I’m pleased to report that Jillie is bright and handling herself beautifully. I can’t wait to see some of this power and lightness in hand next summer. Meanwhile, there will be minimal activity as the horses shift into survival mode and snow and ice limit safe activities. Jillie has reached a level of function and training that pleases me in light of her history, age, and now, the weather has come into play. We leapt into full-blown winter this past week with snow followed by rain; a repeat performance and now we are in the inevitable deep freeze. Such is life in the high desert of Idaho. Comes a time to leave the horses alone and turn to contemplation, reflection, and book learning. This post closes Jillie’s story; at least for a while.
Winter is upon us
At the beginning of November, I was away for 10 days attending an Animal Normalization Therapy (ANT) certification class, adjusting to the seasonal changes, and adopting a six-year-old Border collie to mentor our 5-month-old puppy. The horses were pretty much on the back burner, partly because the concern that Jillie’s brain was not 100% on board continued to gnaw at me. I needed some time to weigh my options.
I had plenty of evidence that Jillie’s brain is not functioning properly.
Since I began making the needs and comfort of the horses in my care the top priority, I have been led to exam modalities ranging from complementary, to alternative, to just plain “out there.” My belief systems have been questioned at every turn and now, here sits a mare who is presenting yet another challenge to me. My initial response is to put on the brakes and stall out in overwhelm (I’m working on that! J), but with nowhere else to go, I get it together and jump down the rabbit hole.
To get Jillie the help she needs to normalize brain function I turned to a practitioner who has experience in the field of Quantum Energetics (QE), among other things.
Briefly, several QE corrections were done with Jillie in conjunction with muscle testing to target and direct them. Jillie’s responses ranged from mild relaxation to more dramatic demonstrations with some violent kicking of the right hind during one of the holds. Throughout a correction for “avulsion of Dura Mater,” she pawed the air with her right front leg, and when the release took place, her face was strained, nostrils wrinkled. She immediately began to yawn and soften and roll and flip her eyes. This went on for some time and that is when we decided to stop and give her time to process.
Can I explain what went on during this work? No, I cannot, but as my friend who witnessed the session with Jillie said, “There’s no denying that something was happening.”
Has Jillie settled down? No, and I have to laugh because I mentioned what a drama queen she is to a friend who has 3 Arabians and she said her chestnut mare is the same way, adding, “It’s a redhead thing with these horses.” For now, that’s as good an explanation as any. That and some vibrational remedies to support Jillie’s changes and help her deal with the perceived pain of neuralgia will carry us to the next phase of our progress.
Observable changes since this work include the fact that her hind legs are more under her, offering visibly more support when standing and they are placed with more purpose in movement. Her inclination to move diagonal pair of legs while backing is improving.
This picture was taken September 3rd and I just love the way it illustrates a soft topline with a telescoping neck.
ANT Bodywork Follow Up to AK adjustments – Day 1
The morning after Sid worked on her, Jillie was sore in her hindquarters and refused to stand on both hind legs evenly, shifting from one to the other and feeling quite dejected. When I checked, the shear at L-5 had reestablished itself. I had been working on that shear, but without Sid’s neurological reset, nothing I did held. The great thing is that after his work, the correction I know for shears was effective and I was able to release it. I am confident that Sid’s treatment will push us over the top of the long hill we’ve been climbing and make all of our work from here on more effective.
Day Two following AK adjustments:
Horrible weather! Rainy, cold, windy; there was no way I was going to ask any of the horses to cooperate on even a basic level. Fed them and left them alone. I was somewhat bummed because we’ve had a lot of severe temperature swings lately and Jillie is just now convinced she should be serious about a winter hair coat. The rain with cold stresses her and I fear it is complicating and perhaps slowing her progress.
Day Three following AK adjustments:
ANT Bodywork Follow Up to AK adjustments
After challenging Jillie’s brain with the clicker work, I checked through her body. Her back was not looking as soft as it looked a few days before. This did not alarm me because the cold weather and rain cause her to tighten muscles put her in a sustained state of tension. When I asked for a belly lift, the “float” in the movement was minimal, unlike the way she lifted after Sid finished working with her. As soon as I put my hands on her, she started to relax and, as I felt along her back I could feel echoes of some of the fixations Sid had worked on, particularly at T-9-10, just behind the withers and T-14 in the mid-back. When I connected with L-5, L-5, Jillie lifted her right hind and held it up for a long time. This response was like nerve “zinger.” These echoes from the past all readily responded to the ANT vascular work. When I asked again for a belly lift, the float had returned and her “horsey yoga” lateral stretches were very nice to both sides.
