I thought a recent occurrence I had with my 34-year-old Quarter Horse gelding and his successful recovery, may be helpful with readers whose animals suffer traumatic experiences.
I had begun the routine morning feeding when I noticed that our aged Quarter Horse was not among the herd. Because his sight and hearing have deteriorated over the last few years, I assumed he had not the seen the rest of the horses come up for breakfast. A quick scan of the pasture, however, did not reveal him.
Sensing the worst, I called my neighbor, Tanya, for assistance. By the time I had gathered halter, lead and blanket, she had arrived. Together, we walked the perimeter of the 20 acres, paying particular attention to the woods and swale. When this proved fruitless, we began our search of the riverbank. Since Quarter has lived on this property for the last 16 years, I knew he was familiar with the lay of the land and would not be in this area unless the weather had been extreme and he had sought that area for protection from the elements. Even though the conditions had been mild, my friend spotted the horse through the tangle of overhanging branches and snags, belly deep, on the opposite side of the river, his nose just grazing the surface of the water.
There was no way of reaching him without a boat, and the wait was agonizing while Tanya's husband, several river miles upstream, finally picked me up on the bank and ferried me across to my stranded horse. Attempting to halter him while Don controlled the boat proved exceptionally difficult; several times the bow floated into him or over his back. Eventually, leaning awkwardly over the gunwales I was able to secure it, but turning the boat toward the other shore, while guiding 1200 pounds of horse, presented yet another impediment. When the boat neared his head the second time, Quarter spooked toward the center of the river and I thought, as our first bit of good luck, that he would swim alongside, encouraged by the pressure of the lead rope. Unfortunately, the belief was premature and overly optimistic. Quarter flopped over on his side and his eye rolled lifelessly back in the socket.
Fighting the feeling that we had lost him, I struggled to hold his head above the water while Don towed him downstream where Tanya and my husband, Brad, were assembling tow straps, ropes, winches, truck and tractor. Even though, by now, Quarter's side rested in the mud, he would not attempt to stand. While Tanya and I supported his head, Don, up to his waist in the shallows, used sticks to jam the harness around his heart girth then passed the ends up to Tanya. Brad secured the ropes to the tractor and began to drag Quarter up the steep incline. It took both vehicles, another towline and about an hour to free him, but never once did he struggle or fight against us.
Once out of danger, Tanya administered the flower essence Rescue Remedy on his upper gum while I threw on a blanket and tried to rub some warmth back into him. Within seconds, Quarter was on his wobbly feet and very anxious to move. He trotted, slightly stiff in the hindquarters, nearly the half mile up to the barn where I continued to alternately walk him and massage the large triceps muscles of his shoulder, the longissimus dorsi along his back and the Bladder Meridian, the hamstrings, and gluteals.
Although he shivered violently for approximately 45 minutes, he was also ravenous, so I provided grass hay, free choice, to generate internal body heat, then added more Rescue Remedy to his drinking water. Because huge, stringy mucous discharge streamed from his nostrils and his breathing had a distinct rattle, I gave him a dose of homeopathic Phosphorous 200c to keep his respiratory difficulty from developing into pneumonia, followed four hours later with Aconite 200c for shock and cold symptoms. I acupressured the Traditional Chinese Meridians of Lung 9 and Conception Vessel 17 to clear the lungs; Lung 5 for muscular disorders; Stomach 2, 10, 25 and 36 to avoid the onset of colic since I had no way of knowing when he had last eaten; Bai Hui at the lumbar-sacral junction, for hindquarter lameness and gastro intestinal problems; Governing Vessel 4 for tapping into his energy reserves; the tip of his tail for fatigue; Governing Vessel 14 to stimulate his immune system; Pericardium 6 for anxiety and chest conditions and Gall Bladder 34 for general muscle, tendon and ligament strain and specifically for hind leg weakness. I also sprayed ionized silver into his eyes to combat the germs from the polluted river water.
