Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rehabilitating the Sport Horse (PNER Convention Notes)

The following is the write-up based on notes taken by the presentation given by Sara Sammons, DVM, MS at the 2017 PNER Convention.

I know Dr. Sara Sammons from when Deli and I lived in Davis, CA (where I attended undergrad and lived for many years afterward, and where Dr. Sammons attended vet school). I actually was fortunate enough to board Deli the same place Sara had her sweet gelding, Dave. This was in the early days of my Deli ownership – about a year and a half in and just after Deli had returned from 30 days under-saddle training. It was at that barn that Deli and I could finally settle into some training and truly form our bond, which up until that point had been unreliable. I made some great friends at that barn – Sara included – and I have never boarded someplace since where I felt that sense of community. Then a vet student, Sara helped me out with the antibiotic injections Deli needed when she sustained a puncture wound to her leg and I had to leave on a trip. Deli was an absolute monster for her (she was bruised from so many injections, so its not entirely her fault) but Sara never held that against her!

I sometimes regret moving up to Oregon simply because I left behind a barn where Deli and I felt safe. At the same time – even though boarding in Oregon has often been a nightmare – I’ve made SO many new friends and have joined the awesome PNW endurance community here.

Imagine my delight when, many many years later, Dr. Sara Sammons moved into our area! Now Dr. Sammons is helping Deli with her rehabilitation for kissing spines and her related conditions. Deli is a very particular horse who can be suspicious and tense around strangers. She absolutely moves to have Sara work on her though – whether it be chiropractic adjustments or acupuncture. I’d highly recommend her for rehabilitation work, since that’s what she specializes in. I think she is particularly good for horses (like mine) who need a calm, gentle, presence. Deli is super chill when Sara works on her.

If you would like more information about Dr. Sammons and her rehabilitation business with her partner, check out her website Lavender Equine Veterinary Rehabilitation Services. They also do work on small animals (cats and dogs)!

Common sport horse injuries include:
Hoof injuries – bruise; crack; laminitis, etc.
Soft tissue injuries – muscle strains & tears; tendon & ligament strains & tears; cartilage and meniscal damage.
Bone injuries – arthritis; exostoses (popped splints fit into this category); bone bruises; fractures; cysts/developmental orthopedic conditions (these are usually not injury-related).

Why do we need these therapies? And which therapies are used for particular conditions?
Essentially, your treatments may vary widely depending on the rehabilitation needs and original problem! There are several general ways people approach rehabilitation. First, some folks turn their horse out for basic pasture rest (the “turn them out” method). This assumes you have a specific kind of herd where your horse stays quiet and won’t aggravate whatever injury they have. Basic rehab can also be done at home. This includes rehab work like hand walking, or even the exercises I’ve done with Deli during our many many rehabilitation stints. With at-home rehab it is sometimes harder to evaluate the progress. When rehabbing at a rehab facility it is usually more expensive but usually has faster healing and there are multiple modalities available to the horse (and usually professional application of those modalities). The key is that the facility is on a controlled program.

Common modalities used in rehabilitation and injury treatment:


Supportive pressure wraps – increased pressure to reduce edema formation. The warmth will also increase blood flow to the area. It also offers some degree of support for damaged tissue depending on structure of bandage. These wraps are good for use for the first week to first month of injury. You will decrease the frequency that you wrap over time to wean them off.

Cold therapy – it decreases pain and decreases blood flow to the area (which can have pro-inflammatory enzymes to the area, decreasing inflammation), decreases tissue extensibility (meaning it makes the tissue stiff). Cold therapy is something important to do right when the injury began (especially the first 24 hours). Repeat 2-4 hours for first 24-48 hours to reduce inflammation & edema, Cold therapy is only effective to a depth of 1-4cm of skin surface (so it’s really good on their lower limb). Cold therapy includes tools like: cold hosing, ice boots, gel packs, and ice water machines (game ready machines – which are expensive but also have the benefit of putting pressure/massaging the leg along with the cold therapy). 

For at-home treatments, horse owners also use ice and alcohol (50:50) ziplock baggies (a way to make your own gel packs – you can also add dish soap to make it squishier!). Application of cold therapy for 10-15 minutes is usually needed for tissue temperatures are around 50-60 degrees. After about 15 minutes, cycles of vasoconstriction & vasodilation occurs (this is the warm tingling when hands are cold long-term) that will bring more circulation to the area. Horses have vascular shunts in their lower limbs – this is how they can stand in snow without getting frost bit – but target tissues will still be chilled by the outside cold.

Heat therapy – It increases blood flow, increases metabolism (increasing activity of tissues enzymes); it relaxes muscle spasm (decreasing firing of muscle spindles, breaking any cycles of pain-spasm-pain); it also makes their tissues more extensible (stretchy). It’s important to be careful when applying heat, as you don’t want to scald or burn your horse! One suggestion for a homemade heat pack is to put uncooked rice in pillowcase and warm it up in a microwave. These are great for draping over backs.

