I work with a few training groups, and often when a horse comes to training I see them as a way to get them on the best slate, not a clean slate, but make a plan for their rehabilitation and further their progress. As well as helping the physical and mental trauma they may come with.
I met Wallen early last week, and I was originally working with the other colt in their string, but he was a froggy, 6 year old that was stressed out and moving strange at the lope. The transition produced a mix of a bunny hop and a kick from jog to lope and the trainer bellowed from above across the arena - can you look at him too?
FYI, I’m always happy to do so.
So, he came on over to me after she cooled him down with a walk and I started with palpations - poking and proding in certain tell-tale spots. He was tense all over, and responsive to my touch, but off the charts the closer I got to his hind end. Palpating his glutes, along his sacrum and his hamstring was crippling to him, and with the tracing of his left hamstring he lifted the leg, and squatted at the same time - effectively shortening the tense muscle.
I used techniques from Doctor Renee Tucker (Author of the book “Where does my horse hurt?”) to further evaluate his sacrum. He was very reactive if I applied pressure near the tailhead on the left side, and only there - which she would advise means the sacrum is wonky and needs support - that corner is being pulled and is ouchy. I imagine the whole thing was shifted into the right SI.
I didn’t even palpate the right side - why the need? I checked the 4 quadrants of the sacrum and moved on with my day - he’s young, unsure and just starting training and I know we have something to work on - why poke a vulnerable spot and hope he doesn’t blow?
I started with the right hind doing leg releases - forward and across the midline for him to encourage softening and lengthening of the hamstrings. This side is the side that is easiest, and I’m trying to redeem myself after pinpointing enough. Next, I did hind end points from the Masterson Method, to prep the soft tissue and nervous system for movement in the hind end. Then I went back to hind leg releases on the right hind, then the left. I did this to be friend, not foe and set him up for success as much as possible. I will say, its amazing how supple the muscles of the hind end get from hind end points - simply tap them with your finger tips before and after to see for yourself.
At this point, he was relaxing a lot more, and was much less froggy. So, I ran to the truck to grab my physio type balance pads and asked the trainer to back him - quality only and take him in figure eights, for a bit of muscular engagement and some mental break so I could keep working.
We played with the pads on the hind end and front end, to foster some relaxation of the tissues, challenge the tissues, and settling of his worries.
I re-palpated. Much less, about 25% of what it was before, and I worked with his psoas using MM techniques, as the psoas connects low back/last rib to the pelvis and is thought to be a very emotional muscle - specifically anxiety and fear. Now, I can’t say this is exactly what I was working with - as it is quite deep in the body, but whatever released helped.
His back had come up, he had a nice notch in front of his pelvis above his low back to start, and now he was round and plump.
I did a pelvic tuck, which requires the core to engage, as well as the glutes to tilt the pelvis a bit. Then I did a modification to this by working with the ribs as well, asking for a bit of tuck with a bit of bend, to encourage the lumbar and upper pelvis to really open up by flexing and side bending at the same time. By engaging these muscles and moving in this manner, he is actively using the muscles that cradle around the sacrum and asking the pelvis and sacrum to move as they should. This would have been rather silly to start with, as his soft tissue needed to be prepped to do this, but as it had been it was a good reminder for his brain and a bit of a purposeful physical exercise.
He palpated with no reaction at this point, and I applied KT tape to his back for activation of the back muscles, decompression of his lumbar spine and muscles as it had been picking up the slack for the pelvis’ lack of mobility and did a gluteal activation taping - essentially reminding him of his booty muscles all the time as neurological re-education is a very valuable therapy tool, finishing with a relaxation of the over-working hamstrings to promote a more desirable balance in his hind end powerhouse.
I reapplied some tape today, but his palpations are still clean, he is much less froggy, and started doing more work in the training program he is in. Last night he chased the dummy for a bit!
Hopefully this shows perspective trainers, owners and other bodyworkers how I think and what I do within a session. All sessions are independent and vary according to the horse’s need in the moment.