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Might he be in pain?

by Robyn Harris on 25th Aug 2018

So last week I mentioned that I was concerned that Dax's recent behaviour could possibly have been triggered by pain.  I therefore booked him in for a session with Helen Jacks-Hewett the McTimoney and Sports Massage therapist.  She came out to the yard on 27 July and gave Dax a thorough examination. 

We also had a fun time speculating on his heritage!  Helen thought that his eyes looked quite Appaloosa as there is some white visible around his iris, as you can just about see in the photo

She wondered if he might actually develop some spots as he grows older!  She also thought that his temperament could indicate some Welsh Section D.

 

Regarding her assessment she wrote in her report:

 

No misalignments located in spine or pelvic joints, and no areas of muscle asymmetry or soreness noted so on the whole there doesn't appear to be any significant underlying musculoskeletal problems. His poll was a little tight predominantly on the left side, it is possible his tendency to head twirl may cause this tension, or his general underlying level of anxiety.

Small areas of scar tissue from previous/old injuries noted in the right ascending pectoral and the right gracilis muscles which may indicate he has had some prior trauma.

Baited core activation 'carrot stretches' will help to strengthen his core muscles

 

She then went on to say:

His behaviour seems typical for a hand raised foal, and shows a lot of foal like tendencies even though he is 6 years old.

There is a really sweet natured clever horse in there who will hopefully continue to learn and develop given the right herd conditions and handling techniques.

It was such good news to hear that he doesn't appear to have any areas of pain and that, overall, his conformation is pretty good.  Also, I now have Helen's suggestions on things that I can do to improve his core strength and balance, which hopefully will make him more comfortable in himself.  We've now been practising carrot stretches, particularly the low ones, and turning him in small circles.  He's a clever boy and has picked this up quickly.  The only issue is that, as Helen mentioned, he is rather foal-like in some of his behaviours and shows traits common to horses that have been hand reared - in this case, getting over excited when offered food by hand and becoming 'snatchy'.  He's getting better though, as he's learning that he always gets his reward!

Another area that needed work, and where I was hoping Helen's suggestions would help, was in having his feet handled.  In fact it was our wonderful trimmer, Caroline Andresen of Hoofing Marvellous who first suggested Helen, when she noticed that there is a slight twist to Dax's lower right foreleg, and thought that this might be why he is reluctant to lift his front feet.

I'm sure that building his core strength and stability will make him more comfortable when having to stand on just 3 feet to have his hooves picked or trimmed and also I want to help him realise that he is safe to give us a foot for attention.  My lovely, supportive husband has been helping me with this, holding Dax, reassuring him and rewarding him when he allows us to gently lift a foot. 

Caroline noticed a big difference in her most recent trim, compared to the previous one.  Dax was much more chilled!  We could also see how his feet are changing since his move to Bristol.  I find it fascinating how you can see so much in a horse's foot!  It sort of gives you a wellbeing history for the previous 9-12 months.  In the last trim, Dax's feet were brittle - a reflection of whatever was happening towards the end of last year.  Pieces were breaking off again this time, which shows how his feet are responding to the stresses placed on them by his weight and movement.  There is some flaring, which is a further indicator of this, and of what's going on inside his hoof capsule.  (You can read more about hoof health in my earlier post and in this article from my website.)

So that was step one in supporting Dax to be a happier and more balanced horse, but what about the other questions I was facing?

More about that next week!