Sid had explained that the point in Jillie’s croup was the result of the ilium being “slipped up” due to opposing muscles not firing to maintain balance. To address this I did FIT (Functional Indirect Technique) to unwind the established pattern and invite the ilium to open and drop. I also reestablished the idling rhythm in the pelvis, which was barely detectable. Next I did cranial work and witnessed deep processing in response to connecting with the TMJs, occiput, and hyoid (in the throat latch).
Since Jillie was just trimmed less than a week prior, she did not have much foot to give but I was able to rasp the outside of her front feet some that first day and again on the 3rd day.
ALMOST READY TO BEGIN TRAINING THIS YOUNG HORSE!!!!
I had Dr. Sid Erickson, DVM go through Jillie and a kind of pre-purchase exam, even though I had already purchased her. Sid practices a form of equine chiropractic that includes Applied Kinesiology (AK) to diagnose and treat nervous system problems and imbalances in the body’s "energy pathways," or neurological circuits. I’m not going to be technical in my explanation of what he found, because I can’t be, and I didn’t take notes. J Jillie had an imbalance in the right cerebellum of her brain that prevented normal neurological messages associated with gait patterns and coordination. As a result, several muscles were “turned off,” which means that the information from the brain was not arriving at its intended destination. Just one example is the large muscle in the “sling” of the shoulder area that is responsible for stabilizing the shoulders. This muscle should have prevented her right shoulder from turning out to the degree that I witnessed when I first met her. This also explains why her stance and gait pattern is so variable, appearing straight at times, then wildly out of whack at others, even just moments apart.
Another situation created an imbalance in the hindquarters that allowed the ilium to slip upward instead of being held in place; one set of muscles was firing, the opposing was not and that was, in large part, creating the extreme point in her hindquarters and atrophy in the muscles of her thigh.
I asked Sid if the brain imbalance could have been caused by the fall during Jillie’s dentistry. He said that could have happened then or it may have caused the fall. This discovery does explain to me why Jillie seemed to frequently “leave her body” and simply forget that she needed to stand up. She has not done that recently but it was a prominent occurrence in the past and contributed to the fact that she couldn’t stand for having her feet trimmed.
Sid believes she was chewing on her knees in response to nerve irritation and that was also caused in part by these imbalances. I still believe the ligaments are being affected as well.
And, with all of the body changes Sid’s work precipitated, he recommended I lower the outside of her front feet as much as possible the support the straightening of her legs and shoulders.
I did that and also ordered some Silver Lining Equine herbal supplement #11 Brain and Nerve Support, which sounds like the perfect next step in this little girl’s preparation for a productive life.
#11 Brain and Nerve Support:
The central nervous system is where good health (and good behavior) begins. The herbs found in #11 Brain & Nerve Support may be beneficial in supporting the natural travel patterns and gait, and provide secondary support to the digestive and immune systems. #11 Brain & Nerve Support may be beneficial in:
§ Lack of focus, short attention span, slow learning
§ Supporting normal behavior patterns
§ Promotes normal healthy brain activity
Jillie's unusual dental experience
Many people don’t see a need to do dentistry in young horses unless a major problem arises. But until a horse is 4 ½ to 5 years old, they are cutting teeth, which means their mouths are in a constant state of change. From about age 2½ to age 4½ permanent teeth are in the process of replacing ‘’baby” teeth that are called caps. Caps that don’t fall out on schedule create pressure and pain and can cause permanent teeth to divert from their intended paths of eruption. Imbalances can occur during that process set up problems that can plague a horse for the rest of his or her adult life. Since balanced mouths are comfortable mouths, it is imperative that horses receive regular dental check ups during their early years.
Jillie was just turning 4 years of age when she arrived in my care. I learned long ago that before starting to train a horse, there are many things to address, including bodywork and the balancing of teeth and feet. With Jillie’s body and feet on their way, I took her for what we expected to be a routine, first time dental exam and float and to check for retained caps.
The vet gave her a light dose of sedation and we waited for it to take effect. She was fine, so we put the speculum on to exam her mouth and begin the dentistry. There was no reason to anticipate any problem, but suddenly she fell down, collapsing in an oddly graceful way. The vet asked her to get. She popped up without a problem and was less rattled than rest of us. After her fall, we decided not to do much besides quickly run the float over her molars to remove sharp edges. By then, we figured Jillie had had enough and so had we.
