Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trigger points are not your friend.

Lucy had her massage appt last night. Up until last night, she has been very tolerant of all of the poking and prodding that I have put her through. Last night we saw another side of her, though, and it wasn't very pretty!

The Massage Therapist's name is Meri and she is very nice. As soon as she arrived, she did a quick overview of Lucy and asked me what kinds of issues I had been having with her, and I filled her in on the story so far with her left side and hind end, and told her about the stuff Dr. Katz had done during the chiropractic evaluation and treatment. Within five minutes, Meri had pretty much scoped out L's entire body, and knew exactly where all the trigger points were.

She started on Lucy's left side. At first, Lucy danced around a lot. She was very very sore. Her neck and shoulders weren't too bad, which I was surprised about and so was Meri, given the history with her feet being torn up as badly as they were. She had trigger points all along the top of her rib cage, which Meri said was from the racing saddles they use at the track. She said the tree on a racing saddle is half the length of a regular saddle tree, and it ends about one foot back from the shoulder, and that is exactly where my poor pony was the most sore.

Once she got to the hind end, she found that Lucy's hamstrings were very sore and tight, and she has some scar tissue running along them. I got to feel what she was talking about, and instead of the muscle feeling like regular smooth muscle, it felt like she had guitar strings running up her back legs into her dock area. Meri assured me that with proper care and rehab, the scar tissue would disappear in time.

By the time Meri got to the right side of Lucy's body, the horse was beginning to relax (and dare I say enjoy the massage). Again, her neck and shoulders were pretty good, but once Meri got to her back, Lucy was clearly in a lot of discomfort. Just like humans, horses develop knots in their muscles, and Meri works mostly with direct pressure into the knot, to help release some of the tension. This can be very painful while it's happening, but it will help Lucy feel much better in the long run. Of course I couldn't convey that to her so she thought we were torturing her. She did show some signs of relaxation at times by yawning, taking some deep breaths, and relaxing through her back and neck, but that would only last for a few seconds before she was back to dancing around.

When Meri got to her hind end on the right side, Lucy started to get really annoyed. At this point, Meri had been working on her for almost two hours and I think Lucy had had about enough. She was very sore and very tight through her right hip and SI, and when Meri got to the really really sore spots, Lucy kicked out at her and tried to reach around and bite her with her ears pinned against her head. I was shocked! I hadn't seen this horse make a nasty face at anything up until this point! Meri said a lot of the hind end issues come from the starting gate at the track. When a horse launches all 1,100 lbs of itself into a flat out gallop from a standstill, that obviously takes a huge effort from the hind end, and the wear and tear placed on Lucy was very obvious last night. Thank goodness she came off the track before she sustained any permanent injury. All of the issues Meri found last night are fixable with proper conditioning and stretching.

Speaking of stretches, Meri showed me a few that I can do with Lucy to help her loosen up through her hind end, topline, and shoulders. One is the "carrot stretch", where I coax the horse to turn her neck and head around towards her back end to reach for a carrot. Lucy tried to "cheat" by turning her hind end and basically doing a spin, but we got her to do the real stretch by putting her closer to the aisle wall, so that she couldn't get her back end around all the way. We did that stretch on both sides, and then moved on to stretching her front legs. To do this, I am supposed to pick up one of her front legs and gently pull away from Lucy's body. The idea is that she will kind of pull back, and then give into the pressure, allowing her shoulder and back to get a nice release. Again this was done on both sides of her body, and then she got lots of treats.

So I hope with all this therapy that Lucy will be on the mend soon. I am supposed to give her today off, and then I can start riding her tomorrow and just do some low-key "long and low" work with lots of circles and serpentines. By the end of the week we should be back to the regular wtc workout that we have been doing.

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