Manual therapies (getting hands on)
  • Passive range of motion is movement within the normal confines of the joint. You must ensure support of other structures. This modality will not increase strength and endurance and it will not prevent muscle atrophy. The indications are when you are worried about contracture of a muscle or tendon; it will maintain elasticity, assists, circulation, and increases awareness of limb in space. The idea is to go to the point of tension and then stop.
  • Active range of motion is where the horse is doing it themselves (often with cookies!).  The horse moves its own joints within the comfortable range. Hand walking is an example of active range of motion. Range of motion can be increased depending on the surface – for example some horses will pick their legs up more when walking over a novel surface or poles. This maintains some coordination and balance.
  • Passive and active range of motion is NOT the same as stretching! If you hold the active range of motions longer you can build up supporting muscles.

Stretching
Indications for stretching are: to improve reduced range of motion (ROM); increase flexibility; lengthens tight muscles (important – opposing weak muscles will strengthen as well); to prevent dysfunction and injury. Tight muscles lad to abnormal bio-mechanics.

There are passive and active stretching. In active stretching the horse is doing it themselves. There is controversy with stretching – some folks say not to stretch more than 2 joints at a time. 

How to stretch
  • Move slowly through the range of motion to point of tension-restriction (or just before)
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds ideally (though you may not be able to get that from day one)
  • Only stress one joint at a time (over-stretching can occur otherwise, soft tissue injury, nerve irritation)
  • Repetition is important – give the horse the opportunity to stretch even further.
  • Daily stretching may be too much and stretching when they are warm (after exercise) is the better way to go.

Joint mobilization – the restoration of “joint play”, safe stretch of joints, breaks down adhesions, restores normal joint mechanics (some patients cannot stretch!), decrease joint stiffness, and pain reduction. Joints and bones van get slightly out of place, and if they are re-aligned then the joint will have greater range of motion. Mobilization is a combination of rolling the joint, compression and traction. It can also move synovial fluid around and increase intra-articular nutrition.

You practitioner must be knowledgeable about equine anatomy to do this properly! Otherwise traction and rotation of a joint can be harmful. You also need to know if there are torn supporting structures in the joint – if so, you don’t want to mobilize that joint or you can cause more damage to the area.

Chiropractic – adjustment involves joint manipulations plus the additional gentle thrust at the limit of range of motion. 

Promoting Tissue Repair


Some modalities can accomplish multiple goals! These can include:

Acupuncture!
Acupuncture – you put needles in near nerves that need to be stimulated. Blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases; it can also improve lymphatic flow. Segmental analgesia provides reduced response to pain in particular areas as well as entire body. This process calms through autonomic nervous system stimulation. You can also affect organ function through acupuncture points.

Which horses benefit from acupuncture? Those with nerve deficits (EPM, head shaking, facial nerve paralysis). Those with back pain (from muscle, bone & connective tissue problems), because the acupuncture increases blood flow and calms nerves that are hyper-active in the back. Chronic colic is also assisted by acupuncture (especially spasmodic colic, gas colic).

Electrical stimulation/TENS – With this modality, you can add electrical stimulation to your acupuncture needles. It can pack a bigger punch than just needles by themselves. TENS units themselves require clipped hair to attach to the needed area, which can be awkward. this method can be very good for very superficial issues (such as superficial nerve issues). 

Therapeutic Ultrasound – this therapy not the same as the ultrasound used to diagnose injury. Therapeutic ultrasound sends pressure waves into where you point it. It helps wounds heal by increasing protein synthesis, fibroblast proliferation, etc. This therapy does not go very deep. There are different modes to the machine for heating vs. not heating. In addition, this therapy needs to be repeated routinely if you want the beneficial effects.

One of the best uses for therapeutic ultrasound is to help break up calcified structures in tendons.

Laser – How does it work? Stimulates cell function, by photochemical means (not being thermal like surgical lasers are). What does it do? Laser therapy releases endorphins, bradykinins to provide analgesia, increases metabolic rate in tissues, and improves nerve regeneration.

Disadvantages to laser therapy include: the cost is high, patient/practitioner and owner safety (class 4 lasers you definitely need goggles for to protect your eyes), inability to penetrate through hair, dark skin (only 2% on laser may get through a dark-skinned animal), and it may not penetrate to deep tissues. Skin color is actually very important for a horse so surgical shaving of the treatment area is important!

Extracorporal Shockwave Therapy – This therapy can help break down scar tissue! Essentially this modality is supersonic acoustic pressure waves cause a pressure bubble when they impact tissues.  This pressure bubble has an effect on those tissues: it causes micro-trauma which forms new blood vessels to trigger of body’s natural healing mechanisms and repair. This is great for suspensory injuries at the top of the suspensory.

Other things of note regarding shockwave therapy:
  • Requires sedation – it does hurt during the therapy (and can be loud)!
  • Provides analgesia to the area (which can have risk of abuse)
  • Recommended 1-3 treatments at approximately 2 week interval.
  • Can also help with kissing spines – especially if a horse has pain there.
  • Bone pain and navicular disease.
  • This treatment is effective in backs.

Restoring Function


Restoring function to the equine athlete is all about getting them back to a level of work and comfort.

Suppling exercises (circles & lateral work) and theraband/equicore use (as a strengthening mechanism) are examples of tools that can be used to help restore function. The Theraband has been a primary tool in Deli's current rehabilitation! Cavaletti exercises are also great because you are increasing range of motion and they are also proprioception exercise. Doing exercises that help the equine figure out balance, such as varying surfaces, or putting cat collars with bells/bell boots on their feet to get them to step higher can be useful.

