Seabiscuit - Reborn!
HI! My name is Fighting Ferrari. Most of you know me as Seabiscuit in the movie that received seven Academy Award Nominations. The movie was about an underdog racehorse in the 1930's that made a remarkable comeback after an injury.
Fighting Ferrari, aka Seabiscuit
Like Seabiscuit, I, too, was a racehorse when they found and cast me in the role. However, I hadn't won many races in my short-lived career. I had a problem of not being able to run close to the rail. So, I made my money from acting in the movies. Anyway, after the movie - and my many travels on tour - I got to retire on an absolutely gorgeous dude ranch in the Rocky Mountains. My new home is called Skyline Guest Ranch, and is tucked high in the San Juan Mountains, a few miles from Telluride, Colorado. The ranch is about 9,600 feet above sea level, surrounded by ponds, meadows and aspen groves - and sits against a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks covered most of the year with snow. Skyline Ranch caters to people from all over the world who want a horseback vacation. They say the food is great and the hospitality is just like home. I like it and I get to romp around the vast luscious meadows with the 80 other horses who live there.
Now, my time is spent entertaining the guests who come. In addition to being a celebrity and posing for pictures, I occasionally go with my buddies taking guests for a ride into the mountains. Not being as popular, my horse buddies spend more time on rides and have to work a little harder for a living. They tend to get sore after a long day of moving and have more aches and pains. In that respect, we're just like people - whether we are movie stars or average workers, our bodies need proper maintenance in order to move and function to the best of our ability. Which brings me to my story.
I'm sure you have heard of the latest thing on TV: 'Extreme Makeovers'? Well, I'm here to tell you that now they have EXTREME MAKEOVERS for Horses! Yup, horses!
I'm talking about a group of four people who are tops in the country in their field of work. They all work for the most prominent horsepeople in the horse world today. Maybe you've heard of them: Spencer LaFlure, ACEqD - 'The Tooth Fairy' Natural Equine Orthodontics; Dr. Heather Mack, VMD - Holistic Veterinarian; Vernon Purdy - Natural Hoof Trim and Shoeing; and Dino Frettard, CEMT - Equine BodyWork Specialist. I know I'll never forget them - nor will the rest of my buddies!
Skyline Guest Ranch, near Telluride, CO
The first part of June we were lucky enough to have our ranch picked to be one of the locations for their new school for equine makeovers called 'Advanced Whole Horse Dynamics'. These people travel to guest ranches in different parts of the country for one week at a time, holding classes Monday through Friday. Each specialist has ten students, who are already working as dentists, farriers, acupuncturists, body workers, etc., who want to expand their training. They learn state-of-the-art techniques, concentrating on their particular field of expertise while also gaining a greater understanding of how a group of highly skilled practitioners can work together to complement their specialization for the greater good of the horse. I heard them say that with only ten students per subject, they would get a more one-on-one learning experience, with more individualized training. They also let other folks, such as owners and trainers, come to just watch for a small daily fee.
What they do is take each one of us horses and have us move around individually in a large corral, while the four instructors and their students observe us. The instructors come together as a team and assess our bodies and how we move, deciding what needs to be 'fixed' or made over for us. They also determine the order in which the team members will see us. This is decided according to what part of our body needs help the most.
We all see Dr. Heather Mack (holistic veterinarian and instructor) first. She gets our bodies prepared to go back to the 'balance' we were born with. It's her job to reinstate our wiring, so to speak. It's just like your computer - it's either on-line or not; or your coffee pot - is it plugged into a proper source of electricity or not? Dr. Heather wants to make sure we are prepared for this new feeling of being tuned in and turned on. She uses acupuncture, homeopathy, Raindrop Therapy, and many other holistic modalities to accomplish this.
The Makeover (Dream) Team. Clockwise from upper left: Spencer LaFlure, Dr. Heather Mack, Vernon Purdy, and Dino Frettard
Then, we go to our next station for the instructor and their students to begin the next phase of my makeover.
In my case, as I moved around the arena, Spencer LaFlure (instructor of Dentistry) noticed that my lower jaw didn't move at all to the left. It was stuck out 3/8' to the right! Hello - that's why, when I raced, I couldn't get close to the rail. (Racetracks always run to the LEFT!) Hence, there was one reason why I didn't do so well in most of my races. So that's why I went to Spencer first to have him work on me.
The natural balance of my mouth needed restoration. To accomplish this, he adjusted the angle and the wedge of my incisors. He did not fully take out the wedge because he noticed that there was a slight twist of my nose that caused it. After doing this, my TMJ (the hinge joint at the back of the jaw) felt more comfortable, enabling him to then balance the molars in the back of my mouth, since I had abnormal growth of my molars. (He always starts with the incisors first, then goes to the molars.)
Spencer told me that he was sorry that the people who had done my teeth before had put bit seats on my first molars. He said that it caused lateral instability of the TMJ, which made it more sensitive. They say that 80% of our neurology is from the neck up through the brainstem and the brain. The TMJ is the first joint to communicate with the brain about proprioception - or the inner sense of knowing where our bodies are in time and space. He restored the natural biomechanics of my jaw back to its full range of motion. However, because my jaw had been stuck for so long, it caused me to shift my weight rearward to compensate. So, I was bearing more weight than normal on my hind end. Did you know that we horses normally bear an average of 40% of our body weight on the hind end when walking or standing? Bearing more weight on my hind legs made my pelvis shift to the right to compensate.
