Case Study --- Rascal
Rascal is a 9 year old gelding
primarily used for pleasure riding. Our first visit to work on him was
due to a monthly visit to the facility where he was boarded, to work on
other horses. This was in early December, 2013.
We were called to work on Rascal for
no particular reason at all. Part of our service now includes a stride,
joint flexion evaluation. We do this for benchmarks and to affirm
soundness in the animal before we begin our work.
It was during his stride analysis
that we noticed an unusual condition taking place with his left hind
leg. As the LH leg moved forward and was placed on the ground and began
to weight bear, the toe of the hoof began to rotate medially and as he
moved forward over the leg, the hock began rotating laterally. More than
likely, the stifle was also rotating medially, but because of our
placement behind the horse, we were unable to see that happening.
Initial palpation evaluation
indicated several areas of tension along the back, particularly along
the Lumbar Spine, with only mild tension in the poll and withers
In working along the hind end
muscles, the medial Gastrocnemius was visually larger and upon
palpation, noticeably more hypertonic. Speculation would be the injury
was from a kick, but as you know with horses, anything may have
been the cause. Special attention was given to this area through the use
of Infra Red Light, Myo-Fascial Release, followed by Massage with plenty
of cross fiber work. We also used passive stretching, forward and back,
to help reduce muscle memory and to restore the normal biomechanical
movement of the leg.
We instructed the owner on how to
massage the area of the leg in question and demonstrated the technique
we wanted her to use while stretching the leg through its normal stride,
range of motion.
We revisited Rascal for additional
Body Work in January and February, each time, noticing improvement to
the conditioning of the Gastroc muscle. After completing his February
session, we walked him down the aisle of the barn and the rotations he
had in the left hind were no longer present.
With the most recent visit for
bodywork this month (March), we watched Rascal move in hand and under
saddle and the rotation in the left hind was totally gone.
A farrier told me that to remedy
this type of issue, they will put on a shoe with a “trailer”. This may
address the symptom, but doesn’t address the cause.
Submitted by Doris & Ron
Equissage NE / NY
March 20, 2014
This case is about a seven year old
Appendix gelding, Jackson. He was purchased by his owner in June of 2012
on the recommendation of a trainer that she knew. The idea was to take
this relatively green horse and mold him to the particular needs and
goals of his owner, which was to be able to show him in open shows and
the local AQHA circuit. The owner stated she purchased him because she
“fell in love with his kind eye right away”. His manners on the ground
were impeccable. He was easy to handle, groom, pick feet, and curious
but not spooky. He was a very sensible kind of horse, and, he passed his
vet check with flying colors.
His first ride however was not the
same story. When being mounting, he danced around and jigged a lot. At
the walk and trot, he was noticeably tense, but manageable. At the
canter, he became very agitated, sometimes going straight up into the
air, and doing more than the average “crow” hopping.
The trainer who recommended the
purchase said it would not be a problem to fix the behavior. After two
weeks with the trainer, Jackson was brought home. On the first attempted
ride at home, the owner was bucked off while trying to mount. This
happened three more times over the next few weeks. A saddle fitter was
called in to make sure the saddle was a good fit. A veterinarian was
called in to examine Jackson and yet he still checked out fine. Jackson
still crow hopped and bucked at the canter and tried to dislodge the
owner when she attempted to mount him.
His demeanor on the ground was so
different than in the saddle that the owner had to assume there was more
going on than met the eye.
Next, the veterinarian recommended a
joint supplement, which only partially worked. Jackson still acted out
in the same manner, and looked very “hitchey” behind.
The owner then enlisted the services
of trainer number 2 who thought there was something causing discomfort,
which the owner was also beginning to think. A lameness specialist was
called in on the recommendation of several people. The specialist
watched Jackson under saddle and determined that the problem was in the
SI joint, causing Jackson discomfort in his stifles and hocks. The
stifles and hocks were injected along with the SI joint.
The injections went perfectly and
after two days Jackson was under saddle again. During the next few
weeks, Jackson showed only slight improvement from the injections, still
crow hopping and dancing around when being mounted. While being ridden,
he would still round his back in preparation to buck, but he could be
“talked out of it”.
At this point, the owner had been
bucked off on seven occasions, resulting in injuries. The most severe
being 4 fractured vertebrae. It was time to make a choice. Either try to
help him through what the owner felt was a pain issue, or sell him.
When it was determined that the
injections had not worked, the owner was referred to a well known Equine
Hospital in a final attempt to determine the scope of Jackson’s
problems. He under went a complete body scan and ultrasound in an
attempt to locate an issue.
While at the Hospital, Jackson was
ridden for a team of vets and nearly bucked that rider off also. He was
showing signs of being extremely uncomfortable. All the while, his
demeanor on the ground and in his stall was still impeccable, a complete
“love bug”. The vets recommended Previcox and to have bodywork
performed. (We normally do not like working on horses while they are on
this med. However, Jackson really needed the help, so we worked on him
Frustrated and defeated the owner
brought Jackson home and called in an Equine Chiropractor. After the
chiropractic adjustment, there was still no change.
