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 McDreamy 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 Doc 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 corners 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 also, really don’t need to pinpoint the problem, as I’m not a vet. My best work comes from feeling with my hands, this was just to get me near the culprit - since he is so young and may have a very short fuse. Get in, get out right?
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 really encourage the lumbar and upper pelvis to really open up. 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 clean, 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 reeducation 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.
I called my pal over to spend a day with me, floating my mare and another at her facility, before continuing to do evaluations on a few other horses that I have as clients. I have strongly suggested to these clients that we look at their teeth after evaluation translations of the jaw and feeling the horse as a whole, and thankfully, these owners obliged.
We saw 9 horses teeth in our evaluations, but two were youngin’s so I won’t be commenting on their findings. I lost sleep last night. Yup, I said it. And now I'm writing. Maybe it'll help one horse out there, if so - it was worth my time and yours, don't you think?
I’m going to try to keep this educational and factual, without much of my opinions thrown in, I promise.
3 had “glass teeth”. When you rub your finger over the chewing (occlusal) surface of the molars, it shouldn’t squeak like you are rubbing on glass. The ridges on the molars help break down the food your horse eats. Glass teeth is a chemical state change provoked from power floats due to the heat of the drill, the grinding, and the speed it‘s done with. Horses are prone to colic, weight maintenance issues and GI issues when this is their situation, and it’s hard to come back to a normal occlusal (chewing) surface from.
We saw some long-in-the-tooth incisors, which according to people I value, shouldn’t be happening and is. They suggest the strain is then on the whole mouth because the incisors aren’t maintained. I think they are onto something. My old lady horse has absolutely no long in the tooth to her. I believe in it so much I do it with her. I saw and see no downsides - but that’s just my opinion. We recognize the mechanical sabotage with a hoof that is too long. Yet, we don't challenge this in the mouth? PLEASE question everything that is done, simply because that's the way it's always done.
We saw 2-3 wedges in the incisors. Some slight, some large. If you check out your horses smile, a wedge will be a slant in the incisors. They can also have a smile or a frown, or a wave. Not good either way. This can and does block the whole jaw from moving, which blocks the whole body. Neck flexion will be the most noticeable, and a horse with the bottom jaw wedged higher on the right can‘t go to the left - because of the jaw and that wedge. A veterinarian has done research on imbalanced incisors correlating to forelimb lameness while we are at it. He did his research with 1000 horses, I think he's onto something and I personally like that he's going against the grain and focused on the anatomy & functionality.
I think I recall every horse we saw had molar table inclination problems. What in the hell is that? No bueno, that's what it is. I'm unsure of the last horse on the day, because I should've taken notes. They have 4 sets of molar arcades/tables. Lower left, upper left, lower right, upper right. These have the premolars and the molars, this is where the chewing and grinding happens after the horse grasps the forage with the incisors. The lowers are designed to be taller along the tongue (palatal rim) and lower along the buccal (lip/cheek). The uppers are designed to be longer along the buccal (cheek/lip) and lower along the palatal rim (near the tongue and roof of mouth). This is their inclination and angle. Why is this important?
The jaw is designed to move in 6 planes, it opens and closes, moves left to right and right to left (except in so many horses I see... sorry, I couldn't resist) and towards the nose and backwards towards the body. Anterior/posterior movements respectively.
The importance comes from the horses ability, or inability, to chew for one. These angles are VITAL to the shearing and breaking down the strands of forage we feed. Nutrient absorption, especially with the saliva to assist, & GI health come to mind as well.
Next, there is the TMJ and it's stability. I am going to keep talking about the TMJ until I die I fear. There's the facial nerves, the body nerves, the myofascial connections all over the body, the proprioception of the body, etc. I will always politely disagree when someone says the poll is the most important joint in the body and admire the TMJ. It has the poll at it's beck and call to boot!
Crap! I've outted myself as a bodyworker that doesn't hail the poll isn't the queen bee.