My next stop was over to instructor Dino Frettard (Equine Body Work Specialist) for some bodywork. Boy he is a specialist in fixing bodies, all right! Dino balanced my hind end through my hamstrings and quadriceps and realigned my pelvis. He said my shoulders were off also from having to pull my hind end along. Dino knows just where it hurts and through light massage and manipulation, he got everything back in the right place. It didn't even hurt! Although, I thought I might have hurt HIM when he had me literally sit on his lap as he shifted my weight to adjust me. No one ever did THAT before. He even had me stand on his fingers (you got it) - right on his fingers to see where my weight displaced and where my feet 'broke over' I sure liked him!
My assessment. The four instructors and their students first observed each of us, individually, moving around in a large corral.
Then came instructor and Natural Farrier, Vernon Purdy. He's cool! He gives a new meaning to the word farrier. He's tall and soft-spoken and took a lot of time to first look me all over to see how I stood and how my body was shaped. Boy, I finally found someone who knew that my feet were sore. My toes were short and tender and my shoes were one size too small. Vernon pulled my shoes off and I gave a sigh of relief. My feet could finally relax. It took a little while for my leg muscles to relax also. He trimmed a little spot that was like a callous in the sole of my left hind foot. Vernon always starts his trimming with the back feet first. The walls of my feet were damaged and were very thin, so they used a glue to reform and replace parts of the wall and sole. They then, after I had the chance to relax my feet, put larger shoes on to help hold my patched hooves together temporarily.
After finishing up with Vernon, I was a new horse! I felt like I could win any race - even the Kentucky Derby. When they turned me loose, I showed off in front of the instructors and students, bucking and running all the way to the top of the hill. There I met my good friend, Buddy. We proceeded to compare notes. Buddy told me that he had also been worked on by everyone. When I looked down at his front feet, I could immediately tell he had newly shaped hooves. You see, Buddy is a nice guy, but he is - or rather was - very pigeon-toed. Now his toes were about 50% straighter. I couldn't believe it!
He said he went to Dr. Mack first to be 'opened up' or rewired and to get his body ready for the changes to come. Next, he went to Vernon. Buddy had been turned out, barefoot, for about 9 months and Vernon noticed that his front feet were terribly distorted; and he had a curve in his spine. The curve caused a repositioning of his front legs, so that the left shoulder was over- developed, and the right one was under- developed. All this put an overload on his front feet, so that they became pigeon-toed with extreme flares on the inside walls, sheared heels on the outsides, and broken bars in the sole. He had bruising in all four feet. Vernon rasped specific locations on his hind feet that helped him reposition his hind legs, relieving muscle tension and structural misalignment of his spine. Then, he trimmed the sheared heels of the front feet and the frogs and bars, which were keeping his front feet sore and bruised. This was also reducing proper blood flow in and out of the hoof.
Following Vernon, he went to Dino to get his chest and shoulder muscles rebalanced. His shoulders were offset. The left was positioned too far forward and the right, too far backwards. Dino's bodywork 'opened' up his chest and he then moved on to his legs and feet, manipulating his sesamoid bones. After this, he called for Vernon again. Vernon came back and trimmed even more off his toes because they had changed along with his body. Dino realigned the spine and the rest of the body and off he went to see Spencer and his students.
The students learn from makeover instructors Dino (upper) and Vernon (lower).
Buddy's lower jaw protruded outward to where his bottom incisors were ¼' in front of his top ones. That produced a rim on the outside edge of the lower incisors and an inside edge on the upper incisors. Spencer changed the angle of the incisors from 16 degrees to about 8 degrees. This freed up the jaw, allowing it to move back into its total range of motion. Then the molars were balanced. The left side table - or surface angle of the molars - was a little flat and the right side at the rear was very steep. They were able to adjust surface-to-surface contact of his teeth to a more natural position, thus allowing for restoration to a total range of biomechanical ability of the jaw. (I want to mention here, folks, that Spencer used his own, specially designed instruments on our mouths. Each instrument head was only the size of ONE of our teeth; very different from the traditional 'floating' tools that other dentists use. This made it easier to address each tooth, one at a time, without causing any discomfort.)
When Buddy finished with Spencer's crew, he went back to Dr. Heather. She prepared for him some herbs to assist in increasing the circulation to his feet, as well as homeopathic remedies to relieve some of the expected initial discomfort he would feel. She used a Therascope on his spine, lower cervicals, and feet to increase endogenous endorphins, pull out stagnant inflammatory cells and increase his awareness of these areas. Then, he got an acupuncture treatment to tie everything together for him, to help him accept the changes and reestablish proper chi.
So now Buddy and I, along with our other horse friends, are new horses in our old bodies and boy, do we feel good! The makeover instructors and their students were so very helpful. They are passionate humans who really care about us horses and they are devoted to helping us anyway they can. It's so neat the way that everyone and every treatment interacts with the other.
Each case is different; it depends on the individual horse, what has to be done, which treatments are employed and to what extent, and what order they are applied. The students, with the help and encouragement of their talented instructors, are learning how to look at the WHOLE horse, noticing how everything is interrelated. This applied awareness of these connections teaches students to look beyond their specific expertise, be it feet, teeth, etc.
Well, that's my story. It's my hope that folks will listen to my advice when I recommend they learn as much as they can about the WHOLE horse. I know now that there is a team of specialists out there dedicated to providing the best care possible to help us horses. Take it from me; your horse will be happy you did!
For more information on the Advanced Whole Horse Dynamics learning centers, contact (518) 623-9967. Our website, www.AdvancedWholeHorse.com is currently under construction. Check there for more exciting news your horse wants you to know!
Buddy, before (left) and after (right) his makeover
Ridin Hy Guest Ranch, in the Adirondack Mountains of NY State, is another learning center location. Sessions are offered there in the late spring. Registration is limited - call early!