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"hung heels"
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Thu Jul 14th, 2016
Posts: 1
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 Posted: Thu Jul 14th, 2016 11:09 pm
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I do not want to waste anyone's time if this subject has been covered, so just ignore this if it has and I will search longer. The closest I have found is the thread about the wringing(?)hock and rotating foot.
20ish Warmblood Dressage mare schooled to 2nd/3rd Level. Over a period of time her rear heels have begun to not touch the ground. Literally, there is daylight between her heels and the ground. She has exceptionally large windpuffs that have gone from soft to hard over time. Her farrier has not been concerned and has had her in 1 degree wedges. She has "always" tended to favor/rest one rear leg. Her way of going has been to do a sort of twist with her back feet as she moves off on her back toes and stabs them in the ground. She also has a habit of piling her shavings against the wall of her stall and standing with her rump pressed against the wall and heels up on the shavings and toes digging into the stall floor. Recently she was kicked while out in pasture by another mare and has been stiff, sore and lame in the other rear leg
The vet was called and did radiographs and ultrasound. Radiographs were "good for a 20 year old Dressage horse in work"---nothing significant, actually rather good---ultrasound did not find annular ligament lesions or calcifications. However, the soft tissues (Suspensory, DDFT, SDFT) were abnormally hard and tight to palpation. Her diagnosis was Atypical Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Disease. She prescribed going to 2 degree wedges, MSM and Previcox. (I am purposing withholding comment here.) She also said that she was considering a Chinese herb (sounded like eeooo-something?). Today, the vet called to say that she had called her mentor at Virginia Tech who questioned the DSLD DX and wondered whether or not it could be something neurological, involving the DDFT, possibly stemming from the back. They are discussing whether or not to cut the DDFT---I guess as sort of an experiment as he says he has only seen 2-3 other horses with this.
I am an equine bodyworker who attended every class/workshop/clinic/lecture offered by ESI that I could during the mid-1990's. While taking my certification course in CT over 20 years ago, one of our Project Horses was exactly like this mare in every way. He was eventually euthanized. I 1996 I moved from CA to VA and have been practicing here.
Due to the owner's financial situation I haven't worked on this mare in a few years. However when I heard "stemming from the back", it triggered an old memory from the 1994 Systems Anatomy Dissection and I dug into my course materials and class notes. In the course materials you have a long biomechanics discussion on the horse's Reciprocating Apparatus of the hind limb and how it originates in the back, specifically, the dorsal ligament. The main subject of the discussion was to explain stifle/hock function/dysfunction as it relates to back posture (ring of muscles, true collection, etc.). I have this memory, however, of an aside discussion where you were talking about how a horse who flips its soles up had contracture in its DDFT. I just can't remember everything that was said and have been wracking my brain and digging through all my hand written notes.
What my basic question is, rather than neurological genesis could this be purely biomechanical (possibly nerve entrapment/compression also)dysfunction that perhaps could be benefited by returning normal biomechanical function? I can see how it might be too late---too long standing---however I would hate to see this mare's DDFT cut or her euthanized.

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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
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 Posted: Fri Jul 15th, 2016 12:29 am
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As I've said many times before -- dressage riders who follow the common modus, i.e. what is seen in competitions and taught by "certified" instructors, ruin their own horses. This is because this style of riding is a ruinous way to ride and train.

What could possibly be the end result of years of shoving the horse onto its forehand, so that its weight comes into the rider's hand (the rider mistaking this for "contact", and not only the rider, also the judge and the audience); what could possibly be the end result of over-driving the horse in this manner all the time, than that the horse develops a case of what (in the class you took) we called "jumper-itis"? In other words, chronic and pervasive and abnormal tightness in all the structures (muscles and ligaments and tendons) that run down the rear aspect of the hind limb, from the back all the way down to the frog?

We called it "jumper-itis" because it is horses belonging to teenaged girls who want to jump, but who have no concept of setup or how the proper riding of figures relate to successful jumping, whose horses show this syndrome the worst and the quickest. Unless under the supervision of adults who know what they're doing in terms of training a jumper, these girls inevitably ruin their horses. The complaints they then present vary from "needing the hocks injected" (no horse in work should ever have their hocks injected), to "hitch in the gitalong" hindlimb short-stepping, to "collapsing behind" (partial upward fixation of the patella).

INEVITABLY these horses, and this will include the horse under your care Lorinda, object strongly to "backing up", sometimes to the point of rearing or running backwards or even flipping over. They have never been taught to back one step at a time, nor either do their riders know how to teach them this, nor indeed do they make it a priority or see the importance of doing that. Instead, they will tell you that the horse "resists" backing up. But anyone who claims "resistance" is merely projecting -- psychological projection. The problem does not originate with THE HORSE; any "resistance" that ever was, or ever could be, present in a situation involving horse and rider comes from one source only, and that is the rider.

Use the Google advanced search function (directions given in a thread near the top of the first page of this Forum) and use keywords "Pauline Moore" and go read her excellent contributions on techniques for manual stretching -- you probably already have your own routine but you might enjoy Pauline's. The obvious first therapeutic step for this horse would be forward-stretching of the hind limbs, addressing the flexor structures and all the posterior musculature.

The second thing you should search is keyword "backing up" so as to learn the protocol for backing up one step at a time, which I have gone into in detail in some previous thread.

Third thing you should do is take out a subscription to "Eclectic Horseman" magazine so as to be able to have at least one magazine on your table that shows correct work. See my articles in there, yes; and you might want to get the back issues going back several years that contain those -- I'm not in every issue, so contact the editor Emily Kitching through their website But also read everything and study every picture of Buck Brannaman; read all the Tom Moates articles about Harry Whitney and study the photos of Harry and his students; and there are several others also whose work is outstanding and you'll be able to tell that from their photos in there.

So good luck with this, and please stay more often in touch. I do remember you from years ago and I remember when you moved to VA. Let us know how this and similar cases in your scope of care eventuate. The horse is easy to treat; it's the indoctrination of the riders -- their wrong ideas that they won't let go of -- that is intractable. -- Dr. Deb


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