Deli in her Theraband early on in the rehab.
Water therapy – Water therapy claims to help restore function. This is different than swimming – instead picture a horse on a treadmill in different water levels (the water level can be adjusted depending on the animal’s needs). Water therapy claims to reduce stress on limbs by reducing weight-bearing 40-60% and reducing impact on limbs. Water therapy proponents also claim that water therapy can reduce recovery time by 50-60%, that the hydrostatic pressure reduces swelling and assists with blood flow, improves conditioning and increases cardiovascular fitness (by the water providing resistance to their movement – it’s a workout!). Flexibility can also be improved by water therapy.

Underwater treadmills are the primary aquatic therapy. The water level can be easily adjusted depending on the animal’s need. The primary uses for underwater treadmills are for tendon injuries, arthritis, and conditioning after layup.

Swimming pools are used for horses as well, but swimming is not a super natural things for equines and the only real benefit to them swimming regularly are cardiovascular benefits. Horses have to move aggressively when swimming, so it’s not recommended for many injuries (especially back issues). There is also a risk drowning. And as endurance riders know, cardiovascular fitness is not the same as bone/tendon/tissue fitness!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ultralight Trips: Packing Without a Pack Horse (PNER Convention Notes)

I really enjoyed this educational talk by Kim McCarrel and now I am even more interested in doing packing trips with horses someday. I can’t think of many things more enjoyable than enjoying a point-to-point trail, exploring new trails, seeing beautiful views, and relying on my partner. Kim McCarrel has been an avid trail rider for over 20 years and has ridden the horse trails all over Oregon and SW Washington. Her trail guidebooks are “must haves” for Pacific Northwest trail riders – I enjoy her guide book for my area. It’s very comprehensive and packed with information! You can learn more about Kim and her books at her website. I’d highly recommend it for trail riders in the West! 

If a backpacker can carry everything they need for the trek on their back – so you should be able to carry everything you need on your horse as well! The challenge is carrying horse feed and gear along with everything you will need on the trail. If you are an experienced trail rider, your horse is in good shape, you can ultralight camp.

The main things you need to consider for ultralight packing trips are: perfecting your high-lining skills, the ability to plan your trip carefully, and embracing “leave no trace” principles.

High Lining – the most efficient way to secure your horse on the trail!
  • You will need tree savers, rope, and the skills to tie the knots (quick-release bowline, alpine knot, and the prusik knot).
  • To set your high line, use a branch to push it as far up the tree as possible. Tie prusik knots on your line before you leave home (you can tie it on with baling twine which is cheap and weights almost nothing). This knot allows your tie-loop to slide anywhere along the rope that you want, but the knot will stick in place when your horse pulls on it.
  • Bring more rope than you think you need, and ensure you have rope without stretch (bring at least 100ft of rope).
  • On the first tree tie a quick-release bowline knot (instructions on how to tie a bowline at the TrailMeister website)
  • On the other end, put in an alpine knot – hook a carabiner to it and block and tackle to get the rope as tight as possible.
  • Finally, tie your horse so its nose is close to the ground so that they can lie down, eat, etc.

Planning Your Trip
Careful planning is needed for any ultralight trip. Considering where you are going to get water is key. Will you find it along the trail? Is there water that you can camp next to (it's absolutely crucial that you have water where you camp)? For grazing, the rule of thumb is that your horse needs to graze 1.5 hour in morning and at night. You can also carry pelleted feed – but that’s a challenge because of the weight and bulk of that kind of feed.

Leave No Trace Principles
These principles are paramount when you are in the back-country. Essentially: leave the area the same if not better than you found it. This goes beyond packing out your trash, but pertains to your impact on the land overall. With land and trails for horse use disappearing it's also important to consider what other trail users will think about your presence. Some important considerations include:
  • Meadows – these are sensitive ecosystems, especially when they are wet. Don’t take your horse out into a wet meadow as your horse will damage it. Instead, allow them to graze in dry meadows.
  • Cat holes – bury your waste when you’re out on the trail. 6” deep, using a trowel (they make folding ones). And carry out your toilet paper. Never build your hole close to water closer than 200ft (which is about 70 steps).
  • Streams and lakes – only water your horse where the trail crosses the body of water or at a bank that is rocky or sandy because horses will tend to stir up sediment.
  • Manure – never make camp closer than 200ft to a body of water. Use cathole shovel to scrape away everything on the ground where you are high lining (pine needles, branches, etc.) and when you are done scrape the pine needles and forest stuff back to where horse was. Fling manure into bushes, not open areas. This leaves the area nice for successive campers and keeps the horse area clean.
  • Fires/campfires – often they are not allowed, but if there is no burn ban… clear all burnable debris within 10ft of the fire ring. Only used downed wood. Use rocks to line fire pit. You can get several layers of aluminum foil to help protect the ground from the fire. Fire cloth is also a thing (Norco may carry it, but it can be heavy).

