Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Horse Health Care for Roach Back Horses

Fezzywig, my gentle giant adopted warmblood gelding with the roached back, is definitely feeling much better. He has had a ton of bodywork and been given my special Horse Goo until it's coming out the other end (yes, during the cleansing process he is a bit "methane-powered").

He's also running around like a wild man with my other gelding, Walker, and doing flying lead changes with ease in the pasture. Oh yes, and he also managed to take down the gates twice and cruise our little town once. But being the gentleman that he his, he came right home on his own!

Horse Health Care: 3 Things to Do for the Roach Backed Horse
So Fezzywig is definitely feeling better, but he's nowhere near totally healed, and I have learned a lot about the horse health care needs of these kinds of horses. I have been in constant communication with my veterinarian, good friend, and font of holistic horse care wisdom, Dr. Madalyn Ward. Between my consults with her and my daily interaction with Fezzywig, I've learned the following:

1. Roach Back Horses Don't Use Their Backs Properly
This is no big surprise because their backs aren't formed properly. A horse with a roach back has some developmental difficulties. For instance, Fezzywig hates to have his stifles adjusted with Bowen-type moves, or any kind of serious physical maneuvers. He loves energy work on his stifles, which doesn't involve moving any parts of his stifle around. He has also started getting "stuck" in his stifles occasionally, where it takes him a minute to figure out how to move his back leg from straight to bent. Dr. Ward tells me this is because the bodywork is changing the way his spine and haunches are formed, so he has to "relearn" how to use various parts of his body.

Because Fezzywig has not been using his back muscles and hindquarter properly because of his roach back, he has probably been propelling himself around using his hind legs from the stifles down. In other words he was not using his back muscles or his rump. This explains why he is having so much trouble with his stifles. They are probably perpetually sore. In addition, when he move his back legs, his joints make a sound like similar to that of sticky tape being "unstuck" from something. It is most likely that all that improper use of his hind legs has affected those joints.

To help alleviate the pain in his stifles and hind leg joints, I've been doing the following:

- feeding him extra wheat sprouts, which are great for joint issues - beefing up his mangosteen juice and blue-green algae to speed healing - rubbing DMSO and castor oil on his leg joints - doing a little energy work on every hind leg joint at each feeding

He seems to like all of this extra care and his stifles are already less sore. In case you are wondering, castor oil is an old Edgar Cayce remedy that works well on joints. I have to mix it with DMSO because castor oil is very thick and does not penetrate through hair and skin very well. The DMSO helps it penetrate.

2. Roach Back Horses Might Have Bony Backs So They Need Backing
When I knew I was going to bring Fezzywig home, I immediately went online and did a bunch of research on roach back horses. Most of the horses I saw had the typical roach, a humped back, but that was it. I didn't see a single picture of a horse with a bony back, a back where the lumbar vertebrae literally stick up, like pointy spires (those are his "spires" above). Yikes, what does that mean?

I posted frantic requests for help to the Horse Health Forum. I wanted to know what all those spiny ridges meant. The answer? It means that Fezzywig does not have any muscle development over those vertebrae because (surprise, surprise) he hasn't been using his back or hindquarter properly. Whew!

To take care of this and help Fezzywig develop proper muscle over his hindquarters and spine, I have started backing him on the advice of Dr. Ward. Backing him, she said, would help him learn to use his hindquarter properly, and will also help him develop muscle in the right places. She suggests that I eventually back him in circles to develop some lateral muscles as well. We've already started the backing exercises. He has no trouble with them although he has no clue why we keep doing it! Luckily, he's a pretty willing fellow, and will do almost anything for food.

3. Horses Who Have Suffered Trauma Need Special Help to Heal
My last question to Dr. Ward was this: Fezzywig has been in his roach backed pose for so long ... what I more can I do to help him shift out of this paradigm and into a healthy stance?

Her answer? Eleviv. This new herbal product apparently helps horses who have suffered trauma (physical, mental, or emotional) to "break the mold" and shift into a new healthier paradigm. In scientific terms, it helps them shift out of the sympathetic nervous system. A horse like Fezzywig has basically been in a traumatized roach back state for so long he has been operating from his "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system, which does not promote healing. The Eleviv will help him shift back into his parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with healing, rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

So Fezzywig is now getting, in addition to the beefed up Horse Goo, two capsules of Eleviv a day. Fezzywig loves it. He tries to eat the syringe. I take that as a good sign.

So that is what I have learned so far about the best horse health care methods for roach back horses. Fezzywig's posture continues to improve, and he is running and playing more than ever (as evidenced by the cruise around the neighborhood).

If anyone else has a roach backed horse and has advice, I'd love to hear it. I understand that many roach back horses are sound and compete. Do you have that experience? If so, please holler!

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  1. Thank you! Very helpful d

  2. There is a old TB gelding (15+?) at my barn named Lexx. He has a roach back very similar to Fezzywigs’. Lexx is probably a little taller. He is for sale and someone is currently leasing his for the next 3 months so I can't do anything for him until then or if I buy him haha (not a realistic option right now cuz I'm 17). He's a super sweet horse in the barn, always interested in what you're doing, loves being groomed, is very tolerant with whatever, and is willing to learn anything if there's a treat involved. I've only seen him lunged once but he was galloping around like a madman, jumping and bucking in the air (he seemed pissed at some points and playful at other) and the guy was egging him on and it was driving me crazy, he could have been hurt so easily. Also he bucks all the time when you ride him (I've ridden him once and he didn’t buck but I watch him being ridden very often) and it is very hard to move him up to the next gait. The lunging thing tells me he may be old but still has a lot of energy that can be put to good use. The bucking while under saddle tells me that he is very uncomfortable when being ridden and his hindquarters are so weak that he can barely use them. I've been doing as much research as I can to learn how to help him. I know about all the stretches, massages and lunging and riding exercises but I never thought about how his diet could be affecting him. I don't know anything about a horse's diet so I'd really love to hear what you think would be best for him. This article has already helped A LOT but I need all the info I can get!

    Here is my email (I can send you pictures and videos of him):