The next recommendation was to call
Equissage, and that’s where we come into the picture in May, 2013.
During the gait and stride assessment, we noticed that the right hind
was striding slightly shorter than the left hind and crossing slightly
over toward the center. At the beginning of a left lead canter, there
was a major amount of tail swishing, not present at the right lead
canter. These identifiers can point to several different issues, but our
suspicion was that something toward the hind end on the left side of the
horse was the culprit. The best course for us was to perform a complete
bodywork session, head to tail.
From the very beginning of the
bodywork, he showed us where to treat and began giving off huge releases
as we progressed along his body.
Upon reaching the lumbar region on
Jackson’s left side, we encountered four spasms perfectly paralleling
the lumbar spine between the L 2 thru 5 processes, evenly spaced about
three quarters of an inch apart from one another. Our strongest
suspicion so far was that these were the culprits. The spasms were
treated with direct pressure until they began to melt. At this point
Jackson truly began to release the tension and discomfort from this
area. One yawn followed another until we left the barn. (His owner later
stated that he was still giving off release yawns well into the
Before we left, we asked that
Jackson be walked so we could observe his gait /stride length again.
This time both hinds were striding the same length and tracking true.
In a subsequent visit, the area of
the spasms was treated with Infrared Light Therapy.
Jackson was taken off the Previcox
around November 1st and, to date, shows no signs of his
previous behavior recurring.
The following statement is from
has now had regular treatments from Doris and Ron including infrared
light therapy and has undergone dramatic changes. He is relaxed, has
free movement, and no longer jigs or dances around when being mounted.
His gaits are beautiful and you can just feel that he feels better. I
can see in his eyes that he is happy and comfortable and in the end,
that’s all I wanted for him”.
successfully showed Jackson for our first year on the open circuit and
he was amazing. Today he is virtually pain free and living a spoiled and
comfortable life. Doris and Ron are amazing and have given Jackson his
freedom of movement back. Thank you”.
Doris & Ron Bouchard
Equissage NE / NY
November 20 2013
Swirls, Swails or Cowlicks
The Stories They Sometimes Tell
We have been actively documenting swirls (swails
or cowlicks to some folks) for the last couple of years. Prior to that
it was something we made note of on our intake forms as an aside.
However, since beginning to pay more attention to the horse’s responses,
their stories, we find they tell us some pretty interesting ones.
Some swirls are documented as part of a breeds Registration process, but
We believe swirls are formed when in the dermal and epidermal layers of
the skin and the fascial layer just beneath the skin are disturbed in
some way. When that disturbance takes place, the layers of skin and
fascia shift in such a way as to take the follicle(s) of the hair
shaft(s) and move them around in such a way that creates a swirl where
there previously was none.
These swirls can develop in the womb or during the birth process, some
are from increases in the training level of a horse, some from unseen
changes to the muscle tissue beneath the skin, some from general stress,
from muscle overuse or excessive use, or some unknown trauma or issue,
past or present, that leaves a swirl in its wake.
One particular horse we have been working on for several years developed
a swirl pattern along her neck as the level of training and work
increased, requiring her to do more in her Dressage training regimen. It
started with bilateral swirls at the poll, most horses have them there.
These were there when we first started Bodywork on the horse in about
2006 About one and a half years later, she developed another set of
bilateral swirls about seven inches further down her neck toward the
wither at about the point of Jack Meagher’s stress point number one, the
Rhomboid attachment. About three years after that another set of
elongated swirls appeared along the Brachiocephalic muscle just below SP
1 and about three inches cranially. The final neck swirl appeared in
early 2012, located in the center of the neck, about seven inches
cranially from the Scapula, and this time only on the right side. With
the development of each new swirl, we were able to detect areas of
noticeable tension and with some, noticeable pain. The owner admitted
entering a higher level of work / training with the mare as each new
swirl pattern developed. We attribute these Swirls to those increases.
Conformationally, she is not what you would call the “classic” looking
model of a dressage horse. She has good size, but her owner and trainers
all agree that her neck is too short to facilitate assuming the classic
frame looked for by judges. Her heart, however, says otherwise and she
tries, successfully, to achieve some things that under other
circumstances, she may never have been able to.
This brings us to 2013, when it was decided to start a more
comprehensive documentation of the swirls we encountered and what they
lead us to.
The first we’re sharing is that of an eleven year old TB gelding and
former race horse named Gabe. One of this horse’s issues was that he
would consistently, about every two weeks, tear his right front shoe
During our initial evaluation, nothing extraordinary jumped out at us.
He did have one swirl on the L side of his neck in the Mastoid, at the
C-3 location, which we treated. The Swirl that really pointed to
something was the one coming down the center of his neck, starting at
the C-5 / 6 junctions, and traveling down to just above the Anterior
Pectoral muscle. At the lowest point of the swirl, for the last inch or
so, it made an approximate 45 degree turn to the horse’s left (right as
viewed from the front of the horse), pointing to a noticeably larger,
more developed Transverse Pectoral Muscle.
