Lancelot is a 20 something year old Cob Cross Pony that we were called to see at a farm in Eastern, CT.
His current owner had ridden him in lessons as a child of 7. She is now in her early twenties. While having lunch one day with a friend of hers, who was still affiliated with the barn where (Gwen ) took her lessons, the friend mentioned that Lance had suffered a serious leg injury and that he essentially had been abandoned as a lesson pony, and that the then owner was contemplating euthanasia for him.
Due to his injury and inability to move properly, he became the low man in the pecking order and subsequently wasn't getting enough food and possibly water, his coat was matted and bald in spots, and worse of all, he was unable to properly walk and navigate the pasture he was in.
The conversation with her friend prompted Gwen to go visit Lancelot. When she saw the deplorable physical condition he was in and his environment, she negotiated to purchase him and move him to a more suitable location.
That's where we came on the scene.
The first picture I have of this guy was his walk from the field to the barn. He walked as if he was Long John Silver, with a peg leg gait. His left hip was dropped six plus inches below the right, and his spine had a curvature to the left. His pelvis was frozen without the usual drop with each stride. His Muscle development was next to nothing in the left hind region of his body while the right was noticeable overdeveloped. This also led to an overdevelopment in his left shoulder / scapula area and an underdevelopment on the opposite side.
When he came to a stop, he parked himself out just as you can see in the picture on the left. Toe and stifle out, the hock in and his left leg positioned just as you see it, about 12 inches forward of the right hind and off laterally about six to seven inches.
During the initial evaluation, and assessment of Lancelot's condition, we were certain that a multitude of issues stood in his pathway back to any level of health. Fortunately for him, with the dedication of his new owner, and the connection we were able to make with him, he allowed us the opportunity to begin turning his life around. At every new treatment we utilized, he stood like a trooper for the work. Each session uncovered a new issue.
Lance had atrophied muscles, overdeveloped muscles, fascial restrictions, muscle spasms beneath the restrictions, and muscles so tight the joints were restricted in their movement. He was malnourished, and his coat was bald in many places. He could only walk with a choppy uncoordinated gait. His Cerebral pulse was at best weak, while undetectable in his left rear quadrant. He was a mess.
Gwen, his new owner, was determined to do everything she could to repay him for his service to her as a young child while riding him in her lessons. And so it began.
We opened with a Cranio Sacral treatment, followed by a deeper evaluation of his muscle conditioning with a focus on his back end, shoulders and mid back. Using both Muscle Manipulation, Myo-Fascial release techniques and Reiki, we began the attack on his traumatized body.
We scheduled visits at the week and a half interval, the next at a three week interval, the fourth and the latest at four week intervals. Between each session we had with him we outlined a plan of attack for Gwen, so she could keep the therapy ongoing between our visits.
As we worked with Lancelot, we continued to peel away a new layer of issues with each visit. Between body work sessions, Lance's owner diligently worked with us to address those areas that were identified, and in need of ongoing attention.
You can see from the accompanying photos, the before and after result. While Lancelot is not totally back up to optimum conditioning, he is in a far better place than he was back in May.
We continue to work on him, and look forward to when he will be as near back to his former self as he can be given the trauma he's been through.
Mid August--- Another visit to see Lancelot. He's walking slightly better, but found restrictions farther up into his groin area that may have been overlooked. We showed the owner how to address that and gave him a good working over ourselves. Every visit gets us closer and closer to better movement. Stay tuned.
Case Study--- Jackson
This case is about a seven year old Appendix gelding, Jackson. He was purchased by his owner in June of 2012 on the recommendation of a trainer that she knew. The idea was to take this relatively green horse and mold him to the particular needs and goals of his owner, which was to be able to show him in open shows and the local AQHA circuit. The owner stated she purchased him because she “fell in love with his kind eye right away”. His manners on the ground were impeccable. He was easy to handle, groom, pick feet, and curious but not spooky. He was a very sensible kind of horse, and, he passed his vet check with flying colors.
His first ride however was not the same story. When being mounting, he danced around and jigged a lot. At the walk and trot, he was noticeably tense, but manageable. At the canter, he became very agitated, sometimes going straight up into the air, and doing more than the average “crow” hopping.
