Sunday, October 1, 2017

Myofascial Release for PSSM Horses

I wrote this for a forum I'm on early August, 2017:

So, I've been watching YouTube to find massage, stretch, myofascial, and any other techniques to try and loosen up my horse's muscles - he's been doing really well and staying loose, but about two weeks ago he went lame from a constant shoulder spasm in both shoulders. The spasm finally subsided and he's now on Bute-less for a bit, which I think is really helping. His muscles have been much better on a higher fat diet - I got him up to 2 cups of oil for a couple of days, but he's starting to leave food in his bowl so we're back down to 12 oz (1.5 cups), which isn't bad as he was doing well on this amount. A few days ago I found this playlist for the Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomer and it looked very interesting.

I've been doing it for about 3 days now with a grooming mitt that I already have, and the difference in my boy's muscles and skin pain and tightness is pretty drastic. After 3 days he's no longer sensitive to touch, his back pain is less, and he just looks looser. He's still slightly lame in his shoulder from the spasms last week, but even the stress lines there have improved quite a bit and he's now rideable (for short distances) again. The first day I worked on him for over 2 hours, the 2nd day over an hour, and today about another hour focusing on hindquarters and shoulders. I've been doing it everywhere, not just on the areas shown. I think this works by releasing the fascia and also through mild massage of the muscles.

The first pic is from about a month or so ago, 2nd pic is after the 2nd day of trying this (yesterday), and 3rd pic is from today and really working on his hindquarters. 4th pic is the grooming mitt that I used. He didn't love it the first day as he's been really skin sensitive, but today he did and I got a really good stretch out of him after he was done. If you try this and your horse is sensitive, be careful as they can be reactive. My boy usually just steps away when I hit something that is too sensitive, and that first day I hit many sensitive spots.

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Edit to add: My horse's tail always curls to the left when he lifts it and is very stiff and hard to pick up (like he's clamping it but he's not). After the 2nd day he was lifting it straight most of the time and I could lift it easily - that's never happened in the 6 years I've owned him!

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UPDATE END OF AUGUST, 2017:

Today was the first test for how well my boy would do after the fascia work. The 2nd and 3rd pics above were taken about a week into little-to-no work due to muscle spasms in his shoulders. It turns out he had an abscess brewing in both front feet, which finally popped yesterday and the spasms stopped. I gave him yesterday off and worked him with the jelly groomer again, and even with a total of almost 2 weeks with no work, he stayed nice and loose (with only one day of massage, which he really enjoyed again after doing fascia work). I worked him lightly with the groomer today before work, and found a sore spot in his hindquarters (the muscles around his hip joint) - this is where most of his problems are, so I massaged/groomed that area which caused his back muscles to flinch (I think I now know where the sore back is coming from), then put liniment on those areas to heat/loosen them up.

After all that, he looked great and acted happy and comfortable, so I decided to take him for a short trail ride. We were just going to walk for a little way, see how he was feeling, and turn back early. He felt so good from the second I got on him - no 20 minute warmup as usual - and continued to feel good through a 2.5 mile ride. He was still feeling great when we got home and acting normal, but there was a slight shoulder spasm that went away quickly (I'm assuming that muscle was still a little compromised from the last couple weeks).

I have not been able to give my horse more than 1 day off in the 2 years since he became symptomatic - it usually stiffens him up too bad. I really expected him to be a complete wreck today. He did get a little handwalking during this time off, but it wasn't enough for his usual exercise needs. The only thing different other than the fascia work is that I put him on Buteless - which I'm sure helped immensely.

So here's the list of things that this type of fascia work has definitely helped with: loosened his muscles, kept them loose through no/little work, completely got rid of his skin sensitivity, less back pain coming in from the pasture, hip/hindquarters are moving looser, and no exercise intolerance after being off work. I also uncovered a couple of divots in his shoulders and neck once his skin was loosened up, and was able to find spots to work on that I couldn't find before as the tight skin was hiding it.

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UPDATE END OF SEPTEMBER, 2017

My boy spent the next 1.5-2 weeks outdoing his normal self - we went 7 days with up to and over 5 mile trail rides, some very technical and about 1/2 of those days included a lot of trot and canter work. One day I even got him to canter for about 1/2 mile! That hasn't happened in over 2 years. Also, this last year of rehab he's not been able to work hard for more than 3 days without crashing after - there has been no crash this past month.

I also took my first mini vacation right after that, and left him for 5 days in the pasture with no exercise and only hay and grass (no grain). The day I came back I hand walked him and he seemed perfectly fine. I then started building up mileage the next day, starting at about 2.5 miles (we normally start back at 1-1.5 miles) - he did amazing. He still has unlimited canter, and his body stayed nice and loose while I was gone (he normally can't do even 1 full day off work).

I've switched his food around a bit during the spasm episodes mentioned in my original post. He's now on 1 lb Renew Gold, 1 tbsp Mag Ox, 1.5 cups canola oil, 1/3 scoop Health E, and 1 tbsp baking soda - all mixed with water to make a nice mash. On some days I add 1 oz CoMega Supreme just to give him a couple extra vitamins. He's doing so well right now. Here's a pic of his muscles from yesterday. He's starting to gain muscle along his topline and really fill in his neck and shoulders (sorry you can't really see it cause he's eating lol), there's still a dip just before his lumbar that needs to fill in - I've found that working that hip joint (circled) really helps some days to get his back bone so it won't stick up like it is in the photo, but those muscles are so tight that it will be a work in progress for a little while.

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The lines radiating from the circles show tight muscles coming from the tight joint, and I think that's what is causing his back soreness





About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax








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