It's really nice to be appreciated with such unsolicited praise...

With the incidents of diagnosed kissing spines or impinging spines cases seemingly on the rise, I often ask myself is it something we are doing with our horses or is it just a case that we now are better able to diagnose these complaints? 

Either way, we have to acknowledge that the way in which we keep the majority of our horses is not really compatible with how they have evolved as a speices. Horses evolved to spend 18+ hours a day with their head to the floor grazing, and now a lot of horses spend 12+ hours a day stood in a stable, head up with a hay net. 

I understand the constraints of turnout and the necessity of stabling.  Just asking you to consider feeding your horses hay and feed from the ground to help a little in stretching and strengthening your horses back.

So when she is no winning dressage competitions, this is what my clients Eilean and Shakira get up to... I cringe!

Great photo taken by Jamie at Digitalpicy

Just for a bit of fun...

I am really pleased to report that Zue is doing really well!  Its been really hard to stick to my own advice and work program!  I now feel for all of you whom have been told to walk for x amount of time etc.  Especially when you have a horse that offers so much, and only you know they are not physically capable of sustaining it! 

His vet came out on a week ago and gave the all clear for him to return to the field, he was a happy boy.  Some of you would have seen his videos on Equi-senses facebook.  So he is now going out every day, building up from an hour a day.

His work is also gently increasing.  He had been lunged for 2 weeks, approx 15 – 20 minutes maximum by the end, and mainly in walk/trot.  His canter was so weak that I decided to do lots of walk / trot transitions to start building the strength in his quarters.  After a week of doing this his canter was much better. 

He has been under saddle now for 2 weeks.  Again taking it really slowly and building fitness and strength gently.  Starting out with 15 minutes a day and only the last two days has been 30 minutes.  This he will stay on for a while.  Again, mainly walk and trot with lots of transitions and lots of time stretching down walking after he has really engaged.  After a few days of lots of transitions, he started to going into passage thinking this is what I wanted!  What a trier.  He now gets the hint I really only want a nice balanced trot pushing equally from behind. 

His first canter was diabolical!  Totally on the forehand, completely bent and no substance or jump!  It was a good starting point and could only get better.  Hence why I laid off the canter and concentrated on the trot, he just did not have the strength.

So now two weeks on, just the other day, I cantered again, and can report a great improvement.  He is only cantering around the arena both ways a couple of times with transitions to trot and back to canter every time I feel him go weak and want to fall on his nose.

Physically I have picked up soreness coming through his whole body.  He is quite tight in his gluteals, through his pelvis and sacro-iliac, this is definitely what I feel in the canter.  It is likely that this tightness is a result of his stable rest as he has been unable to move.  He is also tight through his back and again in his girth, this is typical of having not been ridden for a while and his muscles adjusting to the weight of a rider and the girth.  Its nice to feel that his shoulders, where tightness had been for a while due to front feet injury, is getting better.  I am restricting myself to treating him weekly to make sure I get enough of a comparison. 

Shoes go back on Friday.  So its off hacking next week!  Cant wait to tell those tales!

As a therapist I am only one part of the team that keeps our equine friends in top working condition.  A very integral part is also the farrier. I often try, where possible to feed any information back about what I feel to the farrier and see if between us we can help the horse.  Sometimes it is just a tweak here and there.  In other cases, it may well need a complete change.

The first sign I get that not all is well in the foot department is constant jarring in the shoulders.  Obviously I look for other reasons for this first, no one likes to tell the farrier that their client is jarring and it could be his shoeing!

I had a classic case a couple of weeks ago.  A client of nearly 2 years, Melanie, moved areas with her horse Baronie, and had to change farriers.  Previously Baronie had never had any trouble with her shoulders that I would attribute to soreness in the feet.  After only 2 shoeings with the new farrier Baronie started to jarr through her shoulders.  By the third shoeing she was lame.  The vet was called and in his opinion, Baronie had been cut so short in front and was now bruised.  4 months on, she is still slightly bruised, and still jarring, although improving.  

There was no way for Melanie to know that Baronie was being cut too short. She placed her faith, as we all do, in her farrier as he had come highly recommended.  So, how can we assess for ourselves if there is a problem with our horses farrier?

I decided to have a word with a farrier and get his views.  I spoke to Jamie Henny ( He agrees that even small miscalculations in shoeing can have a massive impact on what happens muscularly further up the body.  So feedback from physio’s is very important.

When I asked him how can a client tell if the shoeing is not suiting the horse, he said “If I had a pound for every time a new client asked when it would be fine to ride the horse after it had been shod, I would be rich!” He explained “a horse should be able to be ridden within 30 seconds of the last nail being hammered down if so desired.  If your horse goes lame after shoeing, even slightly, if you need to allow a day or so for the horse to adjust to his shoes, then something is wrong.”

A good farrier is quite literally worth his weight in gold!  If you've got one - make sure you treat him decently or he may decide he doesn't need you as a client.  If you think yours is not as good as he should be - discuss the problems with him and try to resolve them, or quite simply look for a new one.

Most farriers have at least as much work as they can handle - but don't be tempted to use an unlicensed farrier.  Apart from the risk to your horse's soundness - it is against the law.  

