The Don makes GOOD!

"The Don" now loves life and his work with Cassie aboard

By Sharon May-Davis

The words - "The Don" have a variety of colloquial meanings, and depending on which country you hale from can be interpreted many ways. For me, an Australian, "The Don" describes an incredible man who was sheer genius when it came to playing a British game known as cricket. However, over recent times "The Don" has also added a new meaning to my life and that is of a handsome 12-year-old thoroughbred gelding that had just moved into my area.

Cassie his owner had purchased "The Don" when he was three and together they had competed in numerous equestrian sports from 3-day eventing to show jumping. However, over recent times his behaviour and for that matter his lack of interest in life gave her some concern. This was a new and exciting environment that they had moved into and "The Don" was only mildly interested in his surroundings.

Having ruled out health issues, Cassie called me out to see if he was sore anywhere. And sure enough, "The Don" had successfully masked and compensated numerous areas of strain for quite some time. These issues are often slow and insidious, and the problems are frequently upon the unsuspecting owner before they even realise that one exists. However, Cassie had been a diligent owner and she had kept a complete file of all his health records, for example; worming, feet, teeth and any nutritional changes. But still he seemed to slow down and become more reluctant to work.

When I arrived, I found his hindquarters were of particular concern; they didn't display the usual coordination and movement that I would expect to see. Cassie also mentioned that he wouldn't cross his legs over in lateral work anymore. As I continued my bodywork routine on "The Don" it became more apparent that he required a veterinarian to assess him further, with the upshot being that he was diagnosed with low grade "Wobbler's Syndrome". Cassie was devastated and forced to contemplate euthanasia as his quality of life was diminishing.

We discussed his case in detail and it was decided to give him eight months worth of rehabilitative work, after which he was to be re-assessed by all concerned. This was not going to be an easy task; with "The Don's" problems being chronic, Cassie would have to follow a strict management and therapy routine. His body was not symmetrical and it was quite apparent which side he was using and which he was favouring. Ironically, the dentist Cassie had been using at her previous address had left caudal hooks of Olympic proportion and "The Don" required veterinary attention and sedation for their removal. They had invaded the soft tissue of the upper jaw and forced him to chew unnaturally.

All eyes on "The Don" with Cassie posting lookout as part of their Parelli Level 3 together. What a wonderful display of trust and confidence they have in each other!

These dental issues became apparent when I first assessed his incisor alignment and noted not only malalignment, but also a very tender TMJ and coronoid process. With the dental issue out of the way, I then addressed the excessively tight areas around C3, C4, C5 and C6. This was more often than not done with the direct pressure of either my thumb or forefinger working around the tight musculature of each of the cervical vertebra's transverse processes. This was in the obvious hope that their release would diminish the effects of "Wobbler's Syndrome and allow him to resume a normal life with the forethought that it was a low-grade case and that he had lived a very normal life up to recent times.

Having read Catherine Bird's book, "Horse Scents", I decided to apply Essential Oils as an adjunct therapy to my soft tissue work. "The Don" took to the oils like a kid in a lolly shop and his favourite was clearly mandarin. After two sessions of massage, stress point therapy and joint mobilisation, the majority of the muscle issues involved with his case were released and Cassie was left with an intensive routine to follow - plus an oil blend that was specific to him.

Well, we are eight months down the track now and the transformation has been astounding. I have visited "The Don" only four times and Cassie has done the rest. A recent update from the vet was an "all clear" with enthusiastic adjectives and praise coinciding with his report. Together Cassie and "The Don" have just completed their Parelli Level 3 and "The Don" is clearing three-foot high fences with an amazing zest for life. As a direct result, they have formed a new and unique bond with "The Don" now choosing to eat mandarins (skin and all) on a regular basis.

Mandarins are all the go - including the skin!


And so, I take my hat off to both "The Don" and Cassie, and hope they have long and fruitful innings.

About the author:
Sharon May-Davis, B. App. Sc. Equine, ACHM, EBW, AESM, was the equine Therapist for the Modern Pentathlon Horses and the Australian Reining Team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She works with Australian Champions from Western to Dressage and has a particular interest in researching the musculo-skeletal system. She also conducts clinics and seminars in relation to her work and looks forward to visiting NZ, USA and Japan later this year in June and July. E-mail: