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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > horse is "quick" on right front which is a clubby

horse is "quick" on right front which is a clubby
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JW
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 Posted: Sat Jun 30th, 2007 03:05 am
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Thanks for the reply Pauline

This horse does stand square easily he prefers to have the left leg forward all the time if on his own. Will bow with head between front legs, and when I ride, I frequently ride long and low, drop his head walk, trot and canter. I have been working on engaging his hind end. He tends to pull himself along, as was sore in the hind end from stall weaving.  He is an Arab and wants to have a tight back, but I work at rounding and softening all the time. As to a short neck, yes I can reach his ears easily from the saddle, but will measure distance here as well. He can walk and eat if he chooses, he just doesn't choose to have the right leg forward.  He has a very short back. When I bought him he prefered the left lead. I thought that since he was club footed he would always stand this way. I took pictures of him to check measurements of bone, though I'm not as good as Dr. Deb would be to analyse it. Regardless, though, should he be on something to keep his tendons strong like flaxseed ect? He is calf- kneed on this leg as well, what do I do to best support him? What I think of is that the horse should be limited as much as possible from this stance, and encouraged to stretch this leg forward, as the tendons are tighter behind this knee than the other. Or would that be a waste of my energy, as he is six, done growing, as long as I keep up with the hoof angles, he can't do any more damage to that leg? I am thinking also that he is calf-kneed because of this stance. It sure looks like that could be the cause.

Not sure about the hoof angles you mention. I do remember you are smart about  hooves from a past article, please enlighten me. Both my vet and farrier concur with one another, though I know that could still be wrong. He is trimmed every six weeks, shoes aren't recommended as he grows quickly. 

Thanks, Jineen

jrhammontree
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 Posted: Sat Jun 30th, 2007 02:47 pm
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I really didn't have much success on the lunge line getting him to shift his weight.  He just moves onto the larger circle still with his head out and his body in towards the circle.  I was wondering if I should experiment with an inside side rein to at least keep the head and neck and shoulder in the right place.  I played with him without the side rein but could never see him change.  The weird thing is he goes the same way circling the other direction too, just not as pronouced.  I would have expected him to be more straight  going to the left. 

When he is positioned correctly under saddle, should the marching gait disappear immediately while he is in a correct position -- or it this a developmental change that will take time. 

 

thank you

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 1st, 2007 09:07 am
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J.R. -- OK, this is pretty much where I thought we might be on this -- so what I would like to accomplish here is to teach you how to perform a leg-yield. This is a very easy movement for you to learn, and quite an easy one for your horse, or any horse, to perform.

The keys to getting good results on this are no. 1, your timing, and no. 2, that you understand how much pressure to apply. If you apply too much pressure, you'll get the horse scared and afraid, and of course we don't want that. If you apply too little, he will not take the proper kind of step (the kind of step that will carry him forward-and-obliquely, so that he fades away from you on the longeing circle, or enlarges the circle when he is being ridden).

As to timing: it is productive to pay attention to the inside hind leg. The "inside" hind leg is the leg that is toward the center of whatever circle you're on, so that if you're going counter-clockwise the "inside" hind leg would be the horse's left hind leg. So you apply pressure -- and this pressure normally needs to be only your own body, your horse respecting your "bubble" so that when you step a little nearer to him he will yield away -- you apply your pressure toward the place on his ribcage where your leg would be if you were riding him, or perhaps a little ahead of this, even as far ahead as the lower part of his neck. This is where you "aim". But, at the same time, you watch the inside hind leg. What you want this leg to do is to step so that, when it swings forward, it lands under the animal's navel instead of going straight ahead. If it goes under his navel, it will have to travel somewhat toward the outside of the circle.

You want the animal to move so that he "fades" outward from the starting diameter of whatever circle you're on, to some larger diameter.

Don't get the idea that this is ALL about circling, by the way, either. Doing this on a circle is merely the easy way to learn HOW to do it. Once you get the picture and get this working for you, then you'll also be doing it (1) at a standstill, or in other words, around a single point, and (2) on straight lines, i.e. going from one straight line to another straight line.

