One Day Case Study: 14 Year Old Friesian Gelding
Complaint: Heavy on the Forehand, and Difficulty Lifting his Back
This friesian gelding presented with an unnaturally high head carriage likely resulting from his early training as a driving horse. In the Before picture (top) note the straight topline, lack of definition between the neck and shoulder, and bulging under-neck muscles. On palpation, his long back muscles were extremely soft and unresponsive to stimulation, due to Sensory Motor Amnesia (lack of awareness, resulting from chronic contraction).
During the initial pick-ups of this first Equine Hanna Somatics Session, it became apparent that the muscles of the hind limbs were co-contracted significantly enough to prevent the hock joints from flexing easily, creating the condition commonly called “stiffness.” With repetition of the mindful pick-ups and limb movements, the gelding rapidly gained the body awareness and motor control to free up the joints of the hind limb by releasing the muscle contractions that had become chronic and involuntary. The result of this de-contracting was that the gelding was able to lift both hind limbs easily and lightly with very little restriction to the hock flexion, by about 20 minutes into the session.
This gelding had to re-learn how to use his longissimus dorsi muscles to assist in the raising and lowering of his head, rather than using his neck muscles to leverage his head up when startled or tense, as had been his habit. It was interesting to observe him as he experimented with using his brachiocephalic muscles (long underneck muscles on either side of the esophagus) to do their original job of laterally flexing the neck and/or assisting in the forward reaching of the forelimb (as in spanish walk or forward movement). As these and other neck muscles were re-calibrated by the horse’s brain to rest in a more neutral state, suddenly we were able to see definition of the withers, scapula, and topline muscles.
In the After photo (bottom) note the positive changes apparent in the outline of the withers, topline, neck and chest. In addition to the more squarely supportive position of the forelimbs under the shoulders, it appears in the photo, and was apparent in the arena, that the gelding was more easily able to shift some of his weight toward his hindquarters, both at the halt and in movement.
I eagerly await a follow-up report from his owner!
This was a very rewarding session – especially to see and feel this horse come out of his shell and exhibit some newly extroverted behaviors as his body became less and less restricted.