Friday, October 24, 2014

Case Study Thoughts and Herd Dynamics

Poor J.J. hasn't had a massage for a few weeks since our first one but I'm hoping to be able to do that again soon.  I strained my back a couple weeks ago trying to move one of those 100 pound black rubber stall mats.  I was taking it across the property and had it folded and had hoisted it onto the wheelbarrow, when it started to fall (and take the wheelbarrow with it) and I dove to catch it and wrenched my right QL, external oblique and bicep.  It was a very impatient week for me while I couldn't lift anything waiting for my muscles to heal.

Even though I haven't had a chance to work directly on J.J. I have been thinking about him and have had some ideas.  My old trainer, Kellie posted this article and I found it helpful at explaining why pelvic injuries are so hard to identify and diagnose hind end injuries.   I also took a review course over the weekend in preparation for taking the national equine massage therapist certification test through NBCAAM, and while talking about nervous system pathologies I had an idea.  There is a pathology called Sweeney Shoulder that I had not heard of, which presents with a rapid and severe atrophy of one shoulder and is caused by damage to a nerve.  I did just a little research this afternoon to see if there was anything written about a similar outcome if a nerve in the hind end were damaged, but I couldn't find anything yet.  But I wonder if the injury affected a particular nerve and that is what has caused so much of his problems?  Right now what I would love is to be able to find a vet who would be willing to do this case study with me, but I'm not sure anyone would be willing to do that at no charge.  I'm thinking I may have to ask around though because I am very curious as to the diagnostics of the situation and I am not qualified to form them myself.

I am going to do some research on the physical therapy aspects of treatment for Sweeneys and see if that is something to incorporate into my massage sessions with J.J.  Hopefully, I'll be able to work on him again this weekend and get into a once a week routine.  That is if I can manage to not hurt myself again doing barn chores.  This weekend is going to be busy with removing layers of mud from the paddocks and replacing that with layers of gravel.  My husband and I did some of that today and I made a conscientious effort to use my legs and my core more than my back when shoveling wheel barrels full of gravel from our several ton piles in the driveway.

Speaking of mud, we have a new horse in our heard.  My new friend, Kathleen recently moved off the island and her horse, Raven came to live with us.  Raven is about 27 years old and a very sweet, friendly mare.  We played musical horses throughout the pastures but finally found that keeping the girls on one side of the property and the boys on the other keeps things the most peaceful.  Geir (the Fjord), Frosty (the POA) and Girlfriend (my elderly mare) had really settled in well with each other and all felt like they had their places.  Girl and Frosty lived full time in the three adjoining south pastures and Geir lived with them during the day and then went home to his own paddock across the driveway at dinner time and stayed there through the night.  Geir can be a little bossy and I didn't want to leave him with the other two horses all night, especially not at dinner because he'd chase them away from their food.

Then Raven came last week and it was a madhouse when she first got out of the trailer!  Girlfriend started screaming her head off and tearing around the front pasture at a gallop, and at one point actually kicked her legs way up in the air behind her while running.  I'm sure the poor old girl was really sore the next day.  I tried putting Raven and Girl in the front pasture with Geir and Frosty in the middle pasture, and although initially Raven kicked at Geir through the fence, they quieted down quickly with each other so we opened the gate between the two pastures.  That was a mistake! Within minutes Geir was chasing Raven in and out of all three of the adjoining pastures at a full gallop with the other two horses following in blind excitement.   Raven was working up way too much of a sweat, Girl was slipping in the mud and Geir was completely ignoring me.  So, I caught him, put him across the driveway (amidst much screaming from Girl and Raven) and locked them in the front pasture and Frosty in the middle pasture.

They stayed that way for about twenty four hours, with hopes it would help them all calm down, but that didn't quite work out.  Girlfriend stayed glued to the fence as close to Frosty as possible and if Raven came anywhere near him, Girl would pin her ears flatter than I'd ever see, bare her teeth and charge Raven.  She definitely didn't want Raven playing with her toy pony!  So after twenty-four hours I decided to put Frosty across the driveway with Geir and see how things went if I just took the pony completely out of the equation.  It didn't go so well for Girl.  She ran up and down the fence that runs along the driveway screaming for Frosty - who just wandered off into the woods with Geir and didn't even look back.  She stopped screaming after awhile, but continued to pace, then I think she quieted down for a bit during the night but by the time the sunrose was pacing again.  That was a couple days ago and she has finally relaxed a little bit and is actually interacting with Raven more than just to pin her ears at her.  Yesterday I actually saw them grooming each other!

I think they're finally readjusting to their new herd dynamics and I'm going to keep things the way they are for awhile now.  Girl is so old and her sensitivity and spookiness is much more pronounced than when she was young and I feel like she's very emotionally fragile and it's not good for her to change up her herd very much.  But I also want to be able to take Geir and  Frosty places together and leave her home alone and have her be ok.   And now having Raven here I can do that.

A couple days ago my trainer, Audrey came over and we took both Frosty and Geir down the street to my friend's arena and it went so much better having both of them than just taking one.  I've taken one at a time before and the whole time each of them has been very wound up, and easily distracted and prone to stopping and calling to the other horses just to make sure they could hear someone and know who was around.  But with both of them, Geir paid attention to Audrey and they were both much calmer and easier to work with.