Instability! Right, I gotta get back in focus. I didn't sleep well, remember? The inclination and shape of the molars actually help support the TMJ in optimum balance and function. So if you have a lower jaw that is flat (4 or 5 out of 7 - since I'm unsure of the last horsie) - that shearing, chomping, and nutrient absorption is SOL. Next, you also have no molar stability - AKA a TMJ that is all aboard the struggle bus, similar to myself this fine morning. Additionally, this means the neck is doing more than it should to stabilize the upper neck and TMJ and less nimble than you would like as a competitor. This is better than an inverted inclination on the lower jaw (2 or 3 out of 7). One of the horses with the instability has been seen by me a few times. The owner is worried of ulcers, him losing weight, and such. She has brought this to my attention and she was right in her hunch, whether she knows it or not. I tried to facilitate that light bulb moment yesterday. And yes, this is partially why I approached her about the eval!
Inverted inclination happens when a tooth-doer is doing everything they can to round out sharp points on the palatal (tongue side) of the lower arcade, without reducing the buccal (cheek) rim as well. They simply have taken too much. You can reduce the painful parts of the mouth and get rid of the source of pain without throwing the rest of the horse aboard the struggle bus, really.
1 horse had a massive "fang" - lack of a better word - of a hook on the upper left 6 premolar. I'm sure her lower 11 is also talking, but at the risk of losing a hand, we did not evaluate this. This horse will have her dentition resolved shortly and had not been done recently or to the owner's knowledge. Even with the fang, the recovery of this horse is much more bright and will resolve quicker than others we saw yesterday.
Look, I recognize I can help horses resolve their tissue and structural responses to these issues. I do, but I also know the blockade of molar needs to be gone. No modality, machine or substance will solve this.
Several, maybe 5-6, had a hook on the last upper incisor on both sides. It happens. My mare had it pop up this last year as well, unsure of the other mare that was balanced with mine as I was not present at this time. This prevents the forward and backward movement of the lower jaw. Hey, collection my friend!? See ya later, Alligator.
& we know that's not good either.
Many of them had ATR which is just a fancy acronym for big words meaning peaks and valleys on the occlusal (chewing) surface of the molars that lock down the jaw. Yes, these need to be dealt with, but let's do so without ruining the angles of the molars... Fun fact: between myself and another bodyworker, my dentist has noticed these popping up more in horses that have regular bodywork resolving issues. It's all connected, remember?
So how does one avoid this? Well,here is my two cents and opinion. When choosing a tooth-doer, please stay away from the power tools. Find someone that looks at the muscles of the face - especially those used by the jaw. Find someone who will check the TMJ out to see if it's screaming or not. Find someone who will open and close the speculum often to provide relief to the TMJ and it's disk within. This is not a normal position and I don't want to piss off the TMJ, ever. Finally, find someone who cares more about the quality of all of the factors more than simply just eliminating sharp points - please.
No two floats are equal. Just cause your horse saw your favorite tooth doer 6 months ago or this past week, contact me to do a free eval or connect you with my dentist for a free eval. A second set of eyes never hurt anyone.
I am considering becoming a dentist. Teeth keep showing up as a problem area and one that drives me a wee bit bonkers. I do not wish too. I know the local challenges. But, I know my work is more successful when the primary sources of tension are identified and managed.
Accepting donations for tuition and tools now! ;)
"I am so tired of asking questions, doing the right things by her and just getting reminded that it's not enough!! This mare has been in heat like clock work for the last 2 months... that is NOT normal by any stretch of the term. Just frustrating."
I received the text as I was walking out of my doc appointment, late. I needed to drive home and change still to go to my other job. A day in my life, I suppose. So, I shot back a sentence, guiding her to another place on the mare. We've been talking a lot lately, always there with a fresh set of eyes and a kick in the ass to keep going when this gets tough. Equine entrepreneurship 101. We also are "competing" therapists local enough to be territorial. Beautifully, we aren't.
The next message I got was her citing the Merck Vet Manual about heat in mares. Ahhhhhhh... I then saw what a problem was/is.
I'm terribly blunt, and remember, I was on a mission. "I'd get out of your books and go FEEL her. Throw away the research hat and feel her." She reacted to that text with love. "You sound just like me... lol I have to tell that to others too, and yet, here I am! Thank you!"
The truth is, I, too, have to be told it. I think about things in such complex ways and love rabbit holes WAY more than I should. My thinking face also closely resembles a scowl which only adds to my persona, I guess.
I responded saying "I have to be told it, too. *Insert more guidance*. Nothing is normal when nature is trying to figure itself out. Trust your hands, trust your work and trust nature will take care of the rest."
