I often say that doing body work on animals is detective work. I get a medical history from the owner, but not from the client himself. The horse or dog can’t point out where they might be feeling pain, so I have to tune in to all their subtle signals (and you would be amazed how stoic some animals can be!).
About 75% of trigger points are not where the pain is, so a thorough knowledge of anatomy, stress, and trigger points is essential. I worked on a young mare that was expressing discomfort in her neck. She tossed her head a lot, especially during transitions. When her rider picked up the reins, she curled her nose to her chest. She was showing discomfort, but after examining her, I found her pelvis was very uneven. Her right pelvic crest (what some people might call the hip) was a good two inches higher than the left. It took three adjustments during the session to finally get her body level, but she was very focused on helping during the work. She walked off showing a fluid movement that we had not seen before, and she kept stretching her neck out. Reports from the rider have been very positive: the mare continues to improve, stretch, move forward, and seek contact.
Trigger point referral patterns from multiple trigger points can overlap, causing a composite referral pattern. This has been the case with the young and green mare. As one problem gets resolved, it leads me to the next. Instead of resorting to gadgets to fix her head tossing, the wise owner had an inkling that the mare was feeling pain. If I only work on the area where the pain is presenting, there will not be relief.
This mare is competing very well at her first show as I write this. I will continue to help her keep her body balanced and pain free. I’m expecting great things from this wonderful athlete who just needed a little help to take off!