the horse HEALTH-MAINTENANCE is not functioning properly.

Fig. 1 Hoof print before manipulation of the os carpal accessorium

Fig. 2 Hoof print after manipulation of the os carpal accessorium

Fig. 3 Hoof print 2 weeks after manipulation of the os carpal accessorium


  • Zeitschrift für Ganzheitliche Tiermedizin: Pferde-Osteopathie aus evolutionärer sicht download
  • An Evolutionary view on Equine Osteopathy download




  • Max Girardin D.O, JP Höppner D.O, Evolutionary medicine in the osteopathic field privately course script 2009-2013
  • W.G. Sutherland: "The mechanism is simple, as is common to all physiologic laws not framed by human hand”. Teachings in the science of Osteopathy, Rudra Press, 1990, p126
  • A.T. Still: “… by knowledge of the normal and abnormal, I hope to give a specific knowledge for all diseases.” Last page of “Preface from Philosophy of Osteopathy”, Kirksville, sept. 1, 1899
  • Max Girardin D.O, Complexity, system dynamics, evolution and osteopathy – A rich synergy with applications for education and practice
  • P. Evrard D.O, Ostéopathie Vétérinaire, Introduction à l’ostéopathie structurelle appliquée aux cheval,,2002
  • Peter Van Den Eynde D.O, Thesis, De invloed van een osteopathische manipulatie van het os carpus accessorium op de mobiliteit van de distale phalanx bij het paard, gemeten via een druksensorsysteem : een pilootstudie, 2004
  • M. Girardin D.O, JP Höppner D.O, Evolutionary medicine in the osteopathic field privately course script 2008-2013
  • Isabelle Caudron, Orthopaedic approach of degenerative joint diseases of the equine digit: prevention and treatment, 1997-1998
  • Ronald J. Riegel, D.V.M, Susan E. Hakola, B.S., R.N., C.M.I., Illustrated atlas of Clinical Equine Anatomy and Common Disorders of the Horse, Volume 2, 1999

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Peter Van Den Eynde D.O – m.B.V.B.O

(Member of the Belgian Association of Osteopaths)

Approval number: 09566475000

Haaggatstraat 100

3071 Erps-Kwerps


+32 (0)496/55 10 41



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