The only trouble you're really having, J.R., is that you have little or no experience with this and that always makes it tough to picture how something is going to work. It is much harder for me to try to write down for you what would be a very simple matter if we were there at your place together. If there is anyone near you -- I don't know where you're located, but if it's in Canada maybe you could go see Josh Nichol. Or wherever you are -- if there is somebody near you who knows how to do a leg yield ("Western" people call this a "sidepass", except I don't want you trying to do it straight sideways yet) -- then maybe it would help to go just spend one afternoon with them and have them show you on their horse. Then I am sure you'll be able to go straight home and do it with your own horse.

It is very important that you DO learn how to do this, J.R., because without this skill, you have no control and no hope of having any real control, over any horse. In other words, getting control over the placement of the horse's inside hind leg is the key to all the other aspects of better-quality and more effective riding.

Write back please and let me know how this goes. -- Dr. Deb

jrhammontree
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 Posted: Sun Jul 1st, 2007 12:42 pm
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For your information, I am in South Florida. I am always interested in working with good trainers so if you know one in my area, please advise.

  However, I really do know how to do leg yeilds.  It was just on a circle on a lunge line, it was hard to effect the horse without having legs and hands to help.  That's why I wondered about side reins.  I am a very experienced rider -- having ridden up to 3rd level dressage and extensive hunter experience for the past 30 years.  I've taken enough lessons and training from people such as Jean Luc Cornille and many local trainers.  So much I could probably mortgage my house 2 times over.    I can ride the leg yeild with no problem and my horse is responsive to the slightest touch -- I completed 2 levels of XXXX training with him.   From what I understand, I should keep him in that "position" a lot to straighten  him out.  What I don't understand is should he become even in his movement right away while he is in the "leg yeild" position?  I don't  think he does.  I have been working on straibghtness for quite some time -- 2 years and still see the same pattern of movement.  I'm frustrated and depressed that his walk is still so poor.  The other gaits look normal.

I am leaving for a weeks vacation in a couple hours, but I will try to check your reply while I am away.

Thank you. 

Last edited on Sun Jul 1st, 2007 06:31 pm by DrDeb

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 01:50 am
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Hello Jineen - I didn't recognize the 'JW', but nice to be chatting with you again - how's the horse we discussed previously, a mare I think?

It's good that your Arab will stand square, but this is a different matter from how he chooses to stand by himself, given that it's possible to train a horse to move his legs into any configuration we choose - as you would know, so much of conventional training simply teaches a horse to ignore discomfort or even pain.  Please forgive the nitpicking, but it would be helpful to know specifically if he can touch his nose to the ground immediately in front of his toes while standing square? Or does he move one foot back in order to do this?  Bowing is a different exercise as both front legs are protracted, making it possible for even a stiff-backed horse to get his head down low - bowing stretches the flexors at the back of the leg and also the hamstrings, but only moderately lengthens the back.  Likewise with long & low work - at no point in movement does the horse have his nose on the ground with his 2 front legs square and vertical.

The point of these questions is to determine what precisely is driving your horse to adopt this posture.  You have obviously made good progress with him, but there are some indications that his back may be tight - the tendency to pull himself along, and the lowered withers when eating, can both be signs of contracted back muscles, so this is the first priority - to establish whether or not his back is tight (a short back does not have to be a contracted back).

If you think there could be some restriction in his back, second priority is to figure out where it's originating from, which is why I mention feet.   If we rule out some of the more obvious causes of back muscle contraction like poor saddlefit or inappropriate riding techniques, then hoof balance is the next of the 'usual suspects' to investigate.  Medio-lateral (side to side) balance is especially important.  You can check for this by looking at the height of each heel bulb on each foot (the 2 bulbs on each foot should be similar), but also look at each foot from the front - is the hairline horizontal or does it slope up to one side?  Imagine how your own back would feel if you walked around all day with a wedge under one side of one of your feet - you'd be quite sore from the protective bracing of your back muscles trying to safeguard your spinal cord, and likely not want to stand 'square'.  Horses will also brace their back muscles for the same reason when their hooves are not well balanced - there will be uneven pressure on the individual vertebral segments which is perceived as a threat to the nerve cells of the spinal cord.  Bracing prevents further movement or pressure and thereby protects these nerves - a few sore/tight muscles being a small price to pay for preservation of spinal integrity, i.e. no spinal cord, no life.

