What's Up with West?

What’s wrong with my horse? Stellar Equine Performance Therapy finds out!

West has been long overdue for some serious bodywork for quite some time now. The chiropractor I’ve used for years is inconveniently located over two hours from me, so she rarely finds time to come all the way to Aiken, and when she does she has to charge a fortune for gas. I’ve tried a few of the vets in town for bodywork, and just really haven’t been pleased. Don’t get me wrong, my vets are fantastic – but West is quirky, and most vets either don’t have the patience for it, or don’t have all day to gain his trust before working on him.

I was thrilled to be introduced to Casey Daughtery, owner of Stellar Equine Performance Therapy via Instagram! Casey is a Minnesota native, but is spending the winter with us in Aiken! Smart move. She is an Equine Musculoskeletal and Movement Specialist and also does soft tissue manipulation and osteopath work.

Nothing has really been “wrong” with West lately, but I’ve felt that he hasn’t been working to his full potential. He’s been quite stiff through the neck, and we have a newfound head tossing problem. Weird. Our last few lessons have really been focused on getting West stretched and loose …. and those haven’t gone so well. The dude hates to stretch. Thanks to Casey, now we know why.

West’s diagnosis … straight from her notes :

Session Notes 2/21

Primary issues are poll, jaw and under side of his neck. May have been ridden behind the vertical with set aids, etc? Has history of pulling back, many times. Could be some permanent strains in the nuchal ligament and capitus muscles. We need to restore suppleness and function to inhibited/unhealthy muscles groups, while strengthening the weaker muscles groups along the top of his neck and withers. Very reactive through the under neck muscles and pectoral/sternum attachments, which tells me we have some thoracic sling restrictions, this prevents the shoulder blade from free movement and inhibits the shoulder elevating muscles, eg trapezius and rhomboids. Once we restore the thoracic sling and poll, he’ll have a much easier time moving in a long and low frame to help target his topline, engage his core and start developing a more balanced level of fitness! We didn’t get to his hind end, (spent a lot of time just gaining trust and waiting for him to let me in) but there’s an obvious reduced range of motion in his lumbosacral joint – this is directly connected to the nuchal ligament problems – and weak glute superficialis as well as tight hamstrings and adductors. 

So…. that’s a LOT. And she didn’t even get past his shoulders in this session! I must add that she spent almost THREE hours working with him. The first thirty minutes or so were spent just trying to gain his trust ( I told ya’ll, he’s quirky) but after that, she worked and didn’t stop! This diagnosis and her findings 100% explain the difficulties that we’ve been having under saddle. She said that it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of sessions before we can repair this damage, but we’re going to get it done!

I’m going to attach a few of my favorite photos from the session below, as well as the notes that Casey has written up about each! This will explain what she’s doing and why!

“Convincing him to trust me enough to actually work on the base of his poll and jaw haha!”
“Finally made it to the occipital ridge, the main attachment site of all the smaller poll muscles and the insertion of the nuchal ligament. The trick here is to allow the tissue and fascia to let you in layer by layer as the adhesions release and new blood flow/oxygen rushes into the tissue, allowing relaxation and muscles to release! I spend a LOT of time at the poll typically, just because this the most common place of tension on most horses. They’re a lot like us… who else has a sore neck?”
“Releasing the fascial points and attachments in the temporalis muscle. This muscle is a secondary mover of the mandible (jaw) and also fills with tension when he poll is tight.”
“Temporalis muscle again! He’s letting me in so well here. I love the softening of his eye!”
“Working my way to a pressure point in the roof of the mouth! I work a lot in their mouth to help release tension in the jaw, hyoid apparatus, and poll. Getting them to participate in the work accomplishes twice the release! Stimulating the parasympathetic system to allow for relaxation and tension release. Also increasing range of motion in the TMJ.”
“Working along the nuchal ligament to release fascia adhesions, allows the whole neck and top line to relax.”
“Focusing on releasing the splenius muscle. The primary neck mover!”
“Targeting the fascial layer directly below the skin.”
“Accessing the subscapularis muscles under the scapula and starting the process of releasing the thoracic sling.”
“Checking range of motion in all the joints of the forelimb, and introducing new range of motion after muscle groups have been released! Fancy terms for mobility work!”

Wowza … that’s what I have to say about this session! Although it took West some time to become comfortable with Casey (he’s like this with all strangers trying to touch his body) … he was SO relaxed by the time she was done with him. This is something that doesn’t come often for this horse. She was so gentle and understanding with him (even through all the bites – sorry Casey!) and really took her time. Three hours of her time! Most of my previous body work appointments have never lasted more than 30 minutes. I really appreciate that she took so much time out of her day not only to work on him, but just to love on him and make sure he felt comfortable before she began.

We uncovered a lot of problems and found a lot of answers, but he’s going to take work. Things like this do not go away overnight after one session. Casey is going to continue to come out and work on West until he’s feeling like the superstar that he is again!

If you want to see more of Casey’s work, you can find her on Instagram at @stellarequine, or click here! She does such a great job of taking before and after photos and videos (we’re doing this next time with West!) of her clients and pointing out/explaining the changes to her followers. Even if you don’t own a horse – I recommend following her! Equine anatomy and sports therapy is something I think we all could gain some knowledge on!

You can find her page on Facebook here!

Casey and I are teaming up to offer you $20 off your next bodywork session – just tell her Emily sent you! She will be traveling the South East all winter, but will be based out of Aiken, SC. Like I said in the beginning, her home base is Minnisota, but she travels up there too! You can contact her via Instagram, Facebook, or by cell – (218) 255 – 4933.

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come from Stellar Equine Performance Therapy, including a “How To” video on fool proof stretches and exercises that you can be doing at home in between your body work sessions!

I get a lot of questions about this halter … this is the nylon Hybrid Halter by the Horse Education Company! Here’s the link to get your own!

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