That night, in his grain, Quarter received handfuls of usnea lichen, echinacea, astragalus, and boneset, intended to bolster his innate recuperative abilities, kelp for its many trace minerals, probiotic to aid with digestion and a pinch of warming ginger, wetted down with a quart of colloidal silver to kill any bacterial or viral infections to which he may have been susceptible.
The next morning, it was hard to tell anything extraordinary had happened to him. Quarter's labored breathing had resumed its normal quality, his gut sounds were active and his stride was fluid. For the next several days, I kept up a close vigil to make certain there were no delayed reactions, while continuing his herbal and silver cocktail with his evening meal. To date he remains a healthy, happy and vigorous old man.
I hope this description of Quarter's endurance demonstrates that there are various options available to us besides a ten-day to two-week course of antibiotics and stall rest. I offer this account in contrast to the experience of Tanya whose old mare, Fanny, suffered a similar happening a little over a year ago. Lacking our present knowledge, Fanny barely recovered, even with conventional allopathic care. Periodicals such as Natural Horse, as well as bodywork classes and the excellent books on the market, have provided me with the information and confidence to holistically affect the health of my animals. It is my wish that they aid others, too.
When my Dutch filly became old enough to start under saddle, I was very excited. I had started her mother but not without many problems and some faulty guidance. Looking back I wish I knew then what I know now. I was determined to make the necessary changes in starting her. However the sweet little filly I had known since birth grew to be big, beautiful and very opinionated. She adapted very well to her stall when she was 2, was a star pupil when taught how to long rein and lunge. I gave her the winter of her 2-year-old year off then started her again at three. She took everything in stride. When she was backed I swear she said "Finally"!!!
She took to it like a natural until I started to solo more and ask her to trot. This is when the tension and neck bracing began. I would ride her on loose contact using my leg aides, but the bracing would lock her entire side against my leg. If she lost her balance slightly she would rear and launch herself into a buck. Fortunately I could stay on, but it was beyond my skills to do anything productive about it except hang on and get her forward again. It was simply a matter of getting extra help for us to learn how to rebalance in the turns and the rear-launch mode has not been repeated. However, the neck bracing always seemed to return. Part of the problem was that her neck was adult size but her body was 3-year-old size. Naturally in the field she would stand in what I call the giraffe pose. Because of this I did not feel leaving her alone would help matters. I also felt she was not going to grow out of it. Along with the giraffe pose she was also very resistant to back lifts. I have been an Equine Massage Therapist for 8 years, and the only horses I have known to be this resistant were those with serious back trouble. Yet when I massaged her I could not find anything wrong in her back.
I was slowly getting into TTeam work at the time. I read about it and tried it in my massage work. I liked the results I was getting. I studied it and attended several clinics. Each time, I brought back a bit more to her. She became more focused and a trust developed between us. However under saddle she continued to brace when tense. At this time I was able to bring her to my regular instructor. After a few sessions he was very concerned about the bracing and the underneck she had developed. She was forward to my leg, no longer reared and bucked, and would have brief times of coming through but just could not get comfortable with herself.
I had already decided not to use side reins due to the bracing problem. I had been using long reins and double lunge lines but found she still had a tendency to brace against those. I needed to find a way to give her nothing to brace on but would also give her the support she needed to come up in the front and use her powerful hind end to her advantage. The brief moments she achieved this she felt very balanced but never seemed happy in it. I felt she was just battling her large, changing body. If I left it alone for her to sort out I was afraid I would end up with a resentful nervous, untrusting horse. She only needed to be shown it was OK to trust her body.