It aligns with a quote by AT Still. "Find it, fix it, and let it alone.”
I had a conversation earlier on today about the same thing for myself. I forwarded one of my talented mentors a video. Just under a week ago we had spoke about a mare I saw locally. I saw her two weeks ago today. This mare was and is "above my paygrade" and that's NOT me selling myself short. I'm always optimistic of what the body can do, but never overstating my skills. I do feel as though I am this mares best shot locally, unless I can connect with one of my colleagues to come visit us. That's a big shoe to fill.
I got a video of the mare wandering through pasture on both hind legs yesterday, a day short of 2 weeks post session with me.
Finally! It was an ugly beginning and an ugly couple of weeks.
I forwarded the video to my mentor, because I'm a rabbit-hole-aficionado. Two weeks to re-establish is NOT normal. Damn, am I so grateful for those in my network always there for me. She politely reminded me I do not know better than nature and to knock it off with being such a "doer".
Lesson learned - for the day.
...and a reminder to "doubt the doubt". Sometimes it's a "dig on" sorta day, sometimes it's a "doubt the doubt" kinda day and sometimes it's both. Best advice I've been given yet, and somehow it applies to more than just bodywork.
I locally am known as a voodoo lady. I know where it came from, but I don’t know why it’s sticking. I saw a horse and did bladder meridian with him to get started. Mind you, that was just to get started with our session. I did make a lasting impression on the owner with my “magical” effect on the horse I was with.
I guess, before we get too into this, I should explain something more. I've asked clients what they consider the Masterson Method as. I’ve heard energy healing, acupressure, massage, voodoo, stretching, magic-that-works, etc. All are right. What’s cool is how you think about it has to do with what you know. A reiki or energetic person is going to say energy. A massage minded person may say massage or stretching. It’s this grey area where it stands all on its own, and by trying to compare - we are doing it a disservice. That’s my two cents, at least. Also, by labeling it, we create expectations and those, in all forms, need to get out of the damn stall too.
In MM sessions we do mobilizations, releases, and point work. With my physical background, I relate it to PNF stretching, craniosacral, and this weird mix of voodoo (if the shoe freaking fits, I guess), not chiropractic but playing with the whole range of motion - so also the bones...., not quite massage - I don’t do much kneading or strokes to be honest, and not really physical therapy either. It’s just Masterson. Why can’t we take a hint from the horses we love and not be so label happy? Damn frontal lobes.
The point work? That’s magic. It’s truly not, but that’s where the magical terms come from. These are usually located on musculoskeletal junctions which include joints. By melting that area with point work, it makes releases and mobilizations much easier. Why? We’re peeling off the first (or first 20) layers of tension. Some heavy hitters here are hind end points (like hip, SI point, stifle point) or opening the bladder meridian and working through tension build ups as we do. If the horse can sense a fly touching it, they can feel you and your presence. They know your intention and presence. They know you’re in their bubble. They have large bubbles. They know! Both the bladder meridian and hind end points can be found on YouTube under the Masterson Method page for more information.
We love horses for their ability to heal and be with us. Being with them soothes us. We seek out their solitude when we have a bad day, we know they are sensitive, we know they have this magical ability to melt away our worries - and yet, as humans, we struggle to grasp their sensitive nature as their innate being. Ironic, isn't it?
The prey animal in them will hold on to several things like soreness, tension, and compensation. They don’t want to show it, so they deny it and hide it... but deep down their body is holding onto that stress. Blinks correlating with the stressors, are silent cries for attention. If you relieve these stressors, the horse goes from stressed (sympathetic) to relieved (parasympathetic) states in their nervous system. I’ll speak more about this at the end. The blinks aren’t quackery when they correspond to something. They truly are a quiet way of expressing their prey instinct to hide discomfort - and this is just a way to get in that vulnerable state with them that they “let it slip”. If you do too much with too much presence, intention, and pressure they will brace or flee. Vulnerability is hard.
Because of the connections in the body, don’t get too caught up in one area having blinks consistently. Make a note and keep doing the work. You may resolve it at a different spot on the horse.