Acquired calf-knee generally goes with a flat, underrun foot rather than a clubby foot.  Do you mean that this horse still has one foot that is very much more upright than the other?  If so, then the pastern angle on that side will be lower than the other side.  This will place more tension on the flexor tendons of that leg which is probably why you feel them as 'tighter'.   The remedy for this is to slowly and progressively lower the heels of the clubby foot whilst encouraging the horse to place more weight on that foot by the straightening exercises you are already doing.  Trimming a small amount from the heels of the clubby foot at least every two weeks will be essential - your farrier may be willing to teach you how to do this yourself in between the usual 6-weekly visits, it's not hard to do and takes only a couple of minutes.

Passive stretching exercises would also be good for this horse, I think we discussed that previously?  If we establish that his back is a bit tight, then I can describe some stretches specifically for that, but as always, we need to know what the primary issue is and not just mask symptoms.

Personally, I do not use flaxseed for any reason as it is listed in the RIRDC publication 'Plants Poisonous to Horses' as toxic unless boiled for 5 minutes, which probably negates any benefit.  Small amounts are supposed to be OK  but I prefer not to risk it.  Your horse will not need flax or any other tendon supplement once his feet are functioning well - balanced feet and a straight posture are the best lifetime safeguards for any horse, and even more so for those with less than perfect conformation.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Fri Jul 6th, 2007 12:56 am
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Hi Pauline! I was lazy the other night and didn't sign off as usual. I didn't think anyone would remember, especially with this site being so busy. My mare is fine, thanks. Vet said to re-test for Cushings in the spring and that there wouldn't be much to do for her till it was more advanced, so I haven't re-tested. Her summer coat does have longer hair tufts in it this year. Sorry about flaxseed. I meant linseed. It was recommended to me because of the soil depletion in my area.

To regroup about my Arab-bought him when he was 4, with the foal stance and straight right front foot with calf knee on same leg. The farm that I bought him, my vet, farrier and on-line info commented that the foal stance is part of club foot, so I was excepting it as is. He also prefered the left lead canter, always wanted to canter instead of trot. Over stepped his tracks at the walk quite a bit.

In the other post of tripping and falling, I had the chiropractor work on him at that time, and he said he was tight in the loin area, and to do lateral work. The horse reacted by a buck when he worked on the area.

This horse weaves and throws his head when he's not where he wants to be, he's out 24-7 weather permitting, with a buddy to keep this down as much as possible. I know it's the birdie idea, and I re-focus him when I can. It just hasn't gone away. He's much better when his stomach is full and he has been worked. He had a bit of time earlier this year where the work wasn't consistant or too physical, he must have weaved alot. I longed him over ground poles one day, and he barely separated his hind legs-hopped over them.

Chropractor said this time that he was tight down the back of his hind legs, especially the left, and to stretch the left forward before work, to work him harder and more consistantly. He said he was tight, not sore, although the horse gave a buck when he adjusted the pelvis. He also said that the pelvis kept rotating forward and back, alternating left and right sides with each visit, this is ok.  Immediately after being adjusted, I rode and cantered him, and he picked up the most balanced right lead canter he has ever done. Most of the tightness is gone now. Left leg amost tracks up as much as the right. Doesn't really over step at walk like he did when he first arrived. 

This horse can eat off the ground with feet squared, and weight equal. However, he prefers to draw his right front, and left hind back to lower himself. This leaves the right feet close together under his body. With coaching, he can eat off the ground with the right infront of the left. On his own, standing at a feeder most of the time the right is back a bit.  His feet are balanced, equal and very nice actually. Pastern is steep on the club foot, and has the calf knee, or it is the stress of the stance, that has stretched the ligiments behind the knee. Haven't re-xrayed. Angles between the two pasterns aren't that different.