The equipment and supplies you will need (and suggested supplies):
  • Water purification – McCarrel uses Sawyer water filter system – and it weighs nothing!
  • Cooking – McCarrel uses a Jet Boil system. You can get lightweight pans that nest inside each other. Remember: the kind of cooking equipment you have will dictate what food you can have! 
  • Sleeping considerations – You will need some kind of protection depending on your preference. A bivisack (props up over your head), or a lightweight tent will work. Everything McCarrel carries for sleeping weighs around 6lbs!
  • Clothing and toiletries. This includes
  • Food – You will bring lots of freeze-dried if you use a jet-boil; almond butter is great and pack-able; tortillas – to make sandwiches with; nose feed bag if your horse is getting pellets; sporks!
  • Baby wipes are the best thing ever on the trail as you can give yourself a “bath” after a dusty day on the trail.
  • Human first aid kid – benadryl, triangle bandage, and general supplies.
  • Collapsible water bucket.
  • Cigarette lighter and matches.
  • Though she doesn't carry one herself, carrying a gun was discussed when it came up from commentators in the audience. What if you need to put your horse down on the trail?

McCarrel then did a show and tell of her pack and bags, pulling things out and showing how she balanced her load. It's very important you keep track of side-to-side balance (ie. drink out of your water bottles evenly).

Front pack. Put the heavy stuff in the pommel bag because horses spines are not connected to their hips. They can carry more weight over their shoulders. Also put things up front that need to be accessible in your front packs. The list of things she carries in her front back include: horse pellets; water bottles; carry GPS always, with extra batteries; folding saw; a flashlight with battery outside of flashlight to conserve the batteries (flashers are good in an emergency); camera; leatherman; salt (for your horse); and a good headlamp. Also include clothing that needs to be easy-to-reach, like a poncho (this covers more than just your jacket, and may be easier to put on).


Rump pack. In her back pack she carries: air mattress (she has self-inflating pad); fleece, waterproof jacket, and clothing are all fitted around sleeping bag; horse first aid kit with banamine, bute (in a powder form), topical analgesic, fly spray (you can soak paper towels with fly spray in baggie as well). Also include a horse brush hoofpick; shoelace for tack repairs; little kitchen garbage bag to line your helmet with to serve up your horse water! The things found in the rump pack can be bulky (the sleeping bag especially), but they are lightweight.

McCarrel also spoke about riding the Metolius-Windigo Trail, which is located in Central Oregon. She has a new book out describing the trail, it's camps, and different challenges. This article goes into more detail about trekking on this scenic trail. The photos she shared of her packing trips on this trail were gorgeous and it's gone on my bucket list!

Other resources include the Trail Meister website. You can find horse trails and camps through this site, along with lots of helps with how to tie different knots.

Anyone want to go packing with me sometime?



Monday, February 6, 2017

Essential Oils for the Horse and Rider (PNER Convention Notes)

The following are notes (along with some of my own added observations) of the presentation on essential oils given by one of our regional vets, Dr. Cassee Terry, DVM, at the PNER Convention in January, 2017.

I enjoyed this talk by Dr. Cassee since I use my essential oils daily. They have been one of the few things that has made a difference in my personal battle with autoimmune disease and chronic illness. Unfortunately I am very sensitive to most medications – if there are side effects listed in a medication you better believe I am going to experience them! For that reason essential oils have become my first line of defense for many issues because, miracle of miracles, my body seems to accept these volatile plant oils much better than western medicine “remedies.” I take them internally too (either in veggie capsules, a glass of water, or just straight under my tongue). One reason I personally believe this is true is that the essential oils work systematically rather than just trying to pinpoint one symptom that may be caused by something else within your organ systems.

After this talk I hope to start using essential oils with my animals more often. I've made some internal links for folks interested in learning more about particular oils. I also have a general list of many of the scientific studies and shown effects of oils, if anyone is curious about a specific oil – just let me know! (Note: cats are very sensitive and many essential oils are toxic to them.)

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are extracts from plants that are 50-70 times more powerful than the herb itself. They are composed of the aromatic compound of the plant. This means that not all plants can be distilled into an essential oil!

Why do we care?
The properties of essential oils have actually been studied and found efficacious in Western medicine – you can do a search and find countless studies on essential oils showing their effect (oregano oil, for example, is well-studied as an antibiotic). Essential oils can penetrate cells and kill viruses and bacteria. The role of the essential oil for the plant is to protect and repair the plant, and these properties can be carried over to other (non-plant) cells. Essential oils can have similar properties to synthetic drugs but without as much potential for side effects. A good place to start because you can ward off using medication and even prep the body for medication if it ends up being needed.

Dr. Cassee uses DoTERRA oils. I also use this brand of oils and have a wholesale membership (which allows you to get a lower price on oils and other products). DoTERRA sources oils from native soils (where those plants grow in an indigenous state). Dr. Cassee notes that this can make a difference for medicinal purposes due to the relationship between the plant and the soil and climate it evolved in. One of the things I like about this is DoTERRA contracts with locals to grow and harvest the plants needed for the oils. In some communities this is the lifeblood income in the area. My main concern with essential oils is that I needed the quality and safety to be able to take them internally for my health issues. There are only two brands (DoTERRA and Young Living) that currently seem to meet those standards.