The releases? For most of them, I like to think of it as keeping it stupid simple “stretches” without stretching. Confused yet? PNF type stretching in humans comes to mind as a way you can feel a similar release on yourself. I remember doing so on the volleyball courts to help my tight hamstrings. I’m sure you can YouTube it to get the idea, but it’s the one where (for hamstrings), while laying on your back, someone raises your leg until you feel the pull then you push against them for 5 seconds-ish, and then you relax and they find a new point of resistance. You repeat the cycle and voila, you’re “stretched” and released. These were my favorite - largely because of the efficiency. These are great for the shoulder, the pelvis, & the hind limb of the horse. They also save my body from traditional stretches in these areas for the horse. In MM releases, you feel the point of resistance, push up into the limb and continue guiding down the ground or next point of resistance to release the girdle. The scapula release can be found on YouTube in the Masterson Method page, as an example.
Then there are the mobilizations. LCF comes to mind. I'll never forget when Mrs. Becky T got all up in my bubble and made sure I felt it. Along with sharing the analogy of greasing up every cervical junction with WD-40 (Aka my presence and intention on a blink triggering spot under my soft finger) and wiggling each junction like a door hinge to restore the range of motion. Once more, you work with the horses blinks and point of resistance - that’s an overarching principle of MM, so you know exactly where and how to help. LCF can be found on YouTube under the Masterson Method page for those interested.
Every nuance weighs on the horse. Pain from a saddle that doesn't fit right, locked movement from imbalanced teeth only equals more tension and restrictions throughout the body, which only increases the stressed out state of the horse. Maybe they are mentally stressed because of their friend leaving them. Maybe they have ulcers, too. Maybe they crib to try and comfort themselves for whatever reason, only truly building more stress in their body and forming an addiction. This is where the ’nervous system biohack’ (as I say) comes in. The body tries to preserve itself (prey instincts anyone?) and locks down the tissue around the issue. Maybe this is a misalignment now or could be, maybe its a spasming muscle, maybe it’s a horse that can’t cope with ANYTHING. Say hello to the sympathetic state.
Those 3 key junctions most impacting performance Jim speaks of? Yeah, those are the equine's nerve hubs. They are also part of the hardwiring, as well as connecting the fascia, soft tissue like laminae, tendons, ligaments and muscles, skeletal and organs. It all talks, it all can 'scream', it can 'silence', and it leads the body as it responds.
When you resolve the stressors, you put them in a more parasympathetic state rather than the sympathetic state. This is where they lick and chew, where they yawn, where they relax their hip, droop their lip, drool, drop their head, become softer. The eye relaxes, and this is where my human clients say “my horse loves you!” This is where they heal, process, recalibrate and rest. The parasympathetic state.
Yes, we definitely have special moments in their stall, and maybe your horse thinks I’m a cool human for breaking that stress-trap that happens in life with their nervous system's hardwiring. But really, I’m just doing effective work. I’m asking and relieving their body, with themselves every step of the way. This is why their performance improves as well as their behavior... everything I’ve written is involved in this package deal called the Masterson Method Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork, and it’s part of why I chose this program compared to the gazillion others.
Having huge hammies is not good! Nor is it a “beautiful booty”.Those overdeveloped hammies run from hock/stifle to sacrum (last few vertebrae are fused and cradled in the pelvis between the lumbar and the tail as the sacrum). (Dependent on which of the hamstrings are overdeveloped itself, since there are 3! It is extremely likely it’s all 3 though!)
If those are overdeveloped... the SI, lumbosacral, stifle, & hocks are all doing overtime as well. They only get overdeveloped if used often - right? And the tail may be clamped down to add to it all. 😉
The powerhouse of the horse is then compromised. Yikes! That booty can’t get support the lead changes, gait changes (like trot to canter), or true collection. Maybe you want fast out of the box/aisle, or maybe you want pirouettes. Your ability to do so is not happening optimally now!)
Balance. I want to see a balanced booty rather than one full of the hamstrings only!
Poor saddle fit also causes these issues. Especially if they are too long and land past the rib on the lumbar processes (western saddles.. ahem.).
If your horse has this presentation and hock/stifle issues: the culprit may be the lumbosacral junction and lumbar area... but then ya gotta figure out what is causing that. 🤓
Dig deeper, rather than simply injecting!
Injections may be needed, yes, but if this wear and tear can be reduced from happening, in addition? Could they be avoided from being needed if a horse is brought into balance? I believe it’s definitely possible. $$$ to be saved...?
