Biomechanics, Equine, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Case Study Part Two: Road to Recovery

Willow Road to Recovery

In part two we discussed Willows history and issues that were causing her complex lameness, which you can find more detail in Case study Part One: Complex lameness. In this part we are going to discuss what treatments were used and Willows progress.

Treatment

Willow’s treatment was started very gently. In this case less is more. Willow is also a very receptive and expressive horse, which as a therapists is brilliant as she leads her own treatments. It is so important to listen and respond to a horses reaction. In this case Willow directs me on duration and areas she needs working on. Willow is also very responsive to acupressure points.

Her treatment began with Bladder 25 to help strengthen her lower back, address any stiffness or pain in this area. Willow responded by lowering her head almost to the ground and softening her eye to the point that she almost went to sleep. This allowed me to massage through her hind quarters to release further tension and relieve pain. Willows neck and poll muscles were also released through a number of soft tissue techniques. As well as her adductors on her inner thigh. This caused increase tone and activation through the TFL and quadriceps.

To finish of the session 5 gentle dock pulls were included on both sides to help strengthen and activate the TFL and quadriceps. A number of belly lifts were also performed to help activate the core muscles and stretch through the back.

Initial Outcome

Just from the above treatment and exercise Willow showed immediate improvement. Firstly her TFL (tensor latae fascia) and quadriceps started to activate. Had increased tone and secondly she was far less sensitive through her back and hindquarters. Her movement seemed eased but was still showing signs that were present on initial assessment. However the goal of making Willow more comfortable was achieved.

Continued Treatment

The original plan was to come and treat Willow little but often to allow her body to make small adjustments and to not overload her system with change. So visits were made twice a week for about two weeks. During this time I was fully aware that the country might go into lockdown and that I wouldn’t be able to come up to physically treat Willow. So Willow’s owner was taught how to do some of the key techniques that were helping Willow the most and given equipment to allow progress if I couldn’t be there. Willows owner was also doing some of acupressure points on a daily basis in between my treatments.

So in the second treatment acupressure point Bl 25 continued to be used along with the introduction of Bl 21 which helps with atrophy, gastrointestinal issues, edema , back pain and general weakness. Each session I added a new point Bl 11 (helps strengthen bones and joints, nourishes and facilitates blood flow, benefits joint problems and also helps neck and spinal pain), Bl 19 (helps with hip pain and gastrointestinal issues) and lastly Bl 23 (helps with general weakness, lower back pain and estrous cycle). The owner was also taught these points as treatment progressed. Willow responded well to all these points

Massage through Willows back, hindquarters, neck and poll were also carried out to help activate muscles and release tension that has developed due to compensatory mechanisms. Again Willow responded well over the two weeks

Exercises

Initially dock pulls and belly lifts were introduced. Gradually the number of repetitions were increased and this was something Willows owner performed between sessions. In the second treatment weight shift directed through the shoulder was introduced this along with dock pulls were to encourage Willow to use her stabilising muscles. To start the main aim was to develop Willows core to give her a stronger foundation to develop more global muscle strength.

Willow was introduced to some foot pads. Just one placed under a fore foot to start and then moved to a hind foot. The foot pad was placed under for as long as Willow would stay. This was often a couple of minutes. This was again to encourage Willow to use the finer muscles to stabilise herself.

Before I got to progress Willow further lockdown occurred. However with guidance Willows owner was able to progress her exercises gradually. Walking over a pole in straight lines was introduced then progressed over a week to a figure of out over a pole. These progressions occurred over a 3 week period from initial treatment.

Willows owner continued with all the above acupressure points, exercises and pole work by week 4 she was walking over 2 poles in a row with several repetitions. By week 5 Willow was introduced to slightly raised poles done in hand exercises. Willow is also on a track for the summer months so poles and obstacles to step over were introduced to encourage her to use her hind quarters more throughout her daily life. By week 6 straight line trotting in hand was introduced. By week 7 3 poles on a circle at walk was performed with no ill effect.