Audrey has started teaching me longlining which looks like it will be beneficial for Geir in helping him engage his hindquarters a little more and use his body correctly.  He has a tendency to pull himself along with his front end and drag his hind legs behind him, but the longlines help him remember to pick up his hind legs a little more and engage his back.  Kind of like when I'm at pilates and Beth will touch my shoulders to remind me to relax them and put her hand on my waist (or wherever) to remind my body to engage those muscles.  It's really interesting how a tactile sensation can activate the part of our brain to help engage a muscle, when just conscious thought is not really doing the trick.  Here's a short video from the other day when Audrey was demonstrating longlining.  Probably good there is no video of me trying it, much like how I felt when I started riding with a double bridle, to go from using one line for lunging to suddenly having two lines, I felt like I was all tangled up in lunge rope and fumbling and dropping stuff everywhere.  But I did start to get the hang of it by the end of the lesson.  I'm looking forward to getting better at that and it got me thinking again how I want to learn driving eventually also.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Case Study - Jasper Junior - Day 1 ... and welcome Rosie!

Before I get into my case study notes, I wanted to say that I'm very excited to have my first ever very own horse transport!  I've been wanting to get a truck and trailer for a long time now because it gets tiresome having to rely on my friends to haul my horses around (I'm sure it's tiresome for them too!).  But it's just not been in our budget to buy both those things.  Yesterday my husband and I went out to look at a horse van and although I - in my impulsive way - wanted to buy it even before the test drive - my husband shockingly also liked it!  There are many upsides to a horse van for me instead of a truck and trailer.  For one thing it will be a smoother ride for my horses and the learning curve to driving one is much much smaller.  I did a test drive yesterday with the seller and my husband and other than almost going in a ditch on one sharp turn off Vashon Highway, I handled her well and felt very comfortable driving her after I got the hang of it.  She's a stick shift so I'm the only one in the family who knows how to drive a stick so I'll be the only one driving, but I'm ok with that.  Her name is Rosie and the seller (who is going above and beyond) is doing some pre-sale repairs and a full maintenance check before she turns her over to me.  So, I will be tootling around the island with her in a couple weeks!

Now, on to Jasper Junior (or JJ as is his nickname).  I went out for his first massage last Tuesday and unfortunately, a lot of things have been happening the last week that I had to deal with immediately so I didn't have time right away to make my first blog post.  First of all, JJ is just about the sweetest guy out there, and so are his friends who were practically right up on top of me the first part of his massage, apparently, wanting to get some of that great back rub action.  We ended up having to lock them out of JJ's pen so that I could focus completely on him and not bump into other mules (literally) ever time I turned around!

This session was mostly a get-to-know-you session for both him and I.  He'd never had any bodywork before so it was a chance to introduce him to what that entails and that it is a nice thing, not a thing one needs to be afraid of or on guard against.  It was also a chance for me to palpate all around and see if I could feel what is going on with him.  It really made me wish that I had a device to look under the skin and see exactly what is going on under there.  Like just lifting the skin and seeing everything exactly as it is.  But then that would be too easy and where would be the fun in investigation, right? (or at least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself  :)

The big thing I noticed that I will investigate further is that he has a very hard lump about two inches in diameter just below his Ischial Tuberosity.  His owner, Dick, said he believes it is scar tissue and I think that is probably an accurate assessment although I couldn't say for sure without veterinarian diagnostics.  Upon initial palpation, the lump felt like bone, and I wondered if it could be his Greater Trochanter, but it doesn't seem like it is in quite the right place to be, and it did start to "melt" a little bit under my hand, which leads me to believe is it some sort of soft/connective tissue. 

Here's a photo as best I could get of that spot on his hip.  It is on the right side where he has so much muscle atrophy.   I'm not sure how well you can see it but it is right below the Ischial Tuberosity which is fairly well visible because of the muscle atrophy.

The other thing I noticed when standing directly behind him looking across the top of his back is that his spine down in the lower Thoracic through Lumbar looks like it has been slightly rolled to the right, as though something has been pulling on it from the top and it still goes straight down his back (mostly) but it looks like it is slightly rolled to the side.  My guess would be this is from the last seven years of compensation movement.  I would love to get a chiropractor out to see what they thought about that.  But I worry that moving his spine back into alignment suddenly would cause a lot of pain in other areas after years of compensation - I guess that is a good question to ask a chiropractor, how that affects the body when making adjustments like that.  Definitely outside my realm of education.

What's interesting is that for range of motion (ROM) on the right leg, JJ walked very stiffly and looks like he is having a lot of trouble bending at the stifle and hock on both legs,  But passive ROM on the right leg showed that it was completely within normal limits.  My education has told me that if passive ROM is within normal limits and active ROM (when he is moving it himself) is not within normal limits, there is a good chance the problem is soft tissue.  Which is good news because that is something I can address over time.

For treatment on Tuesday I mostly just did strokes to increase circulation and in the area where he had the most atrophy I used a light tapotement (tapping) to help increase circulation and stimulate the muscles.  I also worked a little bit on his supraspinous ligament around T14 through T-16 and got an enormous release from him with lots of yawning and stretching and farting.  And I worked out a Stress Point in his Longissimus Dorsi at approximately T18.  JJ was pretty relaxed and happy after the first session and followed me to the gate after it was over (along with all his friends after I opened up the pen again!)