This winter both Freedom and I are rehabbing. He’s still off with his SI injury — massage is helping but with no indoor, it’s hard to keep him in regular work. With less incentive (or ability to ride) I’ve decided that it’s finally time to fix the aches and pains that have been bothering me. Like many horse people, I’ve ignored the things that hurt, ridden through some pain, and spent my money on the things that matter: kids and horses.
It’s my turn to get the physical therapy, chiropractic appointments and massages that my horses and kids have been getting. I’d like to come into spring a little stronger, a little more flexible and pain free.
Like Freedom, I’m working to stabilize and strengthen my SI joint. I’ve had chronic piriformis syndrome for several years, brought on by many miles of driving. I’ve made more progress than Freedom has, but of course I can do my exercises at the gym. For him, I’m thinking of renting time in a local indoor as I know that regular work is a necessary part of his recovery.
Next, I’m moving onto my rotator cuff. A few years back, I had rotator cuff and biceps tendonitis. I went through PT and had knocked back the pain, but once it didn’t keep me awake at night, I admit that I
ignored it. Now, although it doesn’t hurt often (except during therapy, which hurts like the dickens), I’ve realized that I’ve lost (according to my chiropractor) 30% of my range of motion. I’d like that back, please.
The good news is that I’m a better patient than Freedom. I do my exercises regularly and I don’t try to bite or kick my therapist. He’s still not so sure about the massage. Although he greeted the therapist like an old friend, when she moved into some of the more tender, painful areas, he objected rather strenuously — who knew that a horse could reach so far to the side with his front leg? I don’t even think that it hurts him all that much; it’s more that he has to make the decision that he’ll accept the touch, because once he agrees to the therapy, she’s able to get deep into the tissue.
Still, I think about him when my therapist hits a particularly tender spot and holds it long and hard, occasionally asking how I’m holding up. It is at those moments that I think about kicking.
I think we’ve all been there. Your horse gets one more cut, one more pulled shoe, one more injury. Wouldn’t it be nice to just wrap that horse in bubble wrap to keep him safe? Of course, knowing horses, they’d figure out a way to hurt themselves using the bubble wrap!
It looks very peaceful on this late afternoon at the barn (I hate it when it’s dark at 4:45!). But looks can be deceiving.
Just a few minutes before, there was pandemonium. I broke one of my rules. Instead of bringing Freedom into the barn to put on his blanket, I threw a halter and lead rope on him in the field. I was just about to fasten the final buckle when Willow, who was very interested in what I was doing, squeezed between Freedom and the fencing. Somehow she got her tail caught in the electric tape. It must have shocked her because I didn’t know she could move so fast.
Suddenly, she was running full tilt down the hill, about a fifty feet of electric tape and few step in poles chasing after her.
Freedom, who had been standing there half asleep, sprung into action and ran after her. He sent me flying (luckily the ground was pretty soft) and then the two of them stood, snorting, at the bottom of the hill.
I’m okay, other than some bruises. Freedom and Willow are okay. The only casualties were the blanket (which can be repaired) and the fencing, which I put back up in the dark.
The bottom line? Never break your safety rules. Never forget that horses are prey animals. And never assume that you’re safer on the ground!
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you around horses when you weren’t riding?
On Monday Freedom had his SI joints injected. If you have a phobia of needles this is not a procedure that you want to watch. The needle the vet used was 8″ long! The vets used ultrasound to guide the placement of the needle. He had both sides injected (the right was much more sensitive than the left, hence his reluctance to pick up/hold the left lead canter).
The second part of his treatment was mesotherapy. This involves injecting the vet’s “secret sauce” using small needles that penetrate shallowly into the interdermal layer of the skin that stimulates the mesoderm (the middle layer of the skin). Mesotherapy is a more recent addition to treatments here in the US but has been used extensively in France for more than 30 years. Mesotherapy helps stop the pain spasm cycle, so for a horse like Freedom, who had pain from the SI joint, it can help relax the muscles in conjunction with the joint injection.
Did it work? I’ll find out in a few days. He needs to have five days off before I can start him back with a light hack. Stay tuned!
This post from Anna Blake, is hands down, one of the best I’ve read about the balancing act between horses (or any pets) and money. As someone who is self employed, I’ve always faced the conundrum of either having no money, but time to ride or no time to ride, but enough money to have my horses. I’m also lucky to be married to someone who helps me carry that burden.
Just when you get comfortable, money goes worthless. It can purchase a horse, but it has never been able to buy relationship and skill in the saddle. Horses are the great equalizer; you can’t buy the ride. Or the other priceless things: freedom, friendship, and self-esteem.
If money is a vehicle, it’s still up to us to steer it.
Lottery winners and philosophers tell us that money doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s more complicated.
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
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?