Progress

Walk up 3 months after initial assessment

Willow showed great improvements in her walk and confidence by week 2 of initial treatment. She was also getting increased turnout time. By week 3 she was back out on full turnout and her Bute had been gradually decreased as well. Within a month Willow was out 24/7. Willows feed was also changed to help increase weight and muscle mass by phasing in Copra and Speedi beet into her seaweed, brewers yeast, lucerne and chaff. Gradually the lucerne was phased out and replaced with Agrobs Leichengrass. There were two aims with these changes one was to reduce any feed stuffs that might cause increase in inflammation (hoof friendly) and to help increase condition.

The above photographs show a vast improvement in muscle mass and posture. The video further up also shows huge improvement in movement patterns. Willow will always have some sacroiliac issues but with careful management she should be able to lead a happy and comfortable life.

If you have any concerns about your own horse and lameness then do consult a vet or contact Pollyanna with any queries and she will try and help the best she can.

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Equine, Horse & Rider

Case Study: The unexpected project of Richie

At the end of last year an unexpected addition joined the herd in the form of Richie. Richie is an 8 year old Irish Sport Horse with some Belgium warmblood. He is 16.3hh with lovely big round hooves, wide chest and deceitfully short in his back. Richie is a sweet natured gelding that is easy to handle and very friendly. He is very food orientated which should help with any training undertaken. Richie is a lovely individual to be around.

So the big question is how Richie came to join the herd? Richie was on a hunt yard but showed signs of not coping, this was in the form of ditching riders by putting the brakes on and dropping the shoulder. He also did this in schools. As far as I know Richie had done some showjumping in Ireland and possibly hunting before coming over to England to hunt. Richie was given a last chance at the hunt yard but started to show signs of not coping again. As a result he was sent back to his owner. Due to a number of circumstances Richie came to join the herd.

Original Plan

So the plan was to take things slow with Richie, allow him to settle into herd life. He had already had a couple of months off with his owner but I felt the extra time would allow Richie to open up, relax and be a horse.

It was planned in the new year (2 months time), that ground work would be started. With very basic in hand work such as walking, poles, walking backwards, stepping under with hind quarters, core exercises (belly lifts, pelvic tucks) and stretching. Lunging would be introduced gradually starting with walking and then introducing small amounts of trot and eventually canter over 6 weeks. During this time Richie would be measured and fitted for a saddle to then start ridden work. Ridden work would start very basic with walking for 5 min and then gradually adding small amounts of trot and pole work. This is when the plan hugely depends on how Richie is responding and will be reviewed at this point.

How the Plan has gone so far

As everyone knows things do not always go to plan when working with horses, however Richie has shown he wants to be doing something. I came to this conclusion due to a number of things. Richie was very interested in the work the other horses were doing. He got to the point that he would come and join in by jumping out of his paddock. When I did start basic ground work he was very engaged to the point that when I took him back to his paddock he still wanted to continue. As a result the original plan was implemented a month earlier than planned. Ground work went well and lunging was introduced however it soon came apparent that Richie was very good on one rein but was very confused as to what he is meant to do on the other. So far Richie has shown that he is highly engaged but there are moments that he doesn’t know what is being asked of him. The fact that we don’t have a fixed timescale to get Richie to being a regular hacked, schooled or jumped horse means that we can give him the time to process things and understand what we are asking of him.

Trust

One of the key elements I want to work with Richie on is trust. I want to build a bond that allows him to trust me and for him to want to look after his rider. I am trying to create an environment were he can express his emotions without repercussions or having to fit in with a timetable. In a hope that we can take the stress response away. The main problem with Richie is that we don’t know what triggered his previous behaviour. We don’t know whether there was something specific that caused him to offload his rider or whether it was an accumulation of stress due to not being able to cope with his job. As a result I have stripped things right back to be as natural an environment as possible. He is turned out 24/7 with a small mixed herd. He is not clipped and is barefoot. He is handled every day but in a manner that is not demanding anything of him. He does get hard feed twice a day as do other herd members and hayed morning and evening. The herd have free range of about 8 acres. I regularly watch how the herd interacts and Richie plays with the others, participates in mutual grooming and communally sleeps when the others do. Richie regularly lies down to sleep. Richie also likes to watch over the two foals that have recently joined the herd and are currently in an adjoining paddock.

Watch this space for future updates on Richie’s progress.