The trainer who recommended the purchase said it would not be a problem to fix the behavior. After two weeks with the trainer, Jackson was brought home. On the first attempted ride at home, the owner was bucked off while trying to mount. This happened three more times over the next few weeks. A saddle fitter was called in to make sure the saddle was a good fit. A veterinarian was called in to examine Jackson and yet he still checked out fine. Jackson still crow hopped and bucked at the canter and tried to dislodge the owner when she attempted to mount him.
His demeanor on the ground was so different than in the saddle that the owner had to assume there was more going on than met the eye.
Next, the veterinarian recommended a joint supplement, which only partially worked. Jackson still acted out in the same manner, and looked very “hitchey” behind.
The owner then enlisted the services of trainer number 2 who thought there was something causing discomfort, which the owner was also beginning to think. A lameness specialist was called in on the recommendation of several people. The specialist watched Jackson under saddle and determined that the problem was in the SI joint, causing Jackson discomfort in his stifles and hocks. The stifles and hocks were injected along with the SI joint.
The injections went perfectly and after two days Jackson was under saddle again. During the next few weeks, Jackson showed only slight improvement from the injections, still crow hopping and dancing around when being mounted. While being ridden, he would still round his back in preparation to buck, but he could be “talked out of it”.
At this point, the owner had been bucked off on seven occasions, resulting in injuries. The most severe being 4 fractured vertebrae. It was time to make a choice. Either try to help him through what the owner felt was a pain issue, or sell him.
When it was determined that the injections had not worked, the owner was referred to a well known Equine Hospital in a final attempt to determine the scope of Jackson’s problems. He under went a complete body scan and ultrasound in an attempt to locate an issue.
While at the Hospital, Jackson was ridden for a team of vets and nearly bucked that rider off also. He was showing signs of being extremely uncomfortable. All the while, his demeanor on the ground and in his stall was still impeccable, a complete “love bug”. The vets recommended Previcox and to have bodywork performed. (We normally do not like working on horses while they are on this med. However, Jackson really needed the help, so we worked on him anyway).
Frustrated and defeated the owner brought Jackson home and called in an Equine Chiropractor. After the chiropractic adjustment, there was still no change.
The next recommendation was to call Equissage, and that’s where we come into the picture in May, 2013. During the gait and stride assessment, we noticed that the right hind was striding slightly shorter than the left hind and crossing slightly over toward the center. At the beginning of a left lead canter, there was a major amount of tail swishing, not present at the right lead canter. These identifiers can point to several different issues, but our suspicion was that something toward the hind end on the left side of the horse was the culprit. The best course for us was to perform a complete bodywork session, head to tail.
From the very beginning of the bodywork, he showed us where to treat and began giving off huge releases as we progressed along his body.
Upon reaching the lumbar region on Jackson’s left side, we encountered four spasms perfectly paralleling the lumbar spine between the L 2 thru 5 processes, evenly spaced about three quarters of an inch apart from one another. Our strongest suspicion so far was that these were the culprits. The spasms were treated with direct pressure until they began to melt. At this point Jackson truly began to release the tension and discomfort from this area. One yawn followed another until we left the barn. (His owner later stated that he was still giving off release yawns well into the evening).
Before we left, we asked that Jackson be walked so we could observe his gait /stride length again. This time both hinds were striding the same length and tracking true.
In a subsequent visit, the area of the spasms was treated with Infrared Light Therapy.
Jackson was taken off the Previcox around November 1st and, to date, shows no signs of his previous behavior recurring.
The following statement is from Jackson’s owner:
“Jackson has now had regular treatments from Doris and Ron including infrared light therapy and has undergone dramatic changes. He is relaxed, has free movement, and no longer jigs or dances around when being mounted. His gaits are beautiful and you can just feel that he feels better. I can see in his eyes that he is happy and comfortable and in the end, that’s all I wanted for him”.
“I successfully showed Jackson for our first year on the open circuit and he was amazing. Today he is virtually pain free and living a spoiled and comfortable life. Doris and Ron are amazing and have given Jackson his freedom of movement back.