 Jineen

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun Jul 8th, 2007 06:35 am
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Hello Jineen - Glad to know your mare is doing OK.  Trying to paint a picture with words only is quite challenging, but I'm sure it's a good exercise for all of us, even if the 'pictures' do diverge on occasions.  Excellent that the two front feet are now very similar and your horse's back sounds to be free, at least in the front portion.   Is your chiropractor also a vet?  I'm wondering why your horse felt the need to buck during an 'adjustment'.  Do you do the ground stretch exercise that asks a horse to tuck his pelvis under?

It's unusual for a horse to be born calf-kneed on one leg only, but of course there are always exceptions.  Whether born or acquired, the calf-knee posture will be the reason for the extra tension you can feel in the tendons on that side.  If you think of the tendons as a continuation of the belly of the muscles above them, then anything that puts a slight 'kink' (such as calf-knee)in the otherwise straight line from muscle belly to attachment at the lower limb, will put extra tension on that whole structure including the muscle belly.   Passive stretching would be very good for this as lengthening the muscle belly will release some of the tension on the tendon.  I would suggest stretching both front legs, just do double the number and hold for longer on the right leg.   Same goes for stretching of the hindlegs.

Linseed is the same as flaxseed - let me know if you want the full quote from the Poisonous Plants book.

Best wishes - Pauline

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Sun Jul 8th, 2007 04:03 pm
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Hi Pauline

No, the chiropractor is not a vet. I know it is preferred. I have been successful with him with this horse and the mare as well. Chiropractic vets that I have tried just were not the right ones. They are also rare in my area. I do have a good one who is 2hrs away. Wouldn't the resulting trailer ride negate any adjustment that was done?

Please explain the pelvis tuck stretch, I don't know, unless you mean when you press your thumbs into the muscle on either side of the tail to get him to tuck. Front and hind leg stretch I know, but maybe not all. Thanks for the idea of the belly muscles coming down the leg. I'm going to think on that for a bit to understand it better and see if I can pinpoint anything. Although he can eat off the ground right in front of him, it is a stretch, no pun intended. So how would I look at his neck in comparison to his hieght? If you check Dr. Debs Conformation book II, page 37, the measurment is more comparable to figure 19 than 20. How many hours a week would be good to work with this horse, and how much time stretching in comparison to his free time?

As to the linseed, thank you! A concerned landscaper/horse enthusiast recommended it for ligament injury prevention. I have had two different cases of ligament injuries. I don't know where she got the information, but I have not used it. I try very hard to get top quality hay and feed that with salt and a commercial vitamin/mineral suppliment. Other than that, suppliments of any kind are a mistery to me. But as I said earlier, she, and many people I know are concerned with the depletion of the soils, and the resulting problems of people, animals and forage not being of nutritional value causing problems.

She has also recommended a product that is mined from old sea beds that is used as a mineral fertlizer. It is used by farmers of all livestock to remove mycotoxins from the animals system. The toxins bind to it, and then are eliminated from the body. There is supporting studies and literature available. I'd like to ask you more about it, but I don't know if I can mention the name here.  What I do know though is that plants pick up the minerals, and then we have them in a digestable form. She has quoted about horses in the west licking and eating rock dust of their own choice.  What are your thoughts on suppliments, or ideas like this?

Thanks, Jineen

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon Jul 9th, 2007 04:14 am
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Hello Jineen - Having spent a lot of time doing the post-treatment rehab work for a vet/chiro, and seeing at first hand how extremely gentle effective adjustments are, I get rather nervous when hearing about any procedures that would cause a horse to buck.   I have also seen and felt the soft-tissue damage caused by people calling themselves chiropractors, using long-lever techniques where a limb is pulled out sideways as far as it will go, then yanked still further.  Many years ago a racetrainer finally admitted that he regularly called me in a couple of days after the chiropractor so I could fix up the damage caused by the chiro - as if!  I'm not suggesting your fellow has done any damage, just a caution about non-vet practitioners, and you're right about trailer rides not being ideal.

