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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Following up on the last post, since my horses were all sedated for their very thorough dental exams, I’m reminded of something I try to keep in mind any time they’re sedated. Along with the rest of the body, sedation can slow down the gut, or digestive process. My horse Kiona once had minor colic symptoms following a sedation, and the best guess seemed to be that it was likely due to this effect. (In her case, she came around very quickly with just some coaching from the vet over the phone.)

So now whenever my horse’s are sedated, or even in advance if I anticipate it, I like to do at least one or sometimes several things to help their digestive system as preventative care. Massage, of course, is one of these, since the genuine relaxation effect of massage stimulates the digestion (as opposed to the effect of artificial sedation, interesting!). But there are also other very quick strategies to add to massage, or as an alternative. For example, you can offer your horse some grazing time, if possible, since fresh grass is excellent for the digestion (if your horse’s health allows). You can also soak their hay, making it more easily digested and ensuring more water intake along with it. And of course, taking your horse for a walk is helpful, since the walking movement also promotes gut movements. (Please note that following sedation you need to be sure your horse is fully alert again before offering any food to avoid risk of choke or other chewing related problems. Likewise, for greater safety, wait until the sedation has worn off before taking your horse for a walk.)

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We’re lucky to have right here in Western Washington a state of the art equine rehabilitation facility called Pegasus. Technology and services include not only swim therapy and an underwater treadmill, but even hyperbaric oxygen therapy, whole body vibration therapy, solarium, and more. You can find a video tour on the website, which is beautiful to watch, but having been on a tour myself, the video doesn’t remotely do justice to the services offered, and the difference they make for injured horses. (Though if you watch long enough, you will see a horse in the pool, and one entering and exiting the hyperbaric chamber.)

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So I came across this nicely edited video I thought you’d like, giving a wonderful overview of horse massage, and a little of what it’s like to be an equine massage therapist. Then I realized, hey, I know that woman! In the video, she doesn’t have the red hair I remember from when we’ve taken a couple of classes together a few years back, but I’m very happy to see her again via youtube at least 🙂  and to share her beautifully done video with you here. Thank you, Rebecca Thomas, for your great work!

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Here’s a link to a wonderful new blog from Horse Haven at Bear Creek, and specifically to Robyn’s post about gastric ulcers. As so often happens, we learn about health the hard way, through the lack of it, or dis-ease in some form. May Lily’s experience help others learn this lesson sooner and with greater ease….

You’ll also see that I’ve also added a comment at the bottom of Robyn’s blog post, relating the topic to bodywork and massage.

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Animal Massage Myth #9: “You must have to be really strong to massage a horse!”

This is one of the most frequent comments I hear when I tell someone what I do for a living. The fact is, although being fit is helpful for certain techniques and styles of bodywork (and necessary for some), it’s really not about strength. Even a small child can offer great benefits to the largest of horses with the right techniques, focus and intention. What people generally don’t think about, even in relation to themselves let alone their animals, is that the body has great intelligence and is designed to re-balance itself in any number of ways. This intelligence and ability can very easily (and often does) get off track, stuck or even distorted, but the potential is still there, ready and waiting for the right conditions and reminders to trigger it. Most of what happens during massage and bodywork is happening inside the body, connected to but not actually coming from the hands of the therapist. Sometimes your hands don’t even seem to be doing anything at all, and yet the animal is clearly processing and focusing internally, and getting wonderful relaxation and other benefits.

The fact that your hands are on your animal (or even just nearby in some cases), and also very importantly that your mind is focused on helping and loving your animal, can be all that’s needed to create positive effects. With more training and experience, you can also get much more efficient and deliberate by learning key places to apply pressure, how much pressure to use, and how long to spend. Of course, using good body mechanics to protect your joints and muscles while massaging is also important, but that’s another topic. (More on that in my books and videos, of course!)

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Please note, if you’ve already visited this blog as a .wordpress.com site, the new address is now minus the “wordpress,” simply allaboutequinemassage.com !

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“Why?” is a very common response whenever we realize that our horses’ have aches, pains, tensions, etc. And it’s a very important question to ask, because asking it is part of the process of finding ways to make them more comfortable in the future. But it’s not a question that you should really expect to get a clear answer to, because you rarely will.

I just listened to part of an audio book in which the author shares a great analogy for why this is the case. The book is The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and has nothing to do with animal massage (or does it?), but his explanation of his friends’ “The Melting Ice Cube” thought experiment is a valuable one to remember when trying to figure out the why behind symptoms observed. I’ll paraphrase it here very briefly. (And thanks, Cyn, for the recommendation!)

Picture an ice cube, and try to imagine the shape of the puddle it will make when it melts. Not only is it not too hard to guess at a good estimate, it would even be possible, with the right know-how and enough time, to calculate an even better prediction. But now imagine trying this in reverse. You come into the room and find a puddle of water. What shape do you think the ice cube was? And do you even know for sure that the water came from an ice cube in the first place? Not a chance! (Or at least, almost zero chance. I suppose you could always have a lucky guess.) There are virtually infinite possible explanations for this one particular puddle. Following a line of cause and effect (assuming hypothetically that it’s even a linear process) in one direction is vastly more do-able than the same path in reverse.

Of course, in real-life scenarios of horses (or other species, including us) and their aches and pains, we do sometimes manage to come up with some pretty reasonable guesses as to the cause, or at least a cause. Occasionally even before a lengthy process of trial and error: “If we change “x” (riding issues, shoeing, footing, equipment, nutrition, etc….) does the situation improve?” But this is usually because we’re helped by clues from the past, like having seen the horse fall, or break a leadrope pulling back, or we know one of its riders hangs on the right rein, or we take a closer look at (and feel of) the saddle and find that it’s not a good fit, etc, etc, etc. All of these clues would be like being given a clue about the shape of the unseen ice cube, or whether there was an ice cube to start with. But even with many such clues, working backwards still means many more possible explanations than we can imagine, let alone guess at.

I’d still say it’s good to ask “why?” for two reasons. One is, as I said, it’s part of our efforts to find solutions we can try out and see if they help our horse recover better comfort, movement, athleticism and general health. The second reason is that it’s a good mental exercise that can help us learn about the wide range of stresses our horses face. This way we can gradually become better at helping any horses in our future by learning to avoid or minimize at least some negative stresses in the first place.

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