Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Function of the Rhomboid Muscle

I’m going to discuss the rhomboids and trapezius muscles as one, since it is very difficult to differentiate them by touch or by performance. The rhomboid and trapezius muscles cover the withers and go up the neck to the poll. They are the muscles that allow the neck to arch. When contracted, they can cause a ewe neck to develop. This muscle is also attached to the shoulder blade and pulls it forward and up in motion. Healthy muscles in this area will allow a horse to travel in an uphill frame comfortable and naturally.

Many horses have a dip in front of their withers. That is an indication of a tight rhomboid. Since this tightness can take up to a year to change, I always show owners how to massage the area so it can be done on a daily basis.

Tightness in the trapezius can cause a hollow back. It is important to release the tension since the horse will often develop hind end problems to compensate for the discomfort. Everything is connected! When the rhomboid/trapezius area is contracted, I almost always find trouble in the muscles of the shoulder. I will discuss those muscles (spinatus) in another post.

Hepatitis and Transfer Factor

Transfer Factor has been shown to be highly effective against hepatitis.Hepatitis is a severe problem in China—approximately 33 percent of the population suffer from some form of the disease. It is not surprising therefore that much of the work with hepatitis-specific Transfer Factor has been done in the Orient. Recently four patents have been issued to Chinese researchers for preparations of Transfer Factor to treat hepatitis A and B virus infections. A paper describing the isolation and identification of a hepatitis B specific Transfer Factor has also been published by researchers from Tianjin Medical University. It has been reported that 6 million Chinese currently take hepatitis-specific Transfer Factor as a preventative measure.

Hunter’s Bump Continued

Yesterday I went to a new barn (for me) to work on horses I knew nothing about. I got there early and walked down the aisle. All the horses seemed very friendly and curious (a good sign!). I stopped to look at one horse in his stall. He was obviously a thoroughbred. Lovely head and shoulder, but his hind end did not match. He had a hunter’s bump and a very flat and contracted rump. I wondered if he might have an injury and guessed his age at around 10-12.

The client arrived. I worked on a young Swedish stallion that was pretty close to perfection. He had a couple of tight muscles, but was so fluid and supple that there wasn’t much for me to do. He was also very calm and content and obviously well trained.

I asked who was next, and it was the gelding I had been looking at. He was just 6 years old and had only been in training for 6 months. I watched him walk on circles and a straight line, and told the client I was not sure if I could help him as he might need several sessions with a chiropractor first. I checked his entire spine and there was no problem there. His back muscles were fine. The gluteal muscles were extremely tight as well as the semimembranosus (inside of the hind leg). I focused my efforts there with every kind of release and muscle fiber spreading in my repertoire.

The horse held his breath as I worked. There was a lot of tension in his face and in his hind end. But I kept working and what happened next was wonderful and exciting. His hind end started looking rounder and rounder. The very tight muscles on the inside of his legs started to plump up.(remember: everything is connected!) It was a long session, but by the end, his rear end looked very different. He may need more help in releasing muscles that may have been tight for a long period of time, but I think this will be a wonderful horse for anyone to ride. His temperament is exemplary! I would like a whole barn full of him!

Can Massage Cure Spooking?

Sports massage can have a remarkable effect on behavior, as well as movement and performance. A horse who has a spasm in the neck, right behind the atlas, may spook easily because he can’t move his head enough to see properly. Once the stress point is released and he has full motion restored, he can see, and be calm and confident.

I was asked to come to a barn that I had never been to before, and I had never seen any of the horses. There were a few that the trainer told me did not like to be touched, and that I should be very careful even trying to work on them. One young mare in particular was led out, and everyone looked at each other and gave nervous laughs about how no one could lay a hand on her. I started by approaching slowly and putting a hand on her shoulder, which is not a spot that is targeted by a predator. I stay away from the belly, ears, head, and flanks to begin with unless the horse knows and trusts me.

This mare was very tight and sore on both sides of the neck, and in her left hamstring and flank. No wonder she was grouchy! She was sore and carried her head in the air. The owner and trainer could only see that she was a high strung, spooky, chestnut! And they were right. But once the spasms in her body were released, we all could see that she was quite sweet and wanted to be touched.

I had no problem (knock wood!) working on any of the “untouchables” at the barn. I left not only unscathed, but high on the endorphins that flow in me when I can connect with a beautiful equine athlete that accepts my help. When a misalignment is corrected, horses sigh, lower their heads, and want to be rubbed.

A Healing Miracle for Burns

This is not horse related, but useful information!

   *Keep in mind this treatment of burns is being included in teaching
beginner fireman. First Aid consists of first spraying cold water on the
affected area until the heat is reduced which stops the continued burning
of all layers of the skin. Then, spread the egg whites onto the affected

*One woman burned a large part of her hand with boiling water. In spite
of the pain, she ran cold faucet water on her hand, separated 2 egg whites
from the yolks, beat them slightly and dipped her hand in the solution. The
whites then dried and formed a protective layer.*

*She later learned that the egg white is a natural collagen and
continued during at least one hour to apply layer upon layer of beaten egg
white. By afternoon she no longer felt any pain and the next day there was
hardly a trace of the burn. 10 days later, no trace was left at all and her
skin had regained its normal color. The burned area was totally regenerated
thanks to the collagen in the egg whites, a placenta full of vitamins.*

Should I Be Concerned About Hunter’s Bump?