This told us that the right side muscles in that region needed to be
developed and brought up to the same condition and strength as the left
side. This is what we zeroed in on and, during the next visit three
weeks later there was a noticeable improvement in the development and
tone of the R transverse Pectoral, and balance between the L and R
At this point, he had not torn his RF shoe off and after a total of six
weeks, still hasn’t.
Reference photograph: Gabe 1.
The second is that of a seven year old Canadian Sport Horse mare named
Sashay. She would on occasion, pull her right front shoe off. She also
had recently recovered from a left front coffin bone fracture.
During the initial evaluation, it was noted that at the walk, her hind
legs tracked true, but at the trot, her right hind tracked approximately
three to four inches medially. This, we attributed to compensation from
the left front coffin bone issue. (Diagonal Compensation).
During the Bodywork session, there was an unusual swirl at the base of
her neck, on the right side only. As you can see from the photo, it is
shaped like and upside down tear drop. Upon further palpation and
exploration, we found a fairly large spasm at the forward edge of the
scapula at a point where the teardrop swail ended. It was pointing to
the issue in question, which was at the junction of the Deep Anterior
Pectoral, and Supraspinatus muscles.
After working on the muscle issues, we performed stretches, slightly
beyond the normal ROM as well as some Masterson type release techniques
to the withers, and massaged all the locomotion muscles associated with
moving the leg forward and backward.
It has been seven weeks since initially working on Sashay with one
session two weeks ago. So far, she is keeping her shoe on, and at the
trot, her leg track is now straight.
Reference photograph: Sashay
We’re not saying that every swirl will lead a practitioner to a
definable issue, but swirls should be looked at and considered as a
myofascial change, and treated as such.
All rights reserved
Doris and Ron Bouchard
Equissage NE / NY
Reprint with permission only
Peace N Promise, aka Peace, is a nine year old Thoroughbred mare owned
by Dancing Oaks Farm in Little Compton, RI. She had been plagued with
forging for approximately 4 to 5 years. A former barn manager where the
mare was once boarded commented that she tore shoes off every time she
was turned out. An exaggeration, I’m sure.
Peace was first visited by us in late April, 09. At that time, it was
noticed that she was forging, and that her scapula was quite loose, with
little muscle development deeper into the scapula (sub-scapularis). She
also was narrow across chest area and during gait analysis, was found to
be working from her elbows at the walk/trot instead of shoulders. The
owner stated that the farrier was coming the next day to trim her rear
feet in the hopes of rectifying the forging issue.
At this time, we performed Peace’s first wellness, evaluation and
exploratory massage, with the next massage scheduled two weeks later.
On that next visit, it was noted that the horse was still forging. I
asked the owner to longe her again and observed that at both the walk
and trot, she was still moving entirely from the elbow with the scapula
and humerus virtually locked up. When walking, she forged with every
Work was started on her beginning with the neck, biceps/pectorals, deep
into the anterior scapula groove as well as the rear of the scapula, in
and above the elbow groove area. Extensors and flexors of the leg, Lat.
Dorsi, withers, SP-9, and both spinatus muscles were also worked.
Methods used were Sports massage, Myofascial release, and deeper tissue
work along with the use of acupressure along the Bladder Meridian and
The final step included the use of stretches to both forelegs, both
forward and rearward, with 3 to 4 second holds at the end of each
When Peace walked out of her stall, she was not forging and till now,
four plus years later, is still not forging. Her chest has broadened as
well as her stride becoming more lengthened and fluid.
Maintenance work is performed on her every four to five weeks.
Submitted by Doris & Ron
Equissage NE / NY----- November 2009
Gracie is a 10YO Thoroughbred Gelding whose owner stated that between
the last massage in August and the current session in September, he
would no longer take his left lead.
We watched him longe on the long line and he in fact would not take his
At this time the horse exhibited no signs of lameness. We proceeded back
to the barn for bodywork.
Our strategy was to loosen up everything on the left and right sides of
Gracie that were involved in propulsion, then work the back and hind end
more on the right than on the left, but to still try and maintain some
balance. The entire massage took about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
After the bodywork, we asked the owner if he could ride the horse for us
and he obliged.
The horse took his left lead immediately upon being asked. We watched
him go to the left and after about the second or third trip around the
ring, it was noticed that when Gracie arrived at a particular spot in
the ring, he showed a slight head-bob indicating the left hind was off.
We asked for a reversal of direction to the right, and when Gracie went
through the same spot that the head-bob showed up, he was sound. This
was now a different problem. We asked for reversals a couple more times
and each time Gracie went to the left, at this one spot only, he showed
us a slight head-bob.
We recommended that the owner call his vet for further investigation.
In a follow-up telephone call five days later, the owner stated that he
had his farrier out to re shoe Gracie, and that when trimming for the
fit, the farrier opened an abscess.
Once the abscess had healed, the horse was ridden again and there was no
lameness nor a reluctance to take his left lead.
It can only be assumed that the pain from the abscess was what made this
horse not want to take that left lead. The head-bob observed was barely
noticeable, but the pain was apparently enough to cause Gracie
discomfort going in that direction.
Submitted by Doris and Ron
Equissage NE / NY----- April 2011