Massage Therapy + Video

These two videos were taken on March 7 before the second chiropractic adjustment (and before the first massage appointment). It was specifically taken to show the massage therapist and other professionals which is why I keep her going for a bit even though she’s uncomfortable. She was not on any pain meds; we quit the bute after 3-4 days and I’m holding off on daily banamine unless we regress again. She’s not head bobbing lame but she’s definitely extremely tight and short and NQR. In particular, I notice how she uses herself in transitions and how she is carrying her tail.

The massage therapist was able to come out a lot sooner than I could have hoped – the day after I posted my plan. It turns out she had another appointment nearby and was able to add us to her schedule that evening. She started by asking questions and hearing what had happened in as much detail as possible. She took notes and then asked to see Nibbles moving away from and towards her at the walk and trot. She made some more notes and then had me put her on the lunge for a few minutes. She had almost zero movement in her lumbar and her hips were very tight and restricted. She was especially reserved with using her left hind.

After her visual assessment and talking about what she thought she saw, she began the bodywork at Nibbles’ head/neck. Except for the base of her neck, the left side was in remarkably good shape. The right side had some tension midneck. Both sides were tight at the base and she showed me an easy massage that I can do regularly to help with this area.

Her withers were sore and especially tight on the left side. She felt like she was able to achieve a good release here and continue through her topline which basically had tension throughout. Her assessment was similar to mine – the saddle doesn’t fit and it caused discomfort but the reality is that that is not the reason she is in this mess. It is definitely from the traumatic fall in her pasture. She also said what I knew:  getting a new saddle will help us moving forward and she will certainly appear “better” in a properly fitting saddle but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the soreness and tension. In fact, just putting a new saddle on without getting to the root of the problem would only potentially create longterm damage. She said I was having her out at exactly the right time as far as how long ago the accident occurred and when the vet/chiro had seen her.

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Diagram from the ESMT illustrating what I’ve (hopefully accurately) described

As she worked across her back, it became clear that her left side was more affected. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think she fell on her left side. Her left gluteus medius and bicep were very tight, beginning at the origin and extending all the way to the insertion (this basically means the entire thing was strained). She didn’t find any tears. The hamstring was very tight on the left, much less so on the right. She also suspects mild hock involvement on the left side but we won’t be able to really tell until she is less ouchy from everything else going on.

The right side had its fair share of tightness and issues. She is very tight in her back on the right with some wither soreness, although the latter is less sore than the left side. In particular, the right side of the sacrum was extremely tight which continued throughout the hindquarter. Recall this was the side her hip was initially out on before the first chiro adjustment. She didn’t suspect any hock or stifle involvement on this side also there was mild medial glute tension (I can’t remember the exact details on this one so I’m writing what she said in her notes). The hamstring on this side was much better but whatever homework I do on one side I must do on the other.

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The more tame rightside

Thank goodness she wrote everything down for me because boy was she thorough. She narrated the entire time and let me get hands on to feel what she was feeling and learn how to help in between her professional bodywork sessions. She said that  I am not going to do any harm by doing massages and approved stretches. I may not do as much “good” as she will do but it can’t hurt and will more than likely reduce the number of times she needs the whole enchilada.

I am to be stretching front legs and back legs forwards and backwards as well as with very minor, specific rotations. We are to continue doing our “tummy tuck” and “butt tuck” stretches plus “carrot stretches” left and right. She thought she looked quite improved from the video I had sent her. She commented that she thought she would be much, much worse based on the video. The rest and the stretching we have been doing is helping. She was also clear that this isn’t going to be something that disappears next week or even next month. Depending on her recovery and what “uncovers” itself as she starts to feel better, we could experience the consequences of her fall for many months to come.

She strongly advised that Nibbles have another three weeks off. Why such a specific number? Because she suspects Nibbles has some bone bruising, particularly on that left side. She advises at least six weeks off for bone bruises to heal and we are already three weeks in.

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Nibbles saying “oofda, that’s sore” to the ESMT

She left me with a lot of homework which honestly feels great because I feel like I can do something. I’ve felt sort of helpless until now. I understand better what the problem actually is and while there isn’t a do X and she’ll be magically better, I know what to do to contribute to her rehab. She wants to see her in another week or two week. If I am diligent in doing the massage and stretches every day, we should really be able to tell next time.