For a long time, I was puzzled by that fall. It was so out of the ordinary and unlike a drug reaction. She had not hung her head, as a matter of fact, she held her head up as she buckled to the ground and sat there eyes open and unperturbed. I remembered that Jillie had occasionally acted like she might fall down while I was holding a foot of the ground to clean or trim it and how difficult leg circles were for her in the beginning. I wondered if those incidents might have anything to do with her fall at the vet office and it was some time before any light would be shed on that situation.
It’s not news to anyone reading this account of Jillie’s progress that keeping a horse’s feet balanced and trimmed is crucial to the way they travel and stand. I had my barefoot trimmer explain what needed to be done with Jillie’s feet to support and enhance the postural changes in her body, especially relating to the rotation in her front legs.
The thing he emphasized was that it was important for me to keep after flares because flares create a situation that stresses the laminae by prying up on the area of the white line and pulling the wall out away from the sole. I am fortunate to live in a dry climate with a pleasantly abrasive ground in my horse pens. This allows the feet to wear at a fair rate and minimizes the amount of trimming I have to do. I am comfortable following instructions from a farrier and working on feet 2 – 3 times a week to help maintain balance between farrier visits.
Left: 6/7/2016 right front Right: 9/30/2016
The shape and integrity of the hoof greatly improved in just less than 4 month’s time.
Below: left front 9/30/2016
In this picture you can clearly see the growth lines near the ground that reflect the flaring history, while the wall above is coming down straight and evenly.
An Unexpected Development
Stress in Jillie’s knees?
After returning from a 3 week vacation I went out to check on Jillie and resume the physical therapy exercises (see video) I had been doing to encourage her front legs to straighten. I noticed the hair was being rubbed off on the inside of both of her knees. I was puzzled. It seemed such a difficult spot to rub, that I said out loud, “What in the world could you find to rub on here?” I no sooner said it, than she extended a front leg and began scratching on one of the spots with her teeth.
Off to the anatomy books! I determined that she was chewing the inside (medial side) of the antebrachiocarpal joint, specifically the base of the radius and the RC, radial carpal, bone on both front legs. Great. Now that it had a name what did this tell me? The only information I could find that specifically discussed this joint, was an article about a study of OA, osteoarthritis, in riding horses and I think it may have guided me onto the right track. *
In a discussion about the function of the joint, I was fascinated to learn that in movement the bones in the knee are mobile and the different joints within the carpal joint do not fit perfectly but slide into position when loaded. I swear! Horses are so fascinating! The ability of carpal joint surfaces to dissipate force by transfer to certain ligaments is the principal means by which carpal injury is avoided. Repetitive trauma and/or an impact load to the joint tissues can cause degenerative changes in these joints. Initially, there are lesions and erosion or loss of cartilage. Debris from these lesions is linked together with bony changes that create stiff, inelastic tissue and causes a low-grade synovitis, which contributes to the development and progression of OA. Early in the development of the disease, lameness is not necessarily present. *
Suddenly, my joyful response to the improvement I saw in the toe-out twist in Jillie’s front legs was dampened by what I now perceived as signs of stress in her ligaments. Might the correction of the twist in her front legs and/or the increase in the range of motion of her shoulders be causing discomfort or unfavorable changes in the joints in her knees? The article I had found said that horses who develop OA, osteoarthritis, present with shortened stride and decreased shoulder action. What affect was dramatically increasing the range of motion in Jillie’s shoulders having?
I talked to a couple of vets and they agreed that the changes occurring in Jillie’s posture could stress the ligaments. She didn’t seem painful when the joints were flexed, but the chewing indicates that she is aware of some sensation in her knees. One vet recommended x-rays, the other said wait and see what happens. I’m not big on spending money on diagnostics when answers to my questions don’t necessarily hang in the balance, so I decided x-rays could wait.
I also decided to treat the area as if it were painful. Topically, I soaked the area with Sore-No-More liniment and an herbal preparation my friend made. And I put her on the Silver Lining Equine Herbal formula #12 Feet & Bone Support**, which is recommended for the following conditions:
Anything is possible. I believe that Jillie’s joints were stressed and at risk in the extreme toe-out position and, my hopes are that the discomfort is a good sign because things are changing significantly and that these 4 year-old joints are resilient enough to adjust favorably.