I just don’t see who wouldn’t want to skip this cycle! 🤓
The other day I was at a rescue barn with a client and noticed a woman in the arena. We are Facebook friends but hadn't met yet. I heard through the grapevine she was thinking about doing the program I have done because of my work locally, and she's always there on my business page. ;)
I asked if she was who I thought she was, and I waltzed up and introduced myself.
I could get territorial.
I could get defensive.
I could be unwelcoming.
I could spew BS.
There are many therapists in our area and sometimes, to some, it seems like there aren't enough horses.
Personally, I have heard through the grapevine all sorts of fascinating things about myself from clients that ran from the negative nellies who have embodied the above. Some of them don't even know me. Some of them don't even know my skill-set.
They talk. It's a shame - I mean, I don't bite. There's value in the experiences all of us have and our trains of thoughts. I am happy doing my thing while they do theirs. I think its about more than that a lot of the time, but that's just a theory.
And, ya know... I didn't want to do that.
So, I talked to her as a human. I explained my path, my goals and I welcomed her to call me so we can do a session with her mare after hearing her story. I even will teach her a few things when we get together so she can feel as she does it. I let her know she didn't have to go in blind and she didn't have an enemy in me, at least I hope that was conveyed.
The more horses that get my skills, even if done by someone else, the more people know about it, the more people find the right therapist for them, and the more horses benefit.
Ain't nothing to complain about there!
Hey, let’s chat about certifications.
I once had a farrier ask me if I was internationally certified.
Technically, yes. Masterson Method Certified Practicioners are an international bunch with a set standard to receive said certification. But I don’t have the weight to say I am above state laws and such.
Farrier went on to mention another bodyworker in Colorado that was internationally certified. I said “that actually doesn’t exist.” I was probably not his favorite person... But I gave him a light bulb moment.
In Colorado, I am not legal. Why? I haven’t done RMSAAM week long course for 40-50 hours through associations. This is written in their laws if you dig.
The “Internationally certified” bodyworker had actually been slapped on the wrist by DORA in Colorado. Hence the lightbulb moment. This is why she was in trouble with DORA, there’s that class written in the laws that she hadn’t completed first.
In the USA there are no regulatory “National” certifications that bear weight at the state level. It’s a bunch of fun 🙄, hoops to jump through, etc. It’s also a bunch of marketing. Owners want to know they are hiring someone of knowledge - absolutely. I even started my path because I couldn’t find what I wanted - so I did it myself. 🤷🏻♀️
It’s opened up the option for schools to pop up and “certify” without much weight - like a 40 hour - week long, if that, class a state over from me.
That’s scary to me and I’m going to guess it is for you, too. I didn’t know much after a week of class and my brain was toast.
I got 💩💩💩 on by a woman’s marketing my first few months because she was certified. I had 100 recognized hours under me, she had none. Her services certified her in under a month, but didn’t have hours. I was accumulating hours and a year into it but wasn’t certified. I also wasn’t claiming to be! It is what it is.
Me, myself and I: I look for programs that are recognized and have accredited hours. One hour per hour of class usually. Mine are largely from NCBTMB. There’s other associations too!
Owners: Ask about the training to get certified. Do the research to feel confident in who you hire!
I have a binder of case studies and certifications I’ll happily show! And about 200 hours at this point in time. 🤓
The poll is directly related to the forelimb. There are 3 key connections that I can think. These include the brachial plexus (so nervous system wise, this is a hub for the body and the brain/spinal cord, and ALL of the messages going back and forth),The brain sends the body messages to these hubs and then they are dispersed, as is the body’s information being fielded to the hub and back to the brain. Additionally, there is the nuchal at the base of the withers, and the forelimb connections muscularly like the brachiocephalicus and omotransversarius. We are simplifying this post to be the forelimb only, as in the boney column of the forelimb rather than talking about the low deep neck and sternum and ribs connections to the poll and jaw.
Hi - I'm Lindsay. This is my outlet for sharing my thoughts, rambling and journey I've been on as an equine therapist, entrepreneur and horsewoman. I live in the ruggedly wild Wyoming and have a love for hounds, curly horses, margaritas and anatomy. Thanks for stopping by!