Monthly Archives: February 2013

Do You Know Your Horses’ Rate of Breathing?

A horse at rest should take around 10-20 breaths per minute. During intense exercise the rate will rise to between 120-180. A cool down is essential to allow the time the lungs need to release toxins, exchange gases (carbon dioxide) and take in fresh oxygen.

Make sure to never make your girth so tight that it restricts the expansion of the ribcage. Sports massage can help relieve stress and trigger points around the ribcage, which will allow deeper breathing. Massage also helps increase circulation, relax the nervous system, thus also allowing deeper breathing.


Does Your Horse Have a Kissing Spine?

Many horse owners believe that a diagnosis of “kissing spine” is career ending. It does not have to be. The condition occurs when the bony ‘spikes’ at the top of the horse’s vertebrae start to rub together, causing pain and swelling, especially when in motion. If the long back muscle is very contracted, it can pull the vertebrae together and cause pain. Kissing spine is most prevalent in dressage horses doing many collected movements, jumpers, and upper level event horses. Thoroughbreds seem to be predisposed to developing the problem.

Surgery and injections are often recommended, but I have seen horses recover with the following:

Spreading out the fibers of the tight muscles through massage is one way to allow the spine to return to a normal state. Teaching the horse how to raise his back by releasing the posterior pectoral muscle also helps. Cold laser is another way to ease pain and help relaxation. Proper saddle fitting is essential. Don’t overdo sitting trot. As in humans, it is always worth trying physical therapy solutions before surgery. Chiropractic treatment, cold laser, acupuncture, and massage have all been very effective in many cases.

How do I condition my event horse?

I received this question, the first in the Ask a Question on Monday series,which I will attempt to answer from my point of view as an equine massage therapist, not a trainer. The question is from a rider who is aiming to compete at the 2 star level this season:

“I was wondering if you could explain the correct process of building a proper baseline of fitness in an event horse before starting with the fast-paced gallop sets when conditioning for competitions.”

I met Jack Le Goff at Malcolm Hook’s, our very popular event announcer, in the 1990’s, as he often gave clinics there. Jack developed the science of interval training for 3 day horses.

When a horse is fit, the heart and lungs carry blood and oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen converts into lactic acid that is then used for energy.( This is a simplified description.) When there is not enough oxygen getting to the muscles, the muscles tire ,which puts stress on the attached ligaments, and puts the equine athlete at risk for injury. In my work, I do all I can to keep muscles and ligaments stress free, but the rider needs to monitor their equine athlete’s temperature, pulse, and respiration rates.

Interval training is used to challenge the horse’s cardiovascular system by asking it to do bursts of speed, followed by periods of cool-down to allow the heart rate to return to slightly above normal before starting out again. Keep a chart! It takes at least 6 weeks to build up before galloping sets can be started. Whole books have been written on this subject, so rather than trying to get into specifics here, I would suggest you read more on the subject:

Thanks for opening up this very huge topic! I will be at April Twin Rivers and May Woodside to start the competition season,  so feel free to find me there, email me here,  ask questions, schedule body work or cold laser, etc.


The Health Threat of the 21st Century

Every day, new studies are published that point to a poorly functioning immune system as the real problem in conditions like heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, and, multiple sclerosis. Scientists are discovering that diseases once thought to be unrelated to infection are really caused by microorganisms. If persistent infection is really causing these diseases, we’ve been on the wrong treatment track for many decades. Dutch scientists have reported that chronic arthritis may have a bacterial component. The disease may have been triggered by a prior infection.

“Transfer Factor will enhance your immune systems’ ability to respond to any challenge. Transfer Factor is about staying healthy.” June Ferrari, Nutritionist



Static stretching can cause damage to connective tissue. I realize this is a controversial topic, but science points to the truth of the statement. Pulling on a muscle and holding it is a sure path to muscle tension and a reduction in strength. In pursuit of wishing to elongate muscles, reaction times are actually reduced as the excessive tension retards blood and nerves. This results in the formation of trigger points.

Warm ups should start with small movements. As blood flow increases, muscles and fascia will become more pliable. Stopping to stretch reverses the benefits gained during the warm up, since the body temperature and heart rate will drop when movement stops. My recommendation for all athletes, equine and human, is to incorporate gradual increases in range of motion.

Is Your Horse Stiff?

There can be many causes for your horse being stiff in the area of the withers.  If your horse is willing to take either canter lead, but just feels tight and stiff, there could be a problem in the withers that can be corrected with myofascial release. Sometimes in turnout the horse will roll over a rock, or the saddle might  be slipping forward, or the horse has been ridden in “rollkur”. The thoracic vertebrae can be pushed out of alignment from any of these conditions. The trot and canter will immediately feel more supple,uphill, and free after one bodywork session.


Trailering is Hard on the Body!

Balancing in a moving trailer requires the same effort as a ride. So a 6 hour trailer trip is roughly the equivalent of 6 hours of training. If you talk to savvy bettors at the track, they will not place a bet on a horse that is not stabled at the racetrack. They know that trailering over for the race takes too much out of the horse. A bumpy ride forces the muscles to contort in ways that places more strain on muscles than a gallop over varied terrain. Many bodyworkers get urgent calls from owners after their horses have been transported. Horses will be sore, and may be subluxated after traveling in a trailer. Add the additional stress of some dehydration, changing temperatures, slippery floors, a careless driver, fumes from traffic, and the change of routine, and you can have a horse with a body in distress. Massage, good nutrition and hydration, and rest, will all help to restore your horse to health. I also use Transfer Factor, which I have discussed in other posts. Feel free to search my topics for more information, and also: I welcome comments, questions, etc!

Case Study of a Multi Talented Horse

I went to watch the dressage lesson of a regular client. I noticed her horse was having a hard time bending right, and his right hip was much higher than the left. We scheduled an appointment for a few days later. The owner told me that the horse had had a chiropractic adjustment a week ago, but I checked all the obvious places, like his spine and rib cage, to see if I could find the cause for the bending problem first. Every bone seemed perfectly balanced and in line, except for his pelvis. He had what is called a pelvic rotation misalignment. The owner told me the horse had some wild play time in turnout, which was a good clue. If a horse slips, or bucks hard, or falls, there goes your chiropractic adjustment! I picked up the hind leg of the lower side, lifted gently, and held it as long as I could (this horse is big! a draft/warmblood cross!). I had the owner walk him away from me. There was an improvement, but not enough, so I moved on to looking for stress points. Bingo! I found a huge stress point where the long back muscles and gluteals meet. And diagonally there were stress points at the costarum, which is a major side flexor. The horse closed his eyes, chewed, and gave a big exhale. Watching him walk away showed a big improvement. He was not 100% square, so I will check him in a couple of days. It might take two treatments, but we caught the problem early. As for the bending issue: once the pelvis is level, bending becomes easy once again.

The photos are not great. Taken on a dark and stormy day.

Before body work

Before body work. Stiff and uneven.

After body work

After body work. Pelvis is level and he’s bending more.


2013-02-19 11.45.14


Cold Laser for Dogs

1.      Canine Hip Dysplasia Syndrome

2.      Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy

3.      Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease

4.      Cushing’s Disease

5.      Canine Wobbler’s Disease

6.      Hypothyroid

7.      Progressive Degenerative Myelopathy

8.      Urinary Incontinence

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