Light it Up: Cold Laser Therapy

cold laser therapy
I’m using cold laser therapy to encourage my posterior tibial tendon to heal.

Healing soft tissue injuries and wounds can take a long time — when Freedom strained his check ligament a few years ago, he was off for several weeks and had to be rehabbed on a slow, conservative schedule. One of the things I didn’t know about then was the use of cold laser therapy — also known as low level laser therapy — to accelerate healing.

Cold Laser Therapy is a treatment that uses specific wavelengths of light (usually around 800 nm) to interact with tissue and is thought to help accelerate the healing process. It can be used on patients who suffer from a variety of acute or chronic conditions to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase function. The light has the ability to penetrate 2 to 5 centimeters below the skin in the 800-900 nm range.

Studies indicate that laser therapy can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation and increase microcirculation.

Recently, Carol Gifford, who is the vet behind Walden Woods Animal Acupuncture started offering laser therapy as part of her practice. She uses it to help eliminate pain, swelling, reduce spasms and increase function and to stimulate acupoints for those patients who can not tolerate needles.  (This, by the way, would be great for Freedom who has benefited in the past from acupuncture but who has a somewhat extreme reaction to having the needles inserted).

So, does it work? I haven’t had the chance to try it on Freedom yet, but since I have been suffering from Posterior Tibial Tendonitis. For those of you who have not

posterior tibial tendon dysfunction
This is where it hurts.

injured this tendon,  it inserts into your foot along your instep, runs up beside your ankle bone and attaches to the tibialis posterior muscle. It’s role is to stabilize your foot. Any time you run or walk, your posterior tibial tendon locks your ankle in place, helping to hold your foot in a strong, rigid configuration when you push off the ground. It also functions to invert your foot, rolling your ankle to shift your weight to the outside of your foot. It is a very common injury and, as I can attest, it takes forever to heal.

Last week I had one of those lightbulb moments. I realized that cold laser therapy might be able to help. Like many horse people, the line between doctor and vet is somewhat blurred in my life.  So, I asked if I could test the laser on my damaged tendon. I’ve had three treatments so far, spending 10-15 minutes pulsing light into my ankle. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • The area treated feels warm (not hot) for at least an hour. It’s not uncomfortable, but it feels different.
  • There has been less pain and swelling, even after activities that generally aggravate it. For example, riding has been a problem because of the way that my foot pronates in the stirrup, but on Friday I was able to to ride for more than 2 hours and still felt okay.

Of course, this is just anecdotal. I’m continuing to use more “conventional” therapies. I always wear shoes that support my arch (I live in Birkenstocks and use Birkenstock inserts in my other shoes), I’m doing physical therapy exercises, and have become an expert at applying KT Tape. But I’m optimistic. I’ve been trying to get this to heal for months and while my ankle is a lot better than it was after the initial injury, it’s never completely healed. It would be great if this was the answer!

Have you tried cold laser therapy on your horses? Or yourself?

 

 

 

 

The Trailer Isn’t the Problem.

Freedom Trailer
When I first got Freedom he used to weave so badly that the whole trailer would shake. I remember stopping for food once and realized that people in the parking lot must’ve though I had a wild animal in there!

What will your horse remember the next time you load?

Screenshot 2016-07-08 21.34.43Source: The Trailer Isn’t the Problem. I highly recommend that you click through and read the excellent post from Anna Blake, who manages to get to the crux of the issue in just one sentence.

Her excellent post got me thinking  about the trailering issues I’ve had with my horses (usually at the beginning or our relationship). My Trakehner, Kroni, once refused to get on a trailer to the point where we missed a competition! He was always a little sticky until I bought a new, bigger trailer that he considered worth getting on. Until then, I had some, shall we say, interesting loading experiences.

The worst were the ones when people “helped”. They helped by bringing brooms, whips and lunge lines, all of which made him more determined not to step foot into a box that was surrounded by so many frightening things. I remember after one “helping” experience, I had pretty much decided we would never leave the property again.

In his case, I think my original trailer (which had been perfect for my QH) just wasn’t big enough. He wasn’t afraid. He just wasn’t interested. He perked up considerably when I got my new trailer and self loaded like a champ. One year, at the last hunt of the season, he fell in the trailer on the way home. I heard some kicking in the back, but not a lot. I was about 10 minutes from home and when I opened my trailer, he wasn’t standing on the the left where I’d loaded him. There was only a dangling halter. He had gone under the divider and was standing, shaking like a leaf, on the right side of the trailer. Remarkably, he was uninjured.