The sacroiliac is a joint that attaches the pelvis to the spine. When the three ligaments that surround and stabilize this joint are stretched or torn, the part of the pelvis called the ileum slips upward. That is the bump that you can see along the top of your horses’ rump. It is common in horses that jump, but it should be treated before it escalates into a career ending problem. The ilium is often broken when you can see this bump. Lameness may or not occur immediately.

Since I work a lot with event horses, I have seen many cases of this misalignment. Often, treatment will consist of calling a chiropractor for several treatments (count on about 6 spread over a year), stress point therapy (the muscles of the gluteus must be released in order for realignment from the chiropractic treatment to stick), cold laser, ice when the injury is new and painful, Traumeel rubbed into the area, and myofascial release.

A note of caution: Young horses who are jumped too high for their developing bodies are extremely prone to jumpers’ bump. No matter how talented your baby (under 6 years old) is, it is better to develop that talent on the flat than to jump big fences. A horse I work on regularly ran 56 races in his career on the track, but he didn’t jump until age 7. He is now 23 and still jumping (with great joy!) weekly and competing in eventing. His bodywork, excellent breeding, and good care are partially responsible for his longevity, but I also think the fact that he did not jump until a more mature age worked to his advantage.


Pain Reduction With Cold Laser Treatment

A client being treated (successfully) for knee pain asked how the laser alleviated pain immediately. While there has been extensive research to show that the laser works to relieve pain, there are no definitive answers as to how. What is known is that cold laser therapy increases the release of endorphins, blocks firing of pain fibers, increases nitric oxide production, increases the levels of acetylcholine (which regenerates damaged nerves), and decreases levels of inflammatory chemicals.
Horses and dogs can’t tell me that their pain is gone, but when I see them licking their lips and closing their eyes so peacefully, I get the message!

Yesterday I saw a pony who struggled to walk up a steep hill. He over flexed one of his hind legs at every step. Once he got to level ground, he walked more evenly, but he still did not look completely comfortable. When I checked his leg, I found some very tight fascia right behind the stifle. I massaged it, but didn’t feel that I had done everything possible, so I got out the cold laser. The laser emits no heat, but his leg became very warm to the touch. What that told me was that circulation was being stimulated to the area. If a muscle is so tight that blood can’t squeeze through to the capillaries, massage to loosen tight fibers and then the cold laser to stimulate blood flow is an ideal combination. The pony has a big show next week and I will be watching to see how he is feeling now.



What Weighs the Most on Your Horse?

Muscles which move the bones are caused skeletal muscles, and account for a whopping 45% of your horses total body weight. These muscles, also called voluntary muscles, provide protection to the skeleton, as well as causing all movement. When healthy, the skeletal muscles have a good supply of blood vessels.  Massage, exercise, and proper nutrition are all ways to keep your horse happy,healthy,and pain free by ensuring a healthy blood supply to the muscles. An unhealthy muscle may atrophy, become inflamed,or harden (ossify). This is why prevention is so important!

Tendons are dense bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Blood supply is less abundant in the tendon than in the belly of the muscle. Because of this, tendons are more likely to develop scar tissue when healing from an injury. A big part of my work is to make sure that tendons are free from tension.

Sports massage helps to keep muscles and tendons loose, keep circulation properly functioning, prevent stiffness, maintain flexibility, and also keep a happy attitude in your equine athlete.

Recipes for Non-Toxic Fly Spray

1 gallon jug
plastic spray bottle
1/2 gallon of water
1/2 apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup citronella oil (to repell insects)
1 dropper of tea tree oil (for its soothing quality)
1 dropper of peppermint oil or lavendar oil (to be appealing to horses)
1/2 cup olive oil (to prevent fly repellent from dissipating after application)

Pour the 1/2 gallon apple cider vinegar into gallon jug.
Add 1/2 cup citronella oil (DO NOT USE THE TYPE FOR BURNING IN TORCHES!)
Add 1 dropper of tea tree oil and 1 dropper of peppermint or lavendar oil.
Add 1/2 cup olive oil.
Shake well.
Add 1/2 gallon of water.

Shake well and pour into spray bottle.

Always shake spray bottle before spraying so that the oils will mix with the vinegar solution.

And another:

2 cups Avon Skin So Soft

2 cups water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon citronella oil


Did You Know That Gelding Scars Can Cause Problems Many Years Later?

If your gelding wants to cross canter, or kicks at non-existent flies on his belly, or counter bends at the canter, he may have scar tissue that is causing discomfort. Sometimes the symptoms won’t show up until he moves up the levels: what was mildly irritating at the baby level may become impossible to ignore as the jumps go up, or the movements become more complex. The more the horse has to use his abdominal muscles, the more uncomfortable and tight the gelding scar will feel.

I have learned that if I see a restriction in the pelvis, the cause may be coming from the gelding scar. Myofascial release can be very effective for this problem. Within 10 minutes you will have a more cooperative and happy gelding. Often, what was thought of as a pelvic misalignment will correct itself once the tight scar tissue is softened.

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