Doris & Ron Bouchard
Equissage NE / NY
November 20 2013
Case Study --- Rascal
Rascal is a 9 year old gelding primarily used for pleasure riding. Our first visit to work on him was due to a monthly visit to the facility where he was boarded, to work on other horses. This was in early December, 2013.
We were called to work on Rascal for no particular reason at all. Part of our service now includes a stride, joint flexion evaluation. We do this for benchmarks and to affirm soundness in the animal before we begin our work.
It was during his stride analysis that we noticed an unusual condition taking place with his left hind leg. As the LH leg moved forward and was placed on the ground and began to weight bear, the toe of the hoof began to rotate medially and as he moved forward over the leg, the hock began rotating laterally. More than likely, the stifle was also rotating medially, but because of our placement behind the horse, we were unable to see that happening.
Initial palpation evaluation indicated several areas of tension along the back, particularly along the Lumbar Spine, with only mild tension in the poll and withers junction.
In working along the hind end muscles, the medial Gastrocnemius was visually larger and upon palpation, noticeably more hypertonic. Speculation would be the injury was from a kick, but as you know with horses, anything may have been the cause. Special attention was given to this area through the use of Infra Red Light, Myo-Fascial Release, followed by Massage with plenty of cross fiber work. We also used passive stretching, forward and back, to help reduce muscle memory and to restore the normal biomechanical movement of the leg.
We instructed the owner on how to massage the area of the leg in question and demonstrated the technique we wanted her to use while stretching the leg through its normal stride, range of motion.
We revisited Rascal for additional Body Work in January and February, each time, noticing improvement to the conditioning of the Gastroc muscle. After completing his February session, we walked him down the aisle of the barn and the rotations he had in the left hind were no longer present.
With the most recent visit for bodywork this month (March), we watched Rascal move in hand and under saddle and the rotation in the left hind was totally gone.
A farrier told me that to remedy this type of issue, they will put on a shoe with a “trailer”. This may address the symptom, but doesn’t address the cause.
Submitted by Doris & Ron
Equissage NE / NY
March 20, 2014
Swirls, Swails or Cowlicks
The Stories They Sometimes Tell
We have been actively documenting swirls (swails or cowlicks to some folks) for the last couple of years. Prior to that it was something we made note of on our intake forms as an aside. However, since beginning to pay more attention to the horse’s responses, their stories, we find they tell us some pretty interesting ones.
Some swirls are documented as part of a breeds Registration process, but others not.
We believe swirls are formed when in the dermal and epidermal layers of the skin and the fascial layer just beneath the skin are disturbed in some way. When that disturbance takes place, the layers of skin and fascia shift in such a way as to take the follicle(s) of the hair shaft(s) and move them around in such a way that creates a swirl where there previously was none.
These swirls can develop in the womb or during the birth process, some are from increases in the training level of a horse, some from unseen changes to the muscle tissue beneath the skin, some from general stress, from muscle overuse or excessive use, or some unknown trauma or issue, past or present, that leaves a swirl in its wake.
One particular horse we have been working on for several years developed a swirl pattern along her neck as the level of training and work increased, requiring her to do more in her Dressage training regimen. It started with bilateral swirls at the poll, most horses have them there. These were there when we first started Bodywork on the horse in about 2006 About one and a half years later, she developed another set of bilateral swirls about seven inches further down her neck toward the wither at about the point of Jack Meagher’s stress point number one, the Rhomboid attachment. About three years after that another set of elongated swirls appeared along the Brachiocephalic muscle just below SP 1 and about three inches cranially. The final neck swirl appeared in early 2012, located in the center of the neck, about seven inches cranially from the Scapula, and this time only on the right side. With the development of each new swirl, we were able to detect areas of noticeable tension and with some, noticeable pain. The owner admitted entering a higher level of work / training with the mare as each new swirl pattern developed. We attribute these Swirls to those increases.
Conformationally, she is not what you would call the “classic” looking model of a dressage horse. She has good size, but her owner and trainers all agree that her neck is too short to facilitate assuming the classic frame looked for by judges. Her heart, however, says otherwise and she tries, successfully, to achieve some things that under other circumstances, she may never have been able to.
This brings us to 2013, when it was decided to start a more comprehensive documentation of the swirls we encountered and what they lead us to.
