Ever since I brought Dulce home, I found pain in his body. His poll was locked like all racehorses, but his seemed to be locked up in a super max prison. He guarded his entire body, and would pin his ears wherever I touched him until he realized I wasn’t going to do anything but pet him. Petting him with the back of my hand eased his anxiety. His entire body was on guard against any outside force no matter how light the touch was.
The areas where I found the most pain in the beginning were the poll, TMJ, shoulders, and psoas area. I also spotted three straight white lines on his withers.
I tried Tellington Touch first, and he hated it. He stomped his hooves, his tail swished, and those ears became glued to his head. I switched to the Masterson Method, and he responded immediately. I used the lightest touch, or what Masterson calls “ethereal” touch. I barely skimmed the hairs with my fingers. I searched and searched for blinks, which indicate a source of pain, and stayed there with that ethereal touch until he released. A release is expressed through yawns, movement of the jaw back and forth, sighs, head shakes, and my guys like to rub their heads on me. At the end of this blog, I will post links for you regarding any of the massage methods mentioned here.
The thing is if I ever tried to take anything a bit deeper with him, he’d go back into protective mode. His body would tighten up, and we were back to ground zero. He constantly teaches me that my goals are not his.
So, when we had that moment in the arena, it was a watershed moment for us. Somehow, the door opened wide, and he couldn’t slam it shut. He let me in completely; not half way.
He released more and more with the Masterson Method, but I could tell that his ribs were stuck. Yes, I took him to a chiropractor, but it didn’t last. His muscles brought him back to ground zero again. I needed to create the change on a muscular level for his bones to stay in a healthy place, and that rib cage of his was screaming out to me for help.
I began researching and watching video after video. I ordered a book on Osteopathy. We have no osteopaths on the Western Slope, and I feel that osteopathy addresses the muscles and resets the bones. I didn’t feel comfortable doing any of the thrusts, but several of the other moves were easy for me to do. The most important thing is that Dulce responded.
Layer after layer came off. His body was healing, and he was able to bend better as we did his active stretches out of Helle Katrine Kleven’s book Physical Therapy for Horses. I love doing these stretches every day, because they tell me where my horses are at. What can they do or not do? As we progressed, he became more and more supple.
The pictures below are a few of the active stretches she suggests.
The ribs, the ribs, and the ribs. He was so tight in the ribs, and this is when I found April Love who had a very simple method to release the ribs. I fully expected him to bite me, but luckily I got through it before he could. With this one maneuver, I could tell he felt better. He could lift his stomach! He never could lift his stomach before. Often horses for many reasons, saddles and us being on their backs, get their ribs stuck on the inhale position. He had a few stuck there. Love also talks a lot about the first ribs being out. I did the test to see if they were, and lo and behold, on both sides his first ribs were out. I enrolled in her class, and before you know it, I was able to reset his poll, first ribs, ribs and hips.
Did I stop using the Masterson Method on him? Absolutely not. I used it in conjunction with all that I was learning. The Masterson Method brings him to such a deep state of relaxation now that I am able to use that first before moving to a maneuver that brings about a deeper shift.
I then enrolled in a class on myofascial release. I feel that to keep his muscles relaxed, I needed to keep the fascia supple, and his was not especially around the pectorals, sternum and rib cage. If I even approached his pectorals or his sternum, his guard went up, and he let me know to back away. I went back to the ethereal touch of the Masterson Method for a couple of weeks on these areas before he finally allowed me to do some myofascial release on these areas. I still have a ways to go, but we are making a lot of progress.
His TMJ though was a continuing problem. I could get it to release and the next day or hours later it was tight again. No matter what I did, an I found a wonderful maneuver from the late Dr. Kerry Ridgway, that TMJ was always in pain throwing off his entire body.
Finally, I got an appointment with his dentist. Covid and the Holidays made it challenging. He wasn’t due for another six months, but I knew I needed to get him in. Last year I took him to someone else, which was an absolute mistake. I had a good intention, but that intention blew up in my face in so many ways. I learned the hard way to stay with what you know, and I know my equine dentist is fantastic.
