Friday, March 19, 2010

Horse Health Care: Hope for Those Helping Horses in Pain

This article is dedicated to all those equine addicts who are also the patron saints of horses in pain.

This article is for those kind people who take in ill, injured, or otherwise hurting horses, and try to help them regain health.

If you are one of those people, I hope this article gives you the faith and patience you will probably need to nurse an ailing horse back to health because it's a marathon, not a sprint. And along the way, we horses lovers can become impatient, frustrated, and downright cranky about the process.

This article is to give you hope.

Helping Horses in Pain: Diagnosis
The first step in the journey is, of course, figuring out what's wrong because there may be multiple causes of pain. Take Fezzywig, for example, my adopted warmblood gelding (picture above from mid-March, 2010) who came to me with a roached back in November of 2009. The initial diagnosis, made with the aid of my holistic veterinarian Madalyn Ward, was that he had:
  • stomach adhesions
  • sore stifles from moving around with the roached back
  • a stuck sternum
  • stuck withers
  • overall poor muscle development
  • an injured left hind leg from a fall
All of these factors were contributing to his roached back. That was a lot to deal with. To alleviate these problems, I did the following:
  • bodywork almost daily
  • fed him double doses of my horse goo
  • backed him daily to help him develop his hindquarters
This program alleviated the stomach adhesions, sore stifles, and some of his muscle development issues. However, he still looked and acted like many horses in pain. He would not move around much, and had difficulty lying down and getting back up. Like any horse owner, I was starting to get impatient!

Helping Horses in Pain: Peeling the Onion
Luckily, Dr. Ward reminded me that healing horses in pain was a marathon, not a sprint, especially with horses like Fezzywig, who had had a chronic condition for a few years. To deal with his sternum and withers, which were still stuck and lower than his rear, we used the trailer to literally stretch him out.

I would walk him into the trailer, turned him around, and have him step his front feet on the ground. His hind feet remained in the trailer, which gave him a big stretch in his shoulders, withers, and sternum area. It literally "broke something loose" in those areas. He gave huge releases, with licking and chewing, and after a few sessions his withers actually rose by two inches or so.

Now I felt I could start ponying him and giving him short workouts. I ponied on a local trail, and did some short hill work. Fezzywig was shockingly out of shape, and became winded very quickly.

Aack! At this point I didn't know what to do with his horse health care regimen. Another call to Dr. Ward produced a further diagnosis. Now that we had fixed his hind end, withers, and sternum, we could see that he was still stuck in his diaphragm. In fact, Dr. Ward noted that his diaphragm was probably one giant adhesion. It was so stuck that he literally couldn't catch his breath.

More Horse Health Care Exercises
To deal with Fezzywig's diaphragm adhesions, I started backing him down a fairly steep hill, which he loved. This exercise shifts the weight of his organs off his diaphragm and down toward his tail. In turn, his diaphragm is freed up and he can take deep breaths, which he does. He loves walking down hill and does it with his nose on the ground, breathing deeply and licking and chewing.

The net effect of this horse health care exercise is that Fezzywig is breaking up the adhesions on his diaphragm with each deep breath he takes. After three days of this exercise, Fezzywig felt so good that he literally bucked, reared, ran and spun when I turned him back out. Now I know I'm on the right track.

To speed his recovery process, I also added 2 Eleviv to his diet. This herbal supplement helps bring horses back into their healing, or parasympathetic, nervous system. This supplement is especially important for horses who have been stuck in a chronic health condition for a long time.

I felt the Eleviv would help Fezzywig "get over the hump" and move through recovery more quickly. I know he needs this supplement because he eats it straight out of my hand. I also see an overall improvement in his attitude, hair coat, and more. Read more about how to use Eleviv for humans and horses in the free Natural Solutions ebook.

Helping Horses in Pain: The Ongoing Journey
Fezzywig sure looks a heck of a lot better than when I got him, but he still looks like a funny, lumpy giant horse. Sometimes when I see him in the pasture, I can't believe that anything has changed because he still looks so strange. But people who do not see him regularly are shocked at the changes in him. And when I see him running and playing now, I know that he is no longer one of those horses in pain. He still has health issues, but he's not in major pain.

If you are trying to help a horse in pain, don't worry if the journey seems to be taking longer than forever. Here are some lessons I've learned along the way with Fezzywig ... maybe they will help you, too:

1. Horses are Great Self Healers
You are just a channel. Don't worry about fixing your horse, just be a channel who delivers supplements, lays on hands, or simply comforts a horse in pain.

2. The Healing Methods Will Keep Changing
As soon as you think, "Aha! I've got the solution," your current healing approach will stop working. Don't panic. It usually means you've healed one layer of the problem, and now need to "peel back a layer of the onion" and deal with the next layer. You may go through 15 different healing modalities before you can truly heal horses in pain.

3. Get Help from a Professional
Chronically ill or unhealthy horses can be difficult for the amateur owner to treat alone, so you might need help along the way. While you may not be able to afford to have your vet or bodyworker out every week to work on your horse, try getting help every 6 months from a professional. You can do a lot by yourself, but sometimes the help of a professional can move the healing process forward by a quantum leap.

4. Listen to Your Horse's Native Wisdom

If your horse absolutely hates a certain supplement, chances are that he doesn't need it. This isn't always the case, but is mostly true. Fezzywig wasn't that interested in Eleviv early on in the process, but now he scarfs them down. Horses will tell you what they want if you pause long enough to listen.

5. It is Working? Document the Journey or Ask Someone Else
You see your horse every single day so sometimes you miss the progress that is occurring right before your eyes. If you don't trust that the healing process is at work, take pictures and write notes along the way to document your horse's progress. Look back at your old notes and pictures, and try to see differences.

Then check in with your buddies, the ones who don't see your horse everyday. They will be able to see marked changes even when you can't. Getting this kind of external validation will keep you from getting frustrated during the long healing process.

Helping Horses in Pain: It's Never Too Late

I like to think that it's never too late to have a happy childhood. I also think it's never too late to heal horses in pain. A good horse health care regimen, a huge dose of patience, a hunger to learn more about healing, and pure love can work miracles on these horses.

Most horses in pain want help but are somehow "stuck" in their illness. If we can do little things here and there to shift them, even half a degree, we have started the healing process. A half degree here, a couple of degrees there ... and voila! You've got healing. One more item of note: just about any change in pattern is a sign of healing for a chronically unhealthy horse. Movement is life, so a shift from one pattern to another is a sign of progress.

Good luck, have patience, and just love your horses. It's good for them ... and so good for you!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

No comments:

Post a Comment