Monthly Archives: April 2014

Is Your Horse Tight in the Poll?

Does your horse flex through his poll? If not, the tension there can spread through the whole body. Just imagine what you feel like when your neck is stiff and sore. It is hard to look sideways or enjoy most physical activities.

Here is a test to see how soft the poll area is: Stand in front of the horse and gently push on his nose. Does he give softly? Or does he push back? Does he back away from your hand? If he gently nods his head, he is able to flex the poll.

Horses with tension around the poll may be prone to sudden reactive behavior such as rearing. The horse may also trip or stumble since the area around the first two vertebrae affects movement of the front limbs.

Horse that crib will always have tension in the poll and throat. These horses need frequent massage to keep the muscles loose enough for them to work comfortably.

Check your horses ears. Are the tips cold when the weather is not? This can be another indication of a tight poll and restricted blood flow to the area. If your horse is difficult to bridle, or suddenly pulls back when the bridle is taken off, he may need help relaxing the muscles of the poll.

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Is There a Dip in Front of the Withers?

A sharp dip in front of the withers is one of the most common things I see in horses. When the muscles of the neck and withers (the rhomboids and trapezius) are tight, you will see this dip. It will be impossible for the neck to naturally arch and reach for the bit. A vicious cycle can begin here: The rider wants the horse on the bit and strongly encourages with the hands to get the horse on the bit. Or gadgets, like draw reins, stretchers, or gogues are brought out. You can try to force the horse into a frame, but when the muscles of the top line are stressed, all the efforts will be counterproductive.

A horse that is ewe necked and braced can not be comfortable being pulled into an “on the bit” frame. The effects of tight rhomboid and trapezius muscles will also extend into the shoulders, making free action impossible. The horse will not be truly forward. Also, a horse that can not reach with a lovely arch onto the bit cannot lift its back. The small area in front of the withers can affect a very large portion of the body of the horse, which is one of the reasons I usually start the massage there. When the withers, neck, and shoulders are tight, the horse has no recourse but to compensate by over stressing the hind end or plowing heavily on the forehand.

I always show owners and riders how to work on the rhomboids and trapezius muscles. It is not difficult. The horses usually love it. And it is not something I can fix in one session. It will take patience and persistence to release the deep and strong rhomboid that has become overly tight. I have one client, a thoroughbred off the track, who took almost three years to finally have a beautiful and supple arch from his withers to his poll. He has moved up the levels and is performing beautifully and happily.



Example of tight rhomboids/trapezius muscles

Back Pain and Your Horse

Do you know where the most common sites of damage to a horses’ back are? The answer is:

The withers and the lumbar areas. In other words, right in front of the saddle and right in back of the saddle.

Here is the typical scenario: your horse has acute back pain, so you give him some time off. The horse recovers from the pain. During the time off, if it is more than a week or so, the muscles of the back start to atrophy. You put the saddle back on to put the horse back to work. The fit, which was probably questionable to start with, is now worse. And the cycle of pain is again triggered.

Having regular body work done on your horse can help prevent the sad story above. Stress points and trigger points can often appear (and be taken care of) under my finger tips before obvious pain shows up in riding. Back muscles can be stiff and tight long before the horse starts to complain with refusals, bucking, or choppy movement. Massage and chiropractic treatments are as important to your horses’ well-being as good nutrition, training, and shoeing.


Can a Horse Relax If It is Not Balanced?

One of the things to keep an eye on is the balance of the body of your horse. When you see your horse daily, it is easy to lose track of subtle changes. Make it your practice to observe your horse:

Is there consistency to the muscle development? If one area (like the front end or hind end) is more developed than the other, the body is not working as one unit. The over-developed area will be tense and the under-developed area will be weak. Tight, built-up muscles are shortened muscles that have lost flexibility; this makes them more prone to fatigue and injury.

The body is a unit and should be treated as such. The moving parts of the body were designed to move through a specified range of motion freely, easily and completely. If they are unable to do so, there will be a problem.

Did you know that the horse is composed of 60% muscle? The human body is comprised of about 40% muscle. Most motion problems originate in the muscular system. The massage and stress point therapy I do helps the contracting and release process of the muscle, aiding the  muscles from getting hyper-contracted and injured.


Tissue Absorbs Light

For centuries, light has been used to heal. Ancient Egyptians constructed solariums to treat various conditions.  Light has powerful medical benefits, and with recent technologies evolving rapidly, we are capable of using light to target specific light-absorbing molecules to treat select tissues.

Low Level Laser Therapy administers an exact wavelength, or color of light, in a coherent manner. Coherence is an important characteristic for maximizing the depth of light penetration. This is key, as a specific dose (or energy) of light is required to trigger a biological response.

Although the exact mechanism remains elusive, studies have made tremendous progress to understand how LLLT alters cell function and, in turn, treats certain medical conditions. In order for laser therapy to modulate cellular behavior, light energy must first be absorbed.

Concurrently, the red wavelength (635 nm) is used to activate immune cells and increase circulation, steps that reinforce the body’s natural defense against foreign pathogens.

Since 1966, lasers have been used in non-surgical applications, including for experimental wound healing, pain reduction, and acute inflammation of different tissues. Today, evidence based medicine provides the necessary support for effective treatment of injuries and diseases that have no current treatment such as spinal cord and brain injuries, acute inflammation, soft and hard tissues, and metabolic diseases.