I expected him to tell me that Dulce couldn’t be helped. Instead he showed me how his front incisors had a slight diagonal to them from right to left. He told me that horses with this slight diagonal have severe TMJ pain, but horses who have severely diagonal teeth don’t. He was able to fix his. He told me in a month, his TMJ pain would be completely gone. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that I found a reason behind all of this.
He also suggested something I already do. I feed all of my horses on the ground. This stretches out the TMJ and the poll muscles as they chew keeping these areas supple. He said feeding on the ground helps the teeth stay as well, because it allows the jaw to move from side to side. When you feed at a higher level like a hanging hay net for instance, their teeth get locked. Instead of moving from side to side they only move from left to right or right to left instead of back and forth. At least I’m doing one thing right!
Dulce was always a lovey horse. He’d follow me everywhere after I brought him here, and he was always the first to greet me in the pasture. However, he also had a very grumpy side that Chaco was often the recipient of. This whole journey to bring his body back into balance opened another door for our relationship. He is sweet, happy, playful, and relaxed. He is back to coming up to me each time I enter into the paddock or the pasture. He wants to cuddle and is more willing to move forward with me..and he wants to play.
I haven’t ridden him yet even though I can. I’m hesitant. Even though I have the tools to keep him in a good place, I worry about ruining it all. Mainly, I keep thinking about Shandoka. He and I used to dance with one another, play with one another. We’d play hide and go seek, chase….. When he died, that part of me got buried with him. As I stand and look at my horses, I realize how much they need me to resurrect this.
For us to move forward, and by us I mean Dulce, Chaco, Harley, playful Sueño, and myself I need to deconstruct and rebuild……
If you are interested in learning equine massage techniques, there is a wealth of information on YouTube. First, in no way am I recommending that you do any of this with your own horse. Please consult with your veterinarian before embarking on any of this with your horse, and I am in no way responsible for anything that may occur to you or your horse while working on your horse. Horse massage can be very dangerous to you and the horse. When I discovered a sore spot, I’ve nearly been cow kickek out at; all of which are ways the horse is trying to tell you that he or she is in pain. I never punish a horse for trying to communicate with me. Proceed at your own risk.
April Love’s Channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6rjOjHZRuq4dS7gUKM263w
Jim Masterson’s Channel is: https://www.youtube.com/user/mastersonmethod
Margret Henkel only has one video posted about myofascial release: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcN_6l691fSUD8u68HyXHg/videos
Jim Masterson has two books and three DVD’s that you can purchase. I love the DVD for Dressage horses, because quite frankly, OTTB’s have all of the same issues. However, you need to start with the first book Beyond Horse Massage. https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Horse-Massage-Breakthrough-Interactive/dp/1570764727/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2QXNJFIOF1F2&dchild=1&keywords=jim+masterson&qid=1612751836&s=books&sprefix=Jim+Master%2Caps%2C420&sr=1-1
Here is a link to his second book on the Dressage Horse https://www.amazon.com/Dressage-Horse-Optimized-Masterson-Method/dp/157076722X/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2QXNJFIOF1F2&dchild=1&keywords=jim+masterson&qid=1612751931&s=books&sprefix=Jim+Master%2Caps%2C420&sr=1-2
If you wish to learn more about Myofascial Release, Margret Henkels has a good book called Is Your Horse 100% https://www.amazon.com/Your-Horse-100-Limitations-Conformation/dp/1570767912/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=margret+henkels&qid=1612752094&s=books&sr=1-1
She also has a DVD of the same name.
There is another great book on myofascial release, but the pictures in it leave a lot to be desired. However, the book offers a lot more different methods of maneuvering the fascia, and this book really helped me begin the release of Dulce’s shoulders and Nuchal Ligament. It is called Equine Structural Integration: Myofascial Release Manual.https://www.amazon.com/Equine-Structural-Integration-Myofascial-Release/dp/0979053501/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1AOES6UMCJMFP&dchild=1&keywords=equine+myofascial+release&qid=1612752199&sprefix=equine+myof%2Cstripbooks%2C249&sr=8-2