The pelvic tuck I'm thinking of is probably the same as the one you refer to although I like to do this by  drawing my fingernail (or a hoofpick) along the rump on either side from the croup towards the poverty line so that the horse gently tucks his pelvis under rather than doing it too quickly or jerkily.  Another old favourite is lateral stretching - stand with your back against the horse's ribs behind the shoulder, use one hand to gently entice the horse to bend around you to take a treat from your other hand.  Do not allow the horse to snatch at the treat (that's not a stretch) but tease him for as long as possible.  Eventually even a stiff horse will be able to take the treat from his hip area without moving his front feet.  Facing the horse to do this exercise is not nearly so effective as the horse can simply flex his neck without bending his body.  Also, teach the horse to take a treat at ground level through his front legs, like in the bow, but keeping his legs vertical.  Most horses can get to the point where their ears are behind their knees.  Repeat all these exercises at least 3 times on each side as often as you have time for, certainly after every ride (before you wash down if that's your practice), and before the ride also but after a few minutes of groundwork as a warm-up.  I've seen excellent results from just these stretches alone, but if you add in the leg stretches we already discussed, then that's a real bonus.  You should be able to stretch all 4 legs in 4 directions, plus the lateral stretches, all within 10 minutes, which is a valuable time investment in the longterm welfare of your horse.  There are no hard and fast rules about the amount of work needed by any horse, your own time schedule will have to determine that, but alternate days might be ideal.  Even if you don't have time to ride, 5 minutes of groundwork plus stretching 3 times a week will keep him supple.

Don't think I explained the tendon thing very well, so to help clarify, let's take the deep digital flexor tendon as an example.  This tendon is part of the deep digital flexor muscle which attaches to the lower end of the humerus bone (this is the 'hidden' bone between the point of shoulder and the elbow).  The belly (meaty part) of this muscle is at the top of the leg, the tendon (non-meaty part) starts above the back of the knee, goes down the back of the canon bone, over the fetlock and pastern to attach on the underside of the coffin bone inside the hoof.  This is all one long continuous structure.  In calfknee, the canon bone points backward, thus making the tendon of the deep digital flexor bulge out backwards a little, deviating from what would otherwise be a straight path down from the attachment to the bone above.  This results in the extra tension you can feel.  The muscle belly part of that structure has the most amount of stretchiness, so regular passive stretching to lengthen the muscle belly fibres will ease the tension on the tendon fibres by lengthening the whole structure.

If your horse has a neck similar to the one pictured on p37, then he sounds completely normal and any struggling to touch his toes will be from muscle tightness not conformational difficulties.

Nutrition is not an area of my  training, so I can only pass on information I've come across over the years, but if you are concerned about mineral content of pastures,maybe getting a soiltest of your property would be a good place to start.  I agree that the whole subject of supplementation is a nightmare - so many opposing expert opinions, and I have to admit that my own feed shed has closely resembled an Apothecary's Shop on many occasions.  For instance, one of my three horses gets a very itchy, flaky mane and tail unless I supplement with brewers yeast, despite getting a good quality daily V&M.  It's all so hit and miss, I'm not a good source of advice on this.

Best wishes - Pauline

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Fri Jul 20th, 2007 02:56 am
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Its good to talk to you Pauline! 

Sorry for the long pause. Thank you for the descriptions of the stretches. Yes, the pelvic tuck stretch was the one I was thinking of. Am I wrong to assume that when a horse does the bow stretch, if they bend thier knees, one or both, they are tight over the top line, and not go so far back? Should I have his muzzle low to the ground, or up towards their belly? He does have trouble balancing for the front leg stretch, tries to walk away, so I've asked for less. Getting improvement with the left hind stretch, and circling the toe.

I understand what you are saying about the chiropactor. I didn't like my horses reactions to his adjustments. he's only used his hands to adjust. With my physical experience with massage and chiropractor, the massage helped and healed, but my problems were finally solved with a chiropractor. I have had a massage therapist out  before. What I am wondering though, is what positions are out there that there are to choose from to work on the horse? What do you do for work, and how can I learn about this myself? Obviously this horse of mine is extremely tight to adopt this stance, and has been this way for almost two years, and obviously a long way to go.