I went to the barn the next day and Nibbles was moving so much more easily. I’m not sure how else to describe it except that her stride was longer, her eye was softer and she was walking with her head at a nice, normal level instead of cranked in the air like it has been since the fall. As soon as I started the massage, Nibbles really relaxed and stretched and did all the nice things that let me know something was working (ie. passing lots of gas haha!). I repeated the same thing the next day (which was yesterday) and added in a little time on the lunge. She isn’t 100% but there was definite improvement. She was trying to stretch her neck down and the counterbend was dramatically improved. I lunged her W/T with a circle of canter each direction for about 15-20 minutes – just enough to warm her muscles up so I could work on them again.

For comparison, here is video taken yesterday after both the second chiropractic adjustment and the first massage appointment. Again, no pain meds. I think you can see the biggest different tracking right but both are better. Not where she was by a long shot but it is a start.

While all this has been happening, I’ve been having some tough conversations with the barn owner. I waited until I wasn’t angry anymore and could approach this in a logical manner. In light of the fact that this accident was completely avoidable, I wanted to address how we could make sure it was not going to happen again. What’s more, the vet was pretty adamant that he thought something had happened since the dirtbike incident. When I asked the barn owner, she told me that nothing had happened. It turns out that is not true and when I found out, I confronted the barn owner. But that’s another post…

Creating Solutions

Thank you to everyone for their words of encouragement on my last post. I definitely needed to get it out and then be kicked in the pants. Nibbles hasn’t improved yet but my attitude has.

The vet came again on Tuesday (March 8). My sister met him because I couldn’t miss more work. When she pulled her from the pasture, Nibbles was still not her normal self. She normally is very happy and snuggly and laid back. She has been and was up/tense. They waited their turn in the cross ties.

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My sister got me started with Snapchat this week…

First, he checked her head and neck. Again no issues there until he got to her withers where she was still sore and tight. He made some adjustments near the T18 again and again commented that she still very sore there. Her hips were both out this time which is incredible to me. He adjusted her at L5 and my sister said there was a loud pop this time and she immediately was dramatically happier (blinking, head down, licking, relaxing). He did the tail pulls again and also did more acupuncture. And then he said he wanted to see her again next week.

Next week? A horse who isn’t being ridden need three chiropractic adjustments in four weeks? That’s… not right to say the least. I haven’t made another appointment yet because I’m not convinced that many adjustments that close together is really what’s best for her health.

I had my sister ask him what he thinks is going on and basically he said he doesn’t know. He says he thinks she either fell again or this is chronic. I asked the barn owner and the two barn hands and they all say they haven’t seen Nibbles fall or do anything out of the ordinary. She doesn’t even run around. I also have a hard time believing my not-yet-8 year old horse who has only been ridden for 10 months magically has chronic hip issues.

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The type of snaps I get from my sister

Here’s what I think: falling in the mud from the dirtbike incident really did a number on her back and hips and she’s been so tight since then she’s not keeping herself aligned. Combined with a saddle that doesn’t fit, we have one sore lady. Of course, that’s not the scientific explanation but I’ve been doing a lot of research and I want to test my theory before shelling out more money for a treatment that appears to be very temporary by a practitioner who isn’t doing much in the way of working on solutions…aside from wanting to do the same thing again.

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Part of the research

So I am putting together what is probably best described as a physical therapy plan for Nibbles (post coming later). It’s clear to me we need to slow down and reassess what’s going on in her back and hips. Which means, for at least a couple weeks, I won’t be riding her. I’m disappointed because I had one week with my horse before the accident but I will always try to do what is best for her.

I am waiting to hear back from the massage therapist about what she thinks about the videos and then I’d like to have her out in a couple weeks to start helping me rehab Nibbles. If she needs more chiropractic work thereafter, so be it. I’m not ruling anything out and I’ll be running all my theories by health care professionals.