Even more remarkably, the next time I asked him to load — about 2 months later — he walked on like a champ.

Freedom was a nervous rider. The day I picked him up, he walked on okay, but he was weaving so violently that when the trailer wasn’t moving, it shook like I had a pair of fighting elephants inside. When we stopped for lunch I could see people staring out the window of the restaurant in alarm, wondering what was going on in there.

He got better when traveling with a friend. However, the first time I loaded him by himself, he walked on fine, and then panicked. I thought there was a good chance he’d try to jump out over the front bar, so I got in and started driving. He was fine when the trailer was moving, but since we were on our way to a hunt and I hadn’t been smart enough to pack everything before I loaded, I had to keep driving back so I could jump out grab something and start driving before he flipped out again.

After a good long hunt, he got on the trailer and stood pretty happily during the tailgate tea. All of a sudden the trailer (and it’s full hay bag) was looking pretty good.

He wasn’t perfect after that, but he has continued to get better. Now he travels by himself like a pro and walks on without a fuss. The only thing he still won’t tolerate, is if he’s traveling with a friend and that horse gets off first. But he’s come so far that I don’t ask him to do that.

How about your horses?

 

Rolling is ridiculous

There is something ridiculous about a horse rolling. Even more ridiculous is a horse lying on its back with its feet in the air! My horses love to roll, especially Zelda, who will drop to the ground seconds after I remove her saddle (and I am always quick about it). But the folks who shot this video have a horse that lies like this all the time!

Zelda rolling
Zelda enjoys a good roll. She doesn’t realize how undignified she looks!
Freedom rolling
Freedom enjoys rolling after a ride. His favorite spot is at the top of the hill where it’s sandy.

What about your horses? Do they enjoy rolling?

Thank Goodness for Banamine

 

 

Freedom Feeling Better
Freedom is feeling back to normal

Freedom is feeling better now but on Sunday, he gave me a bit of a scare.

I’d taken Zelda out for a ride. He looked fine when I arrived; he’d galloped up to the fence and begged for some extra hay. But, when I got back, he was just not right. You know what I mean — you come out to the pasture and your horse is standing funny or has an odd expression on his face, or is just not looking like himself.

In Freedom’s case, he was standing with his back to me, slightly tucked up and his tail was held to one side. I pulled him out of the paddock and he started to clench his tail down hard.

He didn’t look colic-y, but he didn’t look right either.

A quick call to the vet confirmed my suspicion that Banamine was required. My vet also suggested some milk of magnesia, as Freedom’s muscles were very tight.

Thankfully, he responded well and twenty minutes later, he looked noticeably better.

I’m still not sure what made him feel off — my guess was the big temperature swing we had here. It was 93 on Saturday and just 61 degrees on Sunday. It’s possible he also ran a bit when Zelda and I were out, although he wasn’t hot when I got back.

I’m just glad his body language was so clear and direct — and that I had Banamine on hand.

Thundering hooves

Zelda didn’t want to get caught for the farrier this week. It’s fun to watch her run. The earth shakes, and not just right where your standing. You can feel the tremors in the barn.

Feeling good
She’s always enjoyed a good run — and generally puts in a few bucks. I’d much rather that she get the sillies out before I get on her.

At least it’s fun for the first five minutes. Fifteen minutes later it wasn’t quite as much fun, although I did envy her endurance. Her pasture feels a lot larger once you’ve walked back and forth six or seven times.

Zelda was playing hard to get. She thought about letting me catch her a few times, but she was having too much fun. She knew I had a handful of grain and she’d let me get close. She’d even lean down and start to put her nose in the halter. Then she’d change her mind and off she’d go. I like that she feels so good and it’s fun to watch her run. But days like this you can’t be in a hurry. The only thing you can do is keep her moving. I don’t chase her, but I do try to keep her from resting — not an easy task when you see how big the pasture is!

I knew she was getting tired when she stopped for a drink. I needed a drink too by that point.

Waiting for me
Finally she stopped and waited for me. Not at the far end of the field, but close enough to approach.

 

Looking for food
Then she turned to look at me. Probably she was wondering if I’d gotten hungry and eaten the grain myself.
Ready to come in
When she turned to face me, I knew she was ready to come in. On her terms.

