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Lame Standardbred Mare with Old Injury
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Sat Dec 31st, 2016
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 Posted: Mon Jan 2nd, 2017 06:40 am
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Hello to Dr. Deb and everyone on this forum. I recently discovered this great resource and am just starting to dig into all this information. I have a 20 year old Standardbred mare that has a collection of conformation defects and unsoundness issues. She came from a failed breeding farm and I intended to find her a home, but her attitude and character were so forgiving that she has become a family pet. She never raced and was bred 2x before I got her. With her conformation I can’t imagine why anyone would breed her, but her temperament is exceptional. This mare has a hunter’s bump (dropped left side) and I assume it was from an injury that was never treated. I have had her for two years and she was sound enough for light, mostly walking trail riding until 3 months ago. For the two years before this I took her occasionally to a local vet/chiropractor and until three months ago the adjustments seemed to help her move better. They also resulted in her pelvis becoming less uneven, although after a few weeks it would return to the original angle.

The adjustments made 3 months ago caused this mare to become lame. Her pelvis never dropped back down after 2 weeks as it did before and she is much more lame than before the adjustment. She doesn’t appear comfortable on either hind leg anymore and her LH sometimes moves out and around with each step. This happens most often in the first few steps she takes from a standstill. The vet said she was able to get an additional adjustment that she had never been able to do before and she believed that the mare needed time to adjust. Unfortunately her gaits and comfort level have not improved. Per the vet’s instructions I have given her 1 gram bute 2x daily which has diminished the lameness ~20%. I have also been doing carrot stretches, tail pulls (straight back, 30 seconds), and hand walking over cavaletti 5 minutes a day. I have not seen any improvement except for the bute.

So here are my questions- Is it possible that the mare healed up with one side of her body shorter or tighter than the other side and that the adjustment is stretching this side out and causing pain? I have been told that there isn’t much you can do to help sacroiliac problems. She doesn’t seem to have locking stifles, but I guess I need to consider that her stifles may be affected as well. The possibilities mentioned were acupuncture and cortisone injections. I will be taking this mare to the vet this week for a lameness evaluation which may include ultrasound and possibly x rays. I will post what the findings are. This mare lives on my farm in a stall that connects to a paddock where she can come and go 24/7. Keeping her moving has helped but now this is no longer enough. have time to work with her so any ideas would be appreciated. Here are two links. The first one is three months after she was adjusted and became lame. The second one is from last year when she was moving better. The image is from last summer when she was doing well. Thank you.

Oct. 2017

Dec 2016

Attachment: Katie trot1.jpg (Downloaded 75 times)

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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
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 Posted: Mon Jan 2nd, 2017 08:00 am
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Dear Ms. Mok: Oh, my, what a very nice horse. She gets an A+ from me for:

(a) substantialness of limbs

(b) correct use of the sacro-lumbar and lumbar back during both down and up transitions -- exceptionally good

(c) lovely neck shape, well-carried, tendency to arch

(d) lovely long shoulder

(e) general breadth of body, spring of rib, and aft-to-fore balance

(f) substantialness and quality of the hoof horn

SO WHAT she has the pigeon toes. Number one, she carries her elbows out, as does every truly athletic horse on Earth, and for that matter every athletic mammal of every other species. This by itself would have caused her to "toe" slightly inward; the excess she shows is from the stupid wrongheaded non-help "help" she got when a baby, because they thought she was going to toe out and so bias trimmed the hoofs and thus twisted her growing legs. This is very, very common though does not always produce such a great degree of pigeon-toes, because most horses wouldn't have had such excellent forelimb conformation to begin with.

Now that having been said, so that you will stop thinking of her as some kind of a charity case, because she most certainly is not that by her nature; indeed she is noble, a queen among mares. But now it needs to be added that chiropractic adjustments which involve long levers, i.e. picking up one of the hind limbs and using the whole limb as a lever with which to crank the back, this being accomplished by a sharp upward jerk, is just simply never to be allowed. It is chiropracty from the troglodyte period; it is what is seen behind the rodeo chutes. You can fracture a horse's lumbar spine that way, and if you allow the practitioner to splint-fracture an accessory process this way, the day and the hour will come when the horse lies down to sleep and during recumbency the process will break completely away, and then the vertebrae will separate at that joint and the animal will not, thereafter, be able to rise and you will have to kill her the second time (she having been killed the first time in fact by the chiropractor).

You are absolutely correct to think that sacro-iliac problems are very difficult to ameliorate, let alone resolve. In short, no power on Earth is ever going to put this mare's pelvis back on the sacrum the way Nature designed it to go, the way it was when she was young, before she got cast in the stall (which is almost certainly the way she subluxated the S-I joint). The other way that broodmares sometimes subluxate the S-I is during the time around giving birth, when the bones of the pelvis loosen their connections to each other; rarely, they don't settle back in the correct position. Since she is not a point-to-point racer or steeplechaster, and in the absence of evidence of damage to the points of hip, i.e. one knocked-down, those are the two most likely ways that she originally hurt herself.

And you are also correct to think that having her pelvis higher and farther forward on the one side is going to affect stifle function. Indeed your films demonstrate to me that that stifle dysfunction is what her lameness primarily comes from. I see "stickiness" in the left stifle in both of the video sequences, though less in the earlier one.

So what is to be done? I do not expect that it is possible to fix the S-I: it is now welded into place -- the wrong place -- but there will be no changing that. And that also means that there will be no eliminating the stifle dysfunction; the twist in her pelvis dictates a concomitant asymmetry in the angulations of the left and right hind limbs, including at the stifle joints. In other words, one stifle joint is always -- no matter whether at rest or in movement, and no matter in what kind of movement -- more open than the other.