I went to my second five-day TTeam clinic in New Mexico. This one was taught by Linda Tellington-Jones, Carol Lang and Janice Fromm. The outstanding piece I brought back was the day the body wraps and promise rope were demonstrated. We spent an afternoon wrapping each other in ace wraps. After I experienced it for myself I knew this was the right way to go with my filly. I had read about them but really did not have a clear understanding until this experience. Once home I wrapped my filly in the figure 8 and found she was almost arguing with herself. I had to keep reminding myself this has to work I experienced the wraps for myself so I could be empathetic to my young horse's dilemma. Suddenly she was made to deal with her entire body. She was not afraid of them, just confused. I persevered and I got the results I wanted. She came through with a telescoping neck coming up from the base, not flat as I see so many horses who are automatically placed in side reins. (Please be sure to learn about this before you try it, however - I would hate to see someone just wrap the horse up and get into trouble.)
The changes were not automatic. I only saw small glimpses at first and I took some hassling from my peers. I did not feel side reins would be appropriate for her as she was already bracing. The horse can actually learn to lean on the side reins, especially if they are not forward enough. I also know of some disasters that happened while side reins were being used, resulting in horse and/or rider injury. I tried the sliding side reins but really did not see the results I saw when I used the body wraps. The body wraps encouraged her to come up in the shoulder and back. She now stands at ease with a lovely arch in her long neck and once she is warmed up I can feel the suspension in her gait. She does not automatically come round and she will raise her head and neck and try to brace when tense. However, I have a direction for us to go to now. As her muscles have modified it is easier for her to come round; her balance is no longer a huge issue as she comes under herself and travels straight. She still needs reminders of inside leg to outside hand and help to rebalance herself. I do use the TTeam balancing rein. When she goes through a growth spurt her balance once again becomes an issue and she becomes annoyed. The balancing rein helps her to be aware of her new body size.
Then I ran into another stumbling block with her. Instead of just bracing she was throwing her head in the air and gnashing against the bit. When I persisted with her she would put her head down and twist in the poll. This had to be addressed. I was using the same bit I had used for several months - a fat hollow-mouth snaffle. I did own a TTeam Training Bit but was unsure of its use and was very hesitant to try it on my green filly. I changed to a loose ring French training bit. Most of the behavior was eliminated within a week but she still was not happy. I had also been working her without the body wraps for several weeks. I realized my now 4-year-old filly had just undergone a huge growth spurt and was yet again experiencing a new body. Even though I did a few minutes of TTeam work before mounting I was not maximizing on its potential. My filly was started with the fragments of TTeam work I read about before I went to my first clinic. I had used the TTeam techniques previously but was not utilizing them when I needed them the most.
The next day I spent an entire session doing ground TTeam work and we went for a walk with her in the Elegant Elephant, to Dingo, back to Elegant Elephant. (Elegant Elephant is the basic TTeam leading position and offers the best position when working alone. The handler stands next to the horse with the TTeam lead held close to the end of the chain with the wand extended in front of the horse. The Dingo is an exercise that is useful if your horse tends to be on the forehand, is disconnected from the back end to the front end, or is slow to respond. The handler works at the end of the TTeam Lead and uses the wand behind the saddle area to encourage the horse forward and to work from a distance. See http://tteam-ttouch.com.) Then I did the Turn on the Haunches exercise. She started to get annoyed so I switched to the right side and went through the obstacles again. Just this change refreshed her. The next day I went back to the body wraps and did the obstacles mounted, then went for a small hack. Not one problem the entire ride. She looked around, accepted my corrections, and listened to my aides when something was too scary. I would periodically reach down and do TTouches on her wither and lower neck with the anticipated response she lowered her head.
I still have times when she seems to forget everything and she goes into freeze mode but I am working to perfect my TTouches while mounted.
I had so many people tell me she was being belligerent;
she only wanted to do the work when she wanted to and to ride her through
it. I do feel you need to ride a horse through a problem but it should
not take a week and end up with a horse that is becoming resentful.
Now I am more mindful of her growth spurts. I give her breaks from the body wraps but once I feel the resistance starting again, I put the body wraps on. A young horse needs to be reacquainted with its body with each new growth spurt.
Please contact TTeam or a TTeam practitioner for more information on using the body wrap. There are steps you need to take to prepare your horse for this.