Thank you, Jineen

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 06:11 am
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Hello Jineen - With all stretching, whether it's just the routine maintenance type, or those that form part of a particular movement like the bow, it is very important to never go further than the horse is comfortable with.  If your horse appears to be struggling a little, such as bending through the knees etc, then you are right to back off and not ask for quite so much.  It's not possible to pass a blanket judgement and say your horse is tight through his back, but that may be likely.  Do not ask your horse to have his nose up close to his belly during the bow, keep it close to the ground so there is not too much tension on the nuchal ligament and connected dorsal ligaments atop the spine - these can be strained just like the suspensory ligament in the lower leg.

Chiropractic work done well is wonderful, I've seen some amazing results, but done badly it is damaging.  It is unlikely that any massage work will harm your horse, it will simply be ineffective if not done well.  For the best result, deep massage should be combined with stretching or the effect will not last.  This is a useful thing for every horse owner to learn.  You could also look for an Equine Physiotherapist if there are any in your area, these people will have a good understanding of issues like core strength and stability.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to train with an equine physio as part of a small group over a 12 month period, and separately took courses in equine massage (Equinology offer some good ones, but there are others).  All of this was purely to help my own horse with no intention of making it into a business, but that just happened and it soon became a fulltime job.  A few years later I accidentally received by mail Dr Deb's 3 conformation books (I had ordered something else, never having heard of DD) and was delighted to find this was exactly what I was looking for but didn't know existed.

An understanding of functional anatomy is essential for anyone who wants their horse to be the best that they can be - this is not just a health issue, it effects movement, performance, training, everything.    Dr Deb's dissection class is just the best schoolroom any horse owner can attend - it is not necessary to be, or even want to be, a therapist of any kind.

There are some very good books around also, e.g. Physical Therapy & Massage for the Horse by Jean-Marie Denoix and Jean-Pierre Pailloux - this has been my bible for a long time and I still like to read through it again every year or so, finding things I've missed previously.  Another good one is Back Sufferer's Bible by Sarah Key - this is a selfhelp book for people with back troubles but more importantly it gives a good easy-to-read explanation of how a spine functions, the need for core strength etc, a horse's back works in a very similar way so it's a good starting point.

Best wishes - Pauline

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Tue Jul 31st, 2007 07:55 am
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Hi Pauline-Thankyou for the references.  Am I wrong to assume that a chiropractor or therapist should have been able to know this horses stiffness by an examination, without me telling them, or the horse actually going into the foal stance? Where I have had good work done by this chiro, but he hasn't picked up on the extent of stiffness, is now leaving me questioning his ability, or maybe I am assuming too much of a professional. He did know he was stiff, and told me to stretch him. When he bucked with the adjustment he felt that the horse wasn't in pain, and wanted me to put him in more rigorous work. Of course I know the horse wouldn't have reacted like that if there wasn't any pain.  Am I asking more from him than I should?                    

Thanks, Jineen

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Jul 31st, 2007 12:29 pm
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Jineen - Any professional therapist with adequate training will take note of what an owner/rider reports but not rely on that for the whole picture.  The owner should not be expected to know where or why the horse is stiff - primary cause is often hidden behind secondary symptoms.   It is imperative that anyone working on your horse, should first of all watch closely how the horse is moving, looking at the horse moving away in a straight line, then reverse that so the horse is moving towards the observer, then repeating the process and looking from the sides, comparing movement on the straight to how the horse moves on a tight circle, it may be necessary to see the horse ridden.  Full range of motion of all joints should be gently explored, also palpation along the spine and major muscle groups to assess any pain or irritation responses, and any areas where the texture of the muscle suggests tightness or restriction.  After this, the therapist should explain to you precisely what has been seen or felt, along with recommendations for any bodywork that is then considered appropriate.

Working a horse more 'rigorously' seems strange, vague, advice in the absence of a detailed and specific explanation of how that rigorous work will benefit the horse.  Your own instincts are telling you that a horse does not buck without good reason.

Good luck, Jineen, with this horse - he sounds very like the horse who taught me so much about movement, feet, function and anatomy, a priceless education.

Best wishes - Pauline


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