Nonetheless, something CAN be done for the stifles -- you can help them not "stick" so much, i.e. with less friction and irritation, and you can help them to "stick" less often. For a horse without the pelvis difficulties, I would suggest a regimen of ground-poles or low cavalletti. For your horse, I think that's too much at least in the beginning, and so we begin by teaching her to step back, one step at a time; and we add untracking exercises to that. You do these things in hand, and you do them under saddle; and if you do not know how to do them, write back and I will elaborate.

Untracking is the basis for all higher-level work, so would have been needed anyway. Stepping back is a form of transition. We are thus not only directly benefitting stifle function, but also choosing to do it from a position of strength, i.e. from something the mare has the talent and ability to do exceptionally well, as I noticed in the list of things I give the mare an A+ for.

From that, depending upon the progress you report, we will begin a program of straightening and strengthening, one bit at a time in increments that do not provoke lameness or increase any existing lameness. This is, of course, assuming that her back has not already been fractured by crude, primitive chiropracty; and that she does not object to being saddled or ridden.

As to therapies, chiropracty is fine so long as it does not involve any long-lever, fast-accelleration stuff. A hammer and block are fine. Finger-reference and reflexology techniques are fine and I've seen them be very helpful. Acupuncture is an excellent idea, not only for pain relief but also to relax any muscular tension/spasms the mare may be holding because she hurts and therefore her body tightens in certain places and has trouble letting go, because that seems to bring back the hurt or allow movement among bodyparts her instincts think shouldn't move, and yet which need to let go and move if indeed she is to become working sound.

Note that this IS our goal: working soundness. And by this I mean a level of soundness greater than you have ever had with her, such that she can handle any ordinary kind and amount of riding just fine -- so long as you learn to HOW to consider her particular peculiarities, and work with them and if needed, work around them. Unfitness is one of this mare's enemies, but again, we need to get her fit in exactly the right way, so that the muscle development we induce is, you might say, balanced to her needs.

Here is a true story. I know a man in Australia, one Tony Uytendaal by name, who is an expert dresseur. One of my students down there owns a Warmblood mare which she had been having extreme difficulty getting to take the left lead, and which also had a certain unlevelness, amounting to mild to moderate lameness, in way of going. Well, careful examination by photography and by palpation proved that this mare has a congenital scoliosis or curvature of the spine, such that her body is permanently curved to the right. She also has an extra (19th) rib on the left or convex side, which makes it very difficult for this mare to align her body straight.

My student is not nearly as skillful a rider as Mr. Uytendaal, and in any case Tony is unable to visit or ride with us more than occasionally. I therefore suggested a certain regimen of conditioning and coordinating exercises and had my student practice those for about a year. This helped to level out the mare's way of going but my student was still unable to get the mare onto the left lead. Well, at that point Tony showed up for a visit and we asked him to ride the horse, and I observed him expertly "feel through the difficulties", and with superb timing apply the aids at just the right time, so that the mare took up the left lead the first time. Tony's set-up for this was protracted, precise, and careful: real master-level work. And then rest and praise and after that, every subsequent bout, the lead came a little easier. If this had been Tony's own horse, in six weeks or so you would never have known she had anything "funny" about her anatomy. My student was not, however, at any time able, even after watching Tony demonstrate, to get the mare onto the difficult lead, and she eventually gave up on that project and got a horse that her level of ability and experience allowed her to succeed with and not be frustrated by.

The point of telling you this is, that what you wind up being able to do with your very beautiful and noble mare will not be limited by HER deficiencies, even though we know what those are. We will apply all that we know to helping the mare regain soundness, but like the scoliotic mare, we will not be able to make your horse symmetrical. Nonetheless, as your feel, timing, and balance improve, and the more you incorporate improving those things as one of your goals, the more you will find your horse able to do, and the greater pleasure you will be able to take in her, as willing and as kind as she indeed is. -- Dr. Deb



Joined: Sat Dec 31st, 2016
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 Posted: Mon Jan 2nd, 2017 10:18 am
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Dr Deb, thank you very much! I want to make sure I have this right, so I have a lot of questions. From what I read you are initially suggesting backing up and untracking to help improve Katie Girl’s stifle function. Katie is a sensitive mare who really tries hard to figure out what I am asking. She will currently back up a step or two if I stand facing her and lightly wiggle her lead rope. If I back her up by grasping under her halter she will soften her head and yield a bit. Is asking her to yield a bit how you want me to do it? How many steps are you suggesting? Over what period of time and how many should I work up to and how many days a week? Should she have bute or not?

From what I understand, untracking is the stepping under of the hind leg as the horse moves forward or in a circle.This takes the horse's hind end slightly to the outside. is this correct? Katie knows how to do this although I have never asked for more than a couple of steps. I can do it at the walk on a lunge line. How much of this should I start with, and what should I work up to over what period of time? Would leg yielding work as as well? At this point I don’t think she is comfortable enough to ride, do you think? Anything else you can think of to help with her soreness, let me know. Is it correct to think that I will always have to maintain a certain level of fitness to help Katie move soundly?

I understand what you are saying about Katie being limited by my abilities. I have had some dressage training with an instructor who always seems to create happy, fluid horses by working on their straightness. She could do a lot more with my mare than I will be able to and it may be worth asking for her help as things progress.

So if you give me a plan I will get to work. I really admire the kindness and forgiveness of this mare and she is very special to me. I appreciate you help!

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