There are three main ways to use essential oils (for you or your horse):
Aromatic – affects mood, cleanses air (can be disinfecting), and works to open airways.

Topical – works fast (entering bloodstream within 30 minutes), has systemic localized effects. Most useful for massage, immediate comfort, immune support, etc.

Internal – detoxifies the body, supports digestive system and immune systems, mouth, throat, liver, urogenital tract, etc. some oils are also useful for flavoring in cooking or baking. Note: some oils cannot be taken internally (it should say on the bottle).

The main difficulty for using essential oils on horses is that it’s difficult to have a true topical application due to their hair coat (the oils need to get to the skin to absorb). However, you can put it down their hair coat and they can constantly smell it (essentially becoming their own diffuser). Since horses are sensitive animals, this can often be enough to treat them.

Specific oils and their common uses:

Peppermint – horses typically love this oil! (Dogs usually do not love it, so it can be used for a deterrent for them). I use this constantly – in fact peppermint is the oil I go through most often as I use it for a muscle rub and internally for digestive upset. I also use it for bruises and headaches. It blends wonderfully with other oils when diffused.
  • Helps you wake up in the morning – place 2 drops on palm, cup over your nose/mouth and breathe deeply (just make sure you avoid your eyes!).
  • Helps with nausea either applied on skin over stomach or taken internally
  • Cooling – good for headaches, cooling, stress and tension.

Frankincense – is well known as the King of the oils!
Its range of characteristics is huge and it touches almost every body system with it’s chemical constituents – great for inflammation, healing, telling cells to stay on the right path (and if they don’t, tells them to die!), and supporting a healthy immune response. I personally use Frankincense daily to support my auto-immune issues. This is one I take internally directly under my tongue. Unfortunately, it is expensive!

In horses, frankincense can be applied to fight sarcoids – apply full strength to the sarcoid 2x day. It can be used for other cancers as well. This oil is superior when used to lower inflammation, and fight infection – add 2 drops 2x day in food or apply topically. Horses don’t need much!
  • Helps with nervous tension.
  • Commonly used in skin care products, and for wrinkles.
Past Tense (tension blend) – is a doTERRA blend of oils that is typically sold as a roller bottle. This oil is great for headaches – apply directly to neck, temples, or forehead for headache relief.
  • Muscle & joint pain & tension relief.
  • Apply to hand or feet reflex points.

Aromatouch – is another DoTERRA blend otherwise termed the “massage blend." This blend helps relive inflammation when massaged into tired tense or stressed muscles and was originally made for folks with edema in the legs (as in diabetics). This blend it does not have peppermint which some people do not enjoy the smell of, but still increases circulation to an affected area.
Some of the oils in my personal kit.

For horses, nothing in here would be restricted for endurance. Cypress is the leading oil in this blend!
  • Nothing in here would be restricted for endurance. Cypress is the leading oil in this blend!
  • Calming, respiratory – open bottle under horse’s nostrils and allow them to breathe. Rub 1-2 drops on horse’s poll or on muzzle.
  • Muscles, cooling, colic: use 1.2 gallon of water and 5 drops oil and sponge onto the horse.

Lemongrass is good for cramping muscles and inflammation
It is very potent, may need to be diluted (apply on location with peppermint and drink lots of water!). I can speak personally to lemongrass being potent. It’s the only oil that I react negatively to when applied topically even when it’s diluted. The smell is lovely though!
  • Helps warm the feet in the winter.
  • Can also be used for arthritis – can be used internally (maybe use a veggie cap as it does taste bad).

Deep Blue – Otherwise called the "soothing blend", this line of products comes in an oil, a rub lotion, and phenol capsules (the capsules have different components, including turmeric – however it is a supplement to help with aches and pains just like the topical products).
  • This mixture includes wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, German chamomile, helichrysum oil, and osmanthus.
  • The capsule supplement of Deep Blue has boswalia (which is the herb version of frankincense) – its actually different than frankincense itself (but pairs well with it).
  • For the rub and oil it can be applied topically applied topically to horses by rubbing rub into their skin. Key areas of attention could be the hocks for arthritis, and coffin join for laminitis (rubbing into cornet band). Dr. Cassee recommends adding some lemongrass oil into the mix for some extra zip!
DigestZen – digestion support!
The PB Assist from DoTERRA has double layered capsules which are shown to survive until they get to the small intestine. The DigestZen oil – can be a little hotter, so it should be diluted. It can be used on the abdomen or taken internally (tastes like licorice). It can help soothe and calm acid reflex.
DoTERRA also makes DigestTabs to help deliver benefits to digestion.

This product can be used in horses:
  • Ulcers – add 1 drop to horses feed 2x day (note that using electrolytes may tear up the stomach; many athletes have ulcers! Even pasture pets can have ulcers. Horses have very unique stomachs, they have a band that divides glandular from non-glandular (acidic and non-acidic), which makes them more sensitive to ulcers when the acid could be thrown up. They are very delicate!
  • Gas – put 3 drops in syringe, mix w/ applesauce and give orally (most colics are gas colics).
  • Colic – put 3 drops in syringe, mix with applesauce and give orally (rub over flanks and stomach, rub on gums, repeat every 10 minutes). This is why banamine helps – it helps them relax and pass gas! But this may not help torsion cases.
  • Deworming – add 1 drop to horses feed 2x day until parasites are gone (would need to confirm via fecals). Adding thyme might work well too. This may take a month – and it also depends on the parasites! 

