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.

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