Murphy’s Law

Alternative Title: How a dirtbike makes my horse go lame

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So grateful to have this nose to kiss

I’ve calmed down since Saturday when it initially happened. I had a pretty icky ride on Thursday and intended to ride Friday… only we ended up having 35mph winds so I didn’t. Our lesson that night was canceled. I was definitely riding Saturday, although a series of unfortunate events prevented me yet again from seeing my horse in the daylight and I made it out there at almost 8pm. I was supposed to have a lesson Sunday to make up for the miss on Friday.

Here’s the setup to help explain the situation and what I think happened.

Nibbles has been in a tiny quarantine pasture since she arrived on 2/12. That’s standard protocol for 10 days which I appreciate. Temperatures were actually above freezing last week which means the ground became extremely muddy extremely quickly. Not ideal, but I figured she only had a couple more days left and she’d be introduced to the small mare herd.

On Thursday, Nibbles was completely sound. I always check legs when I bring a horse in and she was clean and tight. On Friday, I didn’t make it out but the farrier trimmed her and I’m assuming he would have noticed if she had heat/swelling in any legs. I suppose that’s a big assumption but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me…

On Saturday, it was 55 degrees and sunny. Lately, if it hit 35 degrees, that’s considered a heat wave. One of the barn owner’s children (their family lives on the property) decided to ride his mini dirt bike around the horse pastures.

Let me stop there. Does anyone else have an issue with that? Because I  do. I understand, you live there, your kids want to play outside… but in what universe is it a good idea to ride a dirtbike in and around horse pastures?

So apparently the barn hands saw this and saw Nibbles running around her paddock. Mind you, this paddock is tiny so she really couldn’t canter more than 4 strides fenceline to fenceline. Again, we have several inches of mud. What’s more, the kid continued to ride his bike and my horse ended up slipping and falling in the mud. No one called me, no one checked her as far as I know.

I get there at 8pm and bring her in to the cross ties. At this point, I have no idea about the dirtbike or running or slipping. No one has said anything to me. She was a little sluggish but not lame so no alarms were going off. Like I always do, I check her legs. Three legs are warm and have minor swelling. No bows or malformations but clearly inflamed. It’s at this point the barn hand (who is a young girl, maybe not even in high school yet) tells me about the dirt bike and the slipping. I’m dumbfounded.

My husband came with me to the barn so I had him trot Nibbles out for me. She was sound albeit a little pokey. It was cold at this point and there is no indoor washrack so I opted to rub her down and have them bute her. Needless to say, I didn’t ride or even lunge her. I put her back out in her tiny pasture although I wasn’t happy about it.

I go out on Sunday afternoon after an extremely busy morning. I bring her in and her legs are slightly cooler and definitely less swollen. So much so that I honestly thought maybe I’ll do some in-hand/lunge work today because I didn’t come dressed to ride. I bring her into the indoor to hand walk and my heart sinks. She has a head bob. Not bad, but you can definitely see it. The BO was in there cleaning up and agreed with me; she saw it too.

I’m bummed and unwilling to put her back out in the mud. The BO says I can put her in a different quarantine pasture. This one is bone dry, has virtually no grass, and has no run-in. Not ideal but was better to me than 6-8″ of mud. I slathered her in Sore No More and put her back out (mind you, she’s on 24/7 pasture board). I asked them to give her another gram of bute with her breakfast and explained I would be back out on Monday after work to check her. I told her that if she was still off, I would be calling the vet.

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LF on Monday. Do you see swelling? Click to enlarge

On Monday evening after work, I check her again. Swelling is almost non-existent, head bob is gone at the walk but present ever so slightly at the trot. I slather her once more in poultice and decide to go ahead and call the vet. I highly doubt she’ll even be off by the time he gets here next Monday but I explained the situation. I wanted to have him out to adjust her anyway so I need the appointment even if she’s sound by then.

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LH on Monday. Tiny bit of swelling in the suspensory IMO. Click to enlarge

Obviously, this puts a dent in our riding plans, hopefully only for the short term. Mostly I’m just glad she’s gradually improving and there doesn’t appear to be any acute injury. I can pick up all four legs, stretch them, flex her joints – no negative reaction. Long story short, she’ll be fine. (knocks on every piece of wood)

Am is it unreasonable to think dirtbikes should not be a thing in close proximity with horses? Of even if they are, if you see horses running, shouldn’t you be stopped by the adult who should be supervising you?