Freedom rarely plays hard to get. He’s more compliant. Or maybe he just likes having a job.

What about your horse? Do you have to play the catch me game?

Staying Warm

Bitter cold
This is the coldest weather we’ve had in a long time. The high today was 11.

Today, when I woke up at 6:30, it was -10 and felt like -27. When I checked again at 8:30, it had warmed up to -8. In preparation for the cold snap (the winter so far has been mild) we bundled the horses up in their winter jackets.

Winter jackets
The horses are much happier now that they are bundled up. I even put an extra layer on Freedom.

Up until now, we’ve been leaving them naked for the most part and I’ve been surprised by how well they’ve been doing with just their fur. Although many horse owners blanket as soon as the air gets nippy, horses are much better able to withstand cold than heat. An article in The Horse, interviewed Amy Gill of Equine Marketing and Consulting in Versailles, Ky. who explained how cold it needs to be before horses have difficulty staying warm:

The critical temperature below which horses must begin to use calories to maintain body core temperature, called thermoregulation, is -10° C (14 °F). When the temperature is above 14° F, there is no increase in energy requirement needed to maintain body temperature in a maintenance level horse which is not gestating, lactating, growing, or in work and is not subject to windy or wet weather. This information applies to the maintenance level horse turned out for the winter.

The 500 kg (1,100 lb) horse will experience a 35% increase in metabolic rate and heat production to stay warm once the temperature falls below -10° C (14° F). For every degree centigrade the temperature drops below this level, one must increase the digestive energy, or calories, by 2.5%. For that 500 kg horse, you would increase his caloric intake by .408 Mcal of digestible energy daily. This horse needs 16.4 Mcal daily for maintenance, and you are adding about one-half a Mcal per every one-half degree drop in temperature.

Obviously, we have reached that point here in Massachusetts.

By Thursday, Freedom, at least, made it clear that he was cold. He was grouchy. And unhappy. A blanket and some extra hay cheered him up immensely. But hay alone didn’t do the trick.

Figuring it was going to get even colder, I added an extra layer on Friday morning. They all made it through the really cold night and when I fed tonight, they were still warm. Although I think that Freedom, like I, is seriously considering Aiken as our next winter destination.

 

NYC Proposes to Reduce Number of Horse-Drawn Carriages in Central Park

horses29n-4-web
Carriage rides in Central Park have been given a reprieve from Mayer de Blasio’s campaign promise to ban them. Under the proposed agreement, the number of horses (and licenses) would be reduced and rides would be restricted to the Park.

If you’ve always dreamed of riding through Central Park in a horse-draw carriage, there’s still time. Despite Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to eliminate the carriage trade, three years later the deal on the table is a compromise: the number of horses will be reduced from 220 today down to 95 by 2018, carriage rides will be restricted to the park, and the horses will be housed in a new stable, to be built in Central Park by October 1, 2018. The stable will be large enough for 75 horses; 20 additional horses will be rotated in and out of service to allow them to rest.

The City Council must approve the deal, described by the mayor’s office as “an agreement in concept,” and a hearing could occur as soon as this week, officials said.

Drivers tell a slightly different story. Today 180 drivers have licenses to operate carriages in the city and they plan to continue fighting to keep as many horses and drivers employed as possible.

Personally, I’m glad to see the horses stay, even if in reduced numbers. Most of the horses I’ve seen in the park have looked well-cared for and sound; talking to the drivers I’ve heard real love for their horses in their voices. Many of the carriage drivers come from families who’ve had licenses for several generations. I’ve always wondered what the protesters thought would happen to the horses if carriages were banned. While images of green fields and retirement floated over their heads like speech bubbles, my own prediction was darker: New Holland sales and one way tickets to Canada. Hopefully, with a more gradual decline, this will allow more horses the chances to find homes (although I think animal rights activists still haven’t thought through the implications of taking the horses off the streets of NY). My guess is that ultimately, the numbers of horses/licenses will be higher than the 95 planned.

Update: According to some of the carriage drivers, the real issue driving the proposed downsizing of the industry and relocation of the stables has little to do with protecting the horses — and everything to do with real estate. The current stables are located on Manhattan’s West Side where development of the Hudson Yards has significantly raised the value of those buildings. However, the owners of the Carriage Houses say they are not interested in selling.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/nyc-carriage-horse-stable-owners-not-interested-selling-article-1.2502744

What do you think?