Breathe – DoTERRA has a whole family or products in this area, including roller bottles, “cough” drops for sore throats, a main oil. These products focus on respiratory support and can be used on a horse’s muzzle to target their airway.

OnGuard – the immune support powerhouse (and encompasses another family of products). The oil can be rubbed on the gums for quick uptake, diffused to help kill airborne pathogens, and you can use it to clean your tack, trailer, stalls, etc. THs oil blend contains oils shown to inhibit MRSA. doTERRA also offers the product in capsules, which include melissa oil (which is the most powerful anti-viral oil).

For horse care: 
  • Dilute 5 drops in 24 oz water, spray and wipe buckets, stalls, contaminated areas, trailers.
  • Viral infections – put 2 drops in feed or syringe with applesauce mixture in mouth. Twice a day until symptoms are gone.
  • Bathing: use foaming wash to boost immune system and get a healthy clean coat without chemicals.

Oregano oil – the leader in tackling bacterial infections, oregano is a very “hot” oil and should usually be diluted with some kind of carrier oil (such as fractioned coconut oil). Oregano oil is one of the most widely studied oils and is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic, supportive for the respiratory system, antiviral, and an immune stimulant.
  • For use, you can dilute oregano oil with 5 drops in the 24 oz water bottle and spray horse areas to safely disinfect stalls, trailers, and mats. A similar spray is great for thrush – add 2 drops of oregano with coconut oil and put directly on affected area. This oil is also good for skin infections – dilute well with coconut oil first before applying to affected area (combining with melaleuca is also a good idea for skin infections).
Lemon – is your gentle detoxifying oil; it’s antiseptic, antifungal, & cleansing. This oil can be added to water troughs to clean and disinfect the water (there will be no problem if the horse drinks it).
  • For bad water: put 3-5 drops of oil in a 5 gallon bucket of water, allow horse to drink.
  • Kidney function – put 3-5 drops in a 5 gallon bucket of water, allow horse to drink.

Lavender – is a calming and soothing oil that helps with skin issues, and burns. It is well studied for its mood-stabilizing properties and the ability to help sleep. However, lavender is considered an illegal substance in endurance (though, how do they test for it?). You can always put it on yourself and your horse will still get the aromatherapy affect.

Wintergreen – is another great oil for soothing body pain. Because this oil does have menthol in its chemical makeup, it would be considered illegal for use in endurance (but you can use it afterward). I personally use this for my own personal cartilage and bone pain (such as arthritis), which is one of its studied uses.

Oils for behavior – many blends and oils are used to affect mood for people and they should have the same effects for horses (note: cats do react differently and caution should be used with cats. Cats should never be exposed to citrus oils).
  • Balance – this is a grounding blend. “Balance” can help human or animal relax and takes the edge off. This oil can be used on horse’s poll or muzzle
  • Lavender & the Serenity blend – calming and soothing (NOTE: lavender is a restricted substance in endurance racing – so use it on you, not your horse at a ride!).
  • Emotional aromatherapy kit – motivate, cheer, passion, forgive, console, & peace.
For use on skin & lacerations, these oils may be called for:
  • OnGuard – abscesses, infections, open wounds.
  • Clove – is numbing, so good for wound that is itchy or painful.
  • Frankincense – use for anything! Frankincense can be applied neat (without dilution).
  • Cedarwood – really good for skin, rashes, and dry coat.
  • Melaleuca – thrush, wounds, skin.
  • Helichrysum – wounds, tendons, swelling (it’s like liquid skin).
  • Cypress – increases circulation, and is grounding.
  • Rosemary – hair regrowth, antifungal.
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils there is a wealth of information online (though some of it is suspect). Dr. Cassee can be contacted via e-mail





Friday, February 3, 2017

An update on Deli's rehabilitation for kissing spines (and the related issues)

I haven’t ridden my horse since mid-October of 2016 when she received her diagnosis.

Instead I’ve been working on serious rehabilitation exercises 3-4 times a week, along with lots of stretching and strength exercises. The idea is to build up her top-line before I sit on her again, which will help her one kissing spine (the area around the 13th—15th dorsal spinous process). The damage and atrophy to the multifidus muscle as it courses from one spinous process to the next is another matter.

My rehab primarily takes the form of lounging her in the theraband with some kind of equipment to keep her head down. In general I am not a fan of equipment, but she does not reliably stay long-and low on her own and running around with her head up will just exacerbate the problem. So I use a neck stretcher with the theraband wrapped in various positions around her hindquarters.

Using the theraband after a light snowfall.
 It’s a serious workout with the theraband providing resistance. After delays from a massive heel bulb abscess and unusual snowfall that kept me from working her for over a week we have worked our way up to 11 minutes each direction in the theraband (starting from one minute, which was enough to get her breathing heavily in the beginning). Soon, I should be able to hop on her to cool her off after each session.