UPDATE: As of SEPTEMBER 8th
Jillie had the hair on her knees so damaged that it was difficult to determine when she stopped chewing on them, but I can say with certainty that as of September 8th, the hair is smoother and I don’t see any signs that she is continuing to chew on her knees. YES!
She is putting up a winter coat so I can watch for signs of chewing on a clean slate.
With 20/20 hindsight, I feel it was good for me to be away for 3 weeks and let Jillie rest so the effects of all the bodywork and exercises could “cook.” Had I been home, I may have pushed too hard in my eagerness to encourage change. It’s that Equine Standard Time thing.
I also want to make it clear that I work her very little and offer continual support to her body with brief and/or extensive bodywork sessions.
It is so difficult to get good pictures of her stance. Angles vary vastly and as soon as she sees the camera, she starts walking toward it to put her nose on it. (Misguided Clicker Training effort?) I try to capture shots where she is on her own so I haven’t had any influence over the way her toes turn.
These photos were both taken September 17th, about 20 minutes apart. (Left) You can see that Jillie’s stance varies and she still toes out, but (right) she sometimes stands with her toes much less out and this is why I am so encouraged by the changes she is making. I believe that if I continually support correct posture throughout her body and support it with slow, deliberate movement that emphasizes releasing, her legs will straighten.
It is amazing that this horse showed up in my life just when I was starting to question how much of a horse’s conformation was real and how much was influenced by postural compensations.
Jillie's PT Exercises - 1
By the time I decided to film this routine it was early July. I had done it 1 - 3 times per day for about 4 weeks, and then went away on vacation for 3 weeks. When I returned, I wanted to film it. Much to my delight, the improvements in Jillie are easy to see.
I edited the footage as much as possible to show the steps, not necessarily the process. The real time video was about 8 or 9 minutes. In practice, I spend more or less time whenever needed.
Everything you see me doing here is aimed at freeing up Jillie’s shoulders and the base of her neck to allow her front legs to rotate back toward a more normal position and restore function.
Feed and nutrition are always a challenge for me. It can be difficult to discover exactly what is needed and the expense of diagnostics and supplements or special feeds is often a determining factor. I am fortunate to live in an area of the country where good quality hay is abundant. A little selenium and some probiotics are usually all that is required to supplement the grass/alfalfa hay mix I feed. For special problems, I have had great success with Silver Lining Equine Herbal* supplements. I put Jalila on a daily dose of LCR to sooth and heal any possible ulcers for one month. She has a history of developing ulcers with any new situation, and I believe most horses deal with them much of the time. I use LCR whenever something changes in a horse’s environment to help offset the stress. I also gave her and the others in the adjacent pen Rescue Remedy to help mitigate stress and promote relaxation and calmness.
Jillie was still pacing the fence and disinterested in cleaning up her hay, so I added Silver Lining Be Calm to see if it would help her settle. Within 3 days she was relaxed, eating better and cleaning up her hay. This translated to weight gain and a happier horse, which made me happier too. Win! Win!
Leading & Groundwork
Our first attempts at leading were chaotic, hurried and perilous for my toes. You can see the defensive, braced posture I’ve taken as we race around for a brief photo op.
Steering was not much of an option and Jillie seemed certain the only safe piece of ground was the one I was occupying and she was determined to share that space with me.
So many things to improve!
For Phase One of our time together, I set goals of encouraging the seeking/telescoping response in her neck and lowering her head to start replacing the high headed, bracing posture she has learned.
Connected Groundwork Shoulder Delineation, used to release tightness in shoulders and encourages telescoping the neck, Cheek Delineation, used to improve mobility, balance and flexibility in the area of the poll, Caterpillar used to promote telescoping of the neck and release in the poll
Gentle side-to-side rocking from withers to dock of tail. This, which is an expanded version of withers rocking, provides valuable neurological input to the CNS while relaxing the horse and breaking up chronic patterns of hypertonic muscle tension.
Since Jalila first set foot on my place, she has been extremely affectionate and friendly toward me. She greets me whenever I arrive near her pen and follows me around, so catching her is no problem. It will be interesting to see how we can transpose the affection she has for me to trusting humans in general. I do believe she has some misplaced associations with halters, so I’ve been using a catch rope instead of walking up to her and aiming the offender at her face. She appreciates this and I don’t foresee any problems arising as long as I make the transition to a regular halter slowly.
Jalila, It Takes a Village
"Earning Trust & Building Confidence"
Teeth, Feet, Herbs, More Bodywork
It really does take a village.