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…

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Frank Sinatra Gives Me a Lesson

The verdict on my first lesson in over a year can be summed up in two words: humbling and amazing. It was a balmy 90 degrees and muggy with rain storms on the way. My parents were in town and my husband came as well which meant that a) I would have media and b) everyone would see that I’m basically a beginner all over again.

Meet Frank Sinatra

Meet Frank Sinatra

My ride for the day was a 16.3 hand Hanoverian/Paint gelding named Frankie (short for Frank Sinatra). Frank is a confidence builder supreme and let me flop around while I struggled to find my balance. Being used to 15 hand Arabians, Frank was a tank to me but I really, really enjoyed him.

blue eyed boy

blue eyed boy

As soon as I mounted (using a massive mounting block I might add), my right hip started spasming. I’ve always had weak hips and it didn’t take long for my body to remind me that I’m no longer a teenager. The instructor – we’ll call her Trainer J – showed me some stretches that were challenging but really beneficial. And off we went!

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The first thing I noticed was how tight my body was and Trainer J noticed the same. My seat wanted to stretch tall and long and be supple but there was a massive amount of rust. One of the first things I appreciated about J’s teaching style was her incorporation of baby yoga stretches. Frankie was content to plod along no matter how I contorted my body.

Eventually, my hips started to swing and my leg got a little longer and draped a little better. She also had my exaggerate pulling my shoulders back. A few years behind a desk will really destroy your posture! Looking at photos and videos after makes me realize my shoulders weren’t near as far back as it felt like they were. That was eye opening!

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Trainer J encouraged me to keep the same width between my collar bones as between my shoulder blades. I think this may be a Sally Swift thing but that image really helped me. After getting my joints loosened up at the walk, we moved on to trotting. Boy, I better get used to eating humble pie.

While I can certainly post and I haven’t forgotten my diagonals, the rest of my trot work needs rebuilding. Immediately she called me out on posting much too far out of the saddle and not allowing Frankie’s motion to create the movement. I also started tilting forward and undoing my work to get my shoulders back and core engaged. Darn it!

Best husband ever took some video on his iPhone. Blogging is about the journey and being honest, right? Here you go. I wish it was longer but hubby had limited memory space.

Obviously my toe starts leaving the building but I’m ok with that because I know it’s a lack of strength. She laughed when I told her everything she was saying made sense, I just had to get my body to listen up.

I will say that by the end of the lesson, I felt a lot more confident and I could see a big difference in my leg. Big difference meaning instead of looking like a sack of potatoes I looked like a solid handful – but I’ll take it!

As humbling as it was to be hit in the face with yes, you are a beginner again, I haven’t been so happy since, well, the last time I was on a horse. I am completely consciously incompetent and I have never been so excited to be a novice.

My big takeaways and homework are:

  • Post from your inner thigh, not your knee. Let your leg drape and your toe come in by engaging the inner thigh and not pinching elsewhere.
  • The distance between your collar bones should be the same as the distance between your shoulder blades. Even though my shoulders felt jammed back, seeing myself proves that they definitely were not.
  • Keep a following feel in my elbows while keeping my upper arm draped loosely by my side. This is the only way that I can (eventually) establish elastic contact.
  • Let the horse’s motion create the post. I don’t need to come high out of the saddle, just barely and briefly (which if you switch to is way harder!).
  • Practice stretching my hips (she showed me a few yoga poses) as well as keeping my shoulders back and stretching them regularly at my desk.

Another thing that made me like J is that she brought up lunge lessons. I may have said “YES PLEASE” before she finished her sentence. I would love nothing more than to be put on the lunge line and have my reins and stirrups taken away. Sign me up for independent seat bootcamp!

Money is tight right now with Nibbles’ show so my next lesson won’t be until around September 1st. I’m counting it down.