I’ve been thinking about this issue more. I’ve also, partially by accident, noticed something interesting from looking at old photos. Deli has always had a curvy back versus a straight back (a back with “rock’). However, after she had a traumatic fall about 3-4 years ago and after the subsequent rehabilitation for that, her back became more swayed. In that fall she injured her hip, ribs, and gave herself serious nerve damage in her girth area. Time for easy rehab, acupuncture, and some cold laser brought her back sound. However, now I wonder if possibly she tweaked that area in her back (which may have already been weak due to her upright neck set) or even tore her multifidus during that accident. Any kind of injury to an already weak area could have exacerbated what was already there. Subsequently adding more and more work to condition of endurance led her to strain her lower back because she could NOT use her upper back.
Still the prettiest horse in the barn...

All the times I’ve had her scanned with infrared, adjusted, or worked on, the area of the back where she has kissing spines has never registered as a serious problem area. Now I know.

I think that area was weak (or stuck, or whatever you want to call it) because even before I got her she tended to build up lower back muscle much faster than any of her other top-line muscle. Since she was essentially semi-feral for most of her early life she could have gotten into all sorts of unknown trouble! She is definitely a horse that would have benefited from correct dressage work early on (not so early you would be riding a horse who hasn’t finished growing, of course!).

The rehabilitation will continue. I don’t know yet what kind of riding (if any) she will be up for in the future. I’ll also need another saddle for her if and when I get to that point of the rehabilitation.

Between rehabbing my poor Deli, I’ve been doing other horsey things. One highlight was the Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders (PNER) Conference, at the end of January. I got to see and hang out with a lot of my friends that I don’t always get to see, attend some interesting talks, and even make some cash by selling unneeded tack and horse blankets.


As per usual, I took notes during all the talks I attended. I plan on cleaning up these notes and posting them on this blog over the next couple months. Endurance education coming up!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The end of something (barely started).

It has been a long time.

I keep starting to write an entry and stopping. I am still in a muzzy state of unrest from the recent diagnosis I received for Deli. Unrest and heartbreak.

A couple of months ago after a long-but-slow conditioning ride, Deli presented with some pretty severe back soreness. This was much worse than the muscle soreness she had after her first LD at Mt. Adams. I thought, at first, it was related to a new pad combination I’d tried (since that was the first long ride with the new pad configuration). Then, when it didn’t resolve as expected, I wondered if she had hurt something while bouncing around in the mud trying to avoid a water crossing.

Long story short of it, we’ve been chasing odd back soreness in her lower lumbar region since then. I finally decided to get a back ultrasound after the normal R&R, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture did not make a difference. She would get better, but then I’d do an easy ride and the back soreness would flare up again.

Well, the news from the ultrasound was not good: kissing spines and some serious damage multifidus muscle along her spine – right behind her withers.

What is kissing spines? The more technical phrase is “overriding dorsal spinous processes” – essentially this term describes the touching or “kissing” of spinal processes, which are the long thin bones that protrude upward from each vertebrae in horse’s back. It’s likely she has always had this underlying problem because she has always over-built her lower back muscles. Her conformation (that high-headed saddlebred set) likely predisposes this problem in this area of her back. The damage to the multifidus could be acute or chronic. Regardless, time carrying a rider and the increased workload we have had coming into endurance riding has made an underlying pathology become more obviously painful.

You want to get technical? Here are some ultrasound images.

Normal multifidus muscle fiber pattern with some underlying proliferation of bone on a dorsal spinous process. 13th thoracic.

Damage to/atrophy of the multifidus muscle as it courses from one spinous process to the next. Notice the total loss of normal fiber pattern compared to the previous image.


Location where dorsal spinous processes are close-riding or touching. Approximately 13th-15th dorsal spinous processes.
Her lower back region looked great, so my vet rightly determined that being unable to use her upper back properly and is straining her lower back muscles. So the obvious pain is not where the underlying problem is.

In the short term I am working with Deli to try and get her back to lift (by using her abs) in that upper back region. So far, the therapies and ground exercises I’ve tried have been unsuccessful. Our next step is to try mesotherapy, a pain-dampening technique that stimulates the mesoderm, the middle layer of the skin. Our hope is that pain relief will make her more able to build the muscles needed to relive those spinous processes. We are also going to get a theraband (a lounging therapy tool) and continue with massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic work.

In the long term… any more endurance riding is probably out of the question for her. For this, I am heartbroken. She really showed she has the mind and enjoyment for it and I know this is the sport that I want to be involved in over any other. My plan is to try this rehab work for a couple months and see if it seems probable that we could get her strong enough for long trail rides without her always presenting as back sore. 

Then I will need to get a new saddle. Though the edema I was getting with my Ghost saddle didn’t appear painful to palpation, you could see in the ultrasound that it was not superficial and may have been contributing to the multifidus damage and internal pain. I am considering doing the Reactor panel “rent for rehab” program, but the cost of all of that makes me cringe. 

As of right now, if after a couple months of ground therapy it does not look like Deli will be able to be decently sound and comfortable for trail riding I am going to retire her altogether. It’s rough and my heart aches because she is my heart and the one I want to go off and have adventures with. But this pathology means I can’t rely on her comfort. And if it will take 10 hours of doing hard arena work she hates just to get an hour on the trail... I’m not sure that’s worth it. Especially if that would require me buying her a $4k saddle that would set back my financial situation. It will make her so very unhappy. And she isn’t that horse that has a huge work drive – she would be perfectly happy being a pasture puff. With the money I would spend renting an insanely expensive saddle I could easily lease another horse to compete in endurance with. If I had my own property I could probably own another horse, but given the state of the world that’s not going to happen anytime soon! 