Read more:

LLLT remains a controversial treatment, but with important objective studies being conducted to evaluate the technology, this subtle, noninvasive treatment is becoming an appealing therapeutic option.



The Danger of Antibiotic Use

About 70% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to farm animals, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. “These farms are loaded with resistant bacteria, which then spread into the community”, says Dr. Stuart Levy of Tufts University.

You can get resistant bacteria from the meat or the produce you eat, sine manure from these animals is applied to crops. Runoff from farms can spread the bacteria into the environment, which means plants and animals can carry them and pass them on to humans.

In late 2013 the FDA took action to phase out routine use of antibiotics to promote growth in animals. Regulators called on the industry to voluntarily use antibiotics only for therapeutic purposes under the supervision of a veterinarian.

A number of restaurant chains have agreed to stop serving meat from animals raised with antibiotics. In Denmark, a ban on antibiotic use has led to fewer resistant bugs in animals. Dr. Levy says “Europeans have shown we can raise animals without antibiotic food supplements”.

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Lengthening Muscles Increases Their Strength

The Myofascial system is composed of muscle and connective tissue (fascia). Fascia is found everywhere in the body. The most common cause of pain is a disturbance in the myofascial system. Tight muscles develop painful areas called trigger points. These shortened muscles put pressure on nerves and veins, pull bones out of alignment, and pull on tendons, causing inflammation and  damage.

All these problems can develop in the back, neck, legs, hips, wrists (carpal tunnel), elbows, shoulders: get the picture?? All these painful conditions can be treated by restoring short, tight muscles to a healthy, supple, elastic condition. When muscles gets lengthened through deep tissue massage, pressures on joints and other structures disappear.


Rapid Return to Full Motion

After a body undergoes surgery, there is scar tissue, which can limit movement and cause pain. Scar tissue can also form after trauma or repetitive stress.

Normal tissue is served by the body’s blood supply, preventing it from becoming brittle and callous. Scar tissue, however, forms as a temporary tissue base to promote healing. Eventually, the scar tissue will lose its vascularization (blood supply). This is what causes problems in the body as it forms adhesions to other tissues and structures, and often leads to chronic pain or hard-to-treat issues that hurt quality of life.

Myofascial release is a non-invasive way to remove scar tissue without negatively affecting healthy tissue. Myofascial release can address issues related to range of motion,shoulder, ankle, and knee pain; adhesions; back and neck pain; tendonitis; muscle spasms; trapped nerves; adhesions; headaches; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and more.


How Nature Designed Horses

Nature designed horses to be giant lawnmowers, but domestication and generations of selective breeding have turned them into high-performance athletes. And just like human athletes, horses experience muscle pains and aches that can diminish performance and lead to long-term damage.

Horses pay the price in injury and pain for the sports that we put them in. For many horse owners, equine massage therapy has become an important feature of the care they provide for their animals. Racehorses, polo ponies, dressage horses, three day eventers, show jumpers, and endurance horses can all prevent injuries and prolong their competitive careers with equine massage.

For instance if your horse has back or hind quarter soreness or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg problem; then the extra strain will be placed on the back and hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

Most people treat the symptoms after the injury has occurred, but what if the body could be balanced through stress point therapy and myofascial release? Many lamenesses and injuries can be avoided by maintaining proper nutrition, fitness, and balanced posture. I see it every day in my clients: horses that struggled to pass vet inspections, struggled to keep weight on, or struggled to perform certain movements rise above all those struggles once tight muscles have been released and nutritional imbalances are corrected.



















For instance if your horse has a back or hind quarter strain or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg problem, then the extra stain will be placed on the back and hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

For instance if your horse has a back or hind quarter strain or is prone to “tying up” in these areas, then, to ease the discomfort the horse will place extra stress on the fore legs which in-turn places further stress on the tendons, which on occasions can lead to a bow.

This can also work in the reverse, say a horse has an existing tendon or foreleg probl


em, then the extra stain will be placed ockand hind quarters, leading to strain or muscle problems.

Should You, Or Your Animal, Get Laser Therapy?

Low-Level Laser (also known as Cold Laser) Therapy uses light to enhance the body’s natural healing processes. The light source is placed on the skin, allowing the light energy (photons) to penetrate tissue where it interacts to increase circulation and help restore normal cellular function. LLLT does not break the skin, as do surgical lasers.

The FDA approved LLLT (also known as cold laser) as an effective method for pain relief. One FDA study showed that LLLT caused tissues (muscle, skin, nerve) to heal 66 percent faster!

For inflammation, laser therapy causes the smaller arteries and lymph vessels of the body to increase in size, which is called vasodilation. Vasodilation allows inflammation, swelling, and edema to be cleared away from injury sites more effectively. Vasodilation in lymph nodes promotes lymphatic drainage, which also aids in the healing process.

The laser  is also used to help heal wounds and to treat many types of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders such as  sprains/strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, and fibromyalgia.

I have a client who had terrible pain in her heels and walked around on her tiptoes. I did 5-10 cold laser sessions on her feet and she has been pain free (and hiking several times a week) for about 18 months. In her case, it took several sessions for the pain to begin to diminish. The benefits of cold laser therapy appear to be cumulative – in some cases, relief can begin immediately, but it may take several treatments for the results to become evident. The total number of treatments needed depends on the condition being treated, the severity of the condition, and each patient’s individual response. In general, 4-12 treatments are usually necessary to begin the healing process of tissue.




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