The first we’re sharing is that of an eleven year old TB gelding and former race horse named Gabe. One of this horse’s issues was that he would consistently, about every two weeks, tear his right front shoe off.
During our initial evaluation, nothing extraordinary jumped out at us. He did have one swirl on the L side of his neck in the Mastoid, at the C-3 location, which we treated. The Swirl that really pointed to something was the one coming down the center of his neck, starting at the C-5 / 6 junctions, and traveling down to just above the Anterior Pectoral muscle. At the lowest point of the swirl, for the last inch or so, it made an approximate 45 degree turn to the horse’s left (right as viewed from the front of the horse), pointing to a noticeably larger, more developed Transverse Pectoral Muscle.
This told us that the right side muscles in that region needed to be developed and brought up to the same condition and strength as the left side. This is what we zeroed in on and, during the next visit three weeks later there was a noticeable improvement in the development and tone of the R transverse Pectoral, and balance between the L and R muscles.
At this point, he had not torn his RF shoe off and after a total of six weeks, still hasn’t.
Reference photograph: Gabe 1.
The second is that of a seven year old Canadian Sport Horse mare named Sashay. She would on occasion, pull her right front shoe off. She also had recently recovered from a left front coffin bone fracture.
During the initial evaluation, it was noted that at the walk, her hind legs tracked true, but at the trot, her right hind tracked approximately three to four inches medially. This, we attributed to compensation from the left front coffin bone issue. (Diagonal Compensation).
During the Bodywork session, there was an unusual swirl at the base of her neck, on the right side only. As you can see from the photo, it is shaped like and upside down tear drop. Upon further palpation and exploration, we found a fairly large spasm at the forward edge of the scapula at a point where the teardrop swail ended. It was pointing to
the issue in question, which was at the junction of the Deep Anterior Pectoral, and Supraspinatus muscles.
After working on the muscle issues, we performed stretches, slightly beyond the normal ROM as well as some Masterson type release techniques to the withers, and massaged all the locomotion muscles associated with moving the leg forward and backward.
It has been seven weeks since initially working on Sashay with one session two weeks ago. So far, she is keeping her shoe on, and at the trot, her leg track is now straight.
Reference photograph: Sashay
We’re not saying that every swirl will lead a practitioner to a definable issue, but swirls should be looked at and considered as a myofascial change, and treated as such.
All rights reserved
Doris and Ron Bouchard
Equissage NE / NY
Reprint with permission only
Case - Peace
Peace N Promise, aka Peace, is a nine year old Thoroughbred mare owned by Dancing Oaks Farm in Little Compton, RI. She had been plagued with forging for approximately 4 to 5 years. A former barn manager where the mare was once boarded commented that she tore shoes off every time she was turned out. An exaggeration, I’m sure.
Peace was first visited by us in late April, 09. At that time, it was noticed that she was forging, and that her scapula was quite loose, with little muscle development deeper into the scapula (sub-scapularis). She also was narrow across chest area and during gait analysis, was found to be working from her elbows at the walk/trot instead of shoulders. The owner stated that the farrier was coming the next day to trim her rear feet in the hopes of rectifying the forging issue.
At this time, we performed Peace’s first wellness, evaluation and exploratory massage, with the next massage scheduled two weeks later.
On that next visit, it was noted that the horse was still forging. I asked the owner to longe her again and observed that at both the walk and trot, she was still moving entirely from the elbow with the scapula and humerus virtually locked up. When walking, she forged with every step.
Work was started on her beginning with the neck, biceps/pectorals, deep into the anterior scapula groove as well as the rear of the scapula, in and above the elbow groove area. Extensors and flexors of the leg, Lat. Dorsi, withers, SP-9, and both spinatus muscles were also worked. Methods used were Sports massage, Myofascial release, and deeper tissue work along with the use of acupressure along the Bladder Meridian and Reiki.
The final step included the use of stretches to both forelegs, both forward and rearward, with 3 to 4 second holds at the end of each stretch sequence.
When Peace walked out of her stall, she was not forging and till now, four plus years later, is still not forging. Her chest has broadened as well as her stride becoming more lengthened and fluid.
Maintenance work is performed on her every four to five weeks.
Submitted by Doris & Ron
Equissage NE / NY----- November 2009