On the other hand, if she has just been annoyed by arena work because of this underlying condition the whole time, she may thrive under these therapies. Not enough to do endurance, I’m sure, but it might be enough to justify not retiring her (in part because this condition is chronic and will progress even if she is a pasture puff, and proper work might help her longevity). 

I don’t have to make any decisions yet, but having a “if, then” plan is necessary for me to not otherwise implode from stress. We still have some things to try, but I am preparing myself for the idea that Deli is going to be retired sometime soon.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mt. Adams LD follow up thoughts...

Oh yeah, we had fun.


Deli's back is just about 100% better after the soreness from the ride. And her first rides afterward (I gave her a good chunk of time off) she felt great. We obviously still have a few things to fiddle with, but hope to improve with each LD we do.

Problems we encountered that we need to fiddle with:

Back soreness. Likely from exertion (especially trotting downhill and me being less balanced there), being weaker on one side, and possibly compounded by cramping from the cold. Planned solution? More practice trotting downhill for both of us, increasing strengthening exercises for Deli (especially these canter exercises my trainer friend suggested). For the cold, I just need to get a cooler on her ASAP when we stop if the temperature is at all cool and ride with a rump rug on cool parts (even if I have to keep it rolled up). There is also a possibility the saddle is an issue and I will continue to be vigilant in that regard. I am planning on playing with the rigging and the pad(s), and thinking of bolstering the front even more. Since it sits a little downhill already, it may have thrown me off more than expected on those gradual downhills.

I am also going to try and determine if I can get off and jog besides her for some of these long gradual slopes. It's a big IF with my knee and hip issues, but I thought I'd try anyway.

As for the cramping, she definitely did stiffen some in the brisk cool wind. It might have been better to come in hot, knowing I had a cooler in the pulse-in area, rather than jump off before the finish line and walk her in. Hmmm. Maybe more electrolytes?!

Also: bring liniment next time!

Skin flaking. Actually, this problem was not as bad as I expected it to be. Her armpits flaked some, as did everywhere where I had tack on her body. She has such sensitive skin and I'll take the dandruff-ick over the inflamed raw sores any day. I also didn't give her any anti-histamines after the ride because the insects were non-existent. In retrospect a single dose might have helped her sensitive skin after the fact even if she wasn't bitten up.

Stocking up and space. Due to Deli's lymphangitis she gets fatleg if confined at all, so I bandaged her hinds after the ride (and overnight the night before). The next morning her front legs were a bit stocked up too, which is less common for her. Tying her to the trailer is not ideal for this horse. She needs as much space to move around as possible AND standing wraps. I am planning to collect supplies between now and the next ride to set up an electric corral for her. While not my ideal choice, since I do not have a rig of my own the electric corral will be the most portable and least PIA when bumming rides. Deli is respectful of electric tape so it should be okay. and I can build her something a bit bigger for less money than corral panels.

By the way, can I just say how impressed I am with Deli for not killing herself tied to the trailer overnight?! That was my backup of a backup plan as I had thought to borrow a corral and/or electric pen, which ended up not actually existing when i arrived. We did not practice the tying overnight-thing before trying this at a busy ride. And we were camped right next to the trail! She did paw some and stuck her fat face in my riding-buddy's business (since I tied to her trailer and Deli was in reach of the back of her truck), but otherwise she did pretty good. I just plopped an entire bale of hay down in front of her, which also served as a barrier between her and the sharp bits of the trailer side.

I just had to keep the mantra in my head from my friend and trainer who helped me with Deli in our first years: plan and do what you can and for everything else, ENDURE.

Here are some photos of our vet card:



Deli pulsed in really well (though she was anxious for her vet check-in!). I was also very happy with her CRIs, since her fitness was a big question mark for me. I think we can get them even better with work. Probably she just has that Arabian metabolic advantage.

The B in gut sounds is something I wasn't super worried about day-of because she ate really well most of the day and into the night. She did eat a few mouthfuls of grass on the trail and carrots (fed by hand). Her hydration did perk up on the second loop because she drank so well after the first. On the first loop she just sipped water when offered.

Also for checking her mucous membranes and capillary refill, she would not let the vet do it. However, all the vets at the ride let ME show them her gums and hydration so it wasn't a big issue. Deli does get more fussy about her face being handled by strangers in hectic environments, so I think this is something we will need to practice more at rides.

Mt. Adams is well run, but it is a HUGE ride and the pulse-in area and vet checks were BUSY. Deli did pretty well, but I'm curious to see how she does at a smaller ride. Also the 30 minute hold felt so short, and I think we even left after our release time(?)

So those are my closing thoughts. She felt good when I went out for 5 miles today. She's going to get a good amount of work this week and then another whole week off because my husband and I are going on our first vacation in years to Yellowstone. I am hoping to get to another one of my bucket-list rides in July and try another LD with Deli there.

Last time: We completed our first LD!