After my last progress report on Zue, the snow and sub-zero temperatures hit, putting a dampener on his return to work.  However, this could have been a good thing, as it was not possible to ride, I had to walk him in hand – what a life saver!  I really did not mind having to walk in 15 m circles round the stables for 20 minutes a day.

The day we were able to go back into the school, he was very calm and walked round wonderfully.  So it came as a complete surprise when after 10 days of walking like a lamb, he was so very naughty when I was about to get back on board.  His behaviour was very out of character and very much like the stallion he is, a timely reminder that spring is on the way! So probably about a week sooner than I would want, Zue has been lunged.  And has now spent the week lunging gently.  Obviously he was feeling good and needed more than walking. Vet is coming this week to assess him so hopefully he will be sound enough to be turned back out.

I have been investigating different calmers on the market at present.  I have learnt a lot about the various types and qualities of magnesium in calmers, the effect of tryptophan on the serotonin levels, calcium required to absorb magnesium.  I am pretty much up on all the products, so please don’t hesitate to ask!

I would like to say congratulations to Tracey Lawson for a wonderful write up in last weeks’ Horse and Hound, and not a bad photo too!

In between seeing other people’s horses, I had to find time to see my own and continue his recovery work.  As written before, he was as good as can be expected the first day.  The second took us all by surprise.

Things started very well, Zue was much calmer to mount and walked in the school like he had not had any time off at all!  After 10 minutes of being nanny’d around, my helper stood by the gate whilst we attempted to complete two laps of the school on our own.  ¾ of the way round our second lap, he launched into one without any warning what so ever!  When he came back to earth and I stopped laughing, he launched into another attempt to loosen his rein to effect his infamous capriole movement.  Luckily I was riding him in draw reins so that he could not get his head up enough so after putting in a very swift spin he just managed to bounce all over the place!  After the 2nd attempt, he stood rigid ready to explode again, I had to call my friend over as there was no way I was able to put my leg on and ask him to step forward! 

The next few days saw us being nanny’d the whole time again, luckily without any repeat airs above the ground.

After that the freezing weather hit and has hampered our progress. 

Here is a video of a horse doing both levade and capriole for you to enjoy. 

Another busy week had meeting old and new clients.  I had two very interesting horses with interesting injuries that are not unheard of but not common either

The first underwent surgery for a damaged manica flexoria.  In English, this is a tubular sheath on the bottom of the fetlock region, through which the tendons of the deep digital flexor muscle pass. The surgery involved removing the damaged manica flexora.
 In the process of this surgery, the horse was put under general anesthetic and moved around by his feet to and from the operating theatre resulting in very sore shoulders, back and pelvis.  Imagine weighing 10 times what you do and then being held upside down by your ankles for a bit.  He is now walking out much more comfortable and with a 70% chance of returning to previous levels of work, I wish him all the best.

The second is a wonderful horse that had a very bad trailer accident 2 years ago resulting in the displacement of flexor tendon off the point of the hock.  It generally takes a good 2 years for the tendon to re-attach itself to the hock, normally in a different position, leaving the horse with an abnormal gait.  I have known two previous horses with this type of injury, both polo ponies.  One returned to match fitness, the other was unfortunately not given enough time to recover suffering further repairable damage.  
When I first treated Bailey end of last year, he was very stiff and blocked through his back, and built up so unevenly, even ignoring his abnormal gait, he was walking in a banana shape.  I suspected that his liver and kidney may also not be functioning correctly due to how blocked his back was and suggested his owner call in Equine Iridologist and Zoo pharmacologist Catherine Edwards.  Bailey underwent herbal treatments for liver and kidney detox.  Poor lad then had a host of issues, none of which related to his injury.

So back this year to follow up treatment and what a difference!  If was my hope to just loosen off his back so that he can be more comfortable and return to walk hacking.  He has surpassed my expectations and is much more looser and suppler than I had dreamed he could be and is happily hacking out, and wanting to trot and canter! Way to go Bailey.  Here’s hoping he has a couple more years of fun times ahead.
Yeah!  After months off and quite a while on complete box rest, our vet wanted me to get on and ride Zue in walk so that he would be more controlled than in hand walking - he hoped anyway.  Pleased to report we managed 10 minutes! 

Zue kept all four feet on the ground and me on his back, could not have asked for much more than that really.  He was very fresh when I got on him, almost piaffed the 10 steps from the mounting block to the arena.  He went into the arena and was about to explode.  Whilst he was trying to decided which way to spin or just simply go up, I called a friend over to walk next to us.  With both of us talking to him we managed to get him round the arena safely.  I could not put my legs on him at all for the first 8 minutes of that!

Was just settling when a big white horse from the DIY yard other side of the farm headed down toward the school - now white horses are Zue's favourite - I think it has something to do with shades of grey (no not the book!) ie he can see them better.  His eyes did pop out of his head and his whole body went tense, I managed to call out and ask if they could please come back in 5 minutes.  Luckily the rider understood and disappeared behind the stables for a little jaunt out of sight.

All good fun.  Onwards and upwards.  Tomorrow will try for 15 minutes.

No equine therapy is a substitute for veterinary attention. All work carried out is in accordance with the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, which states that veterinary consent must be approved before working on any animal.

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