So you find out your horse has a muscle problem. The vet tells you it won't heal without a surgery. Your horse will definitely not be able to lope on the left lead, no small circles, and no hard hind end work.
Where do you go from here?
My vet is a very kinda, sweet, wonderful and knowledgable older man. I definitely trust him and his opinion, but most of us know that vets usually aren't clued in or won't go out of their way to advocate 'western' medicine.
However, when I heard that it won't heal, I simply refused to believe that. So I got to doing my research.
First is diet. There are anti inflammatory properties that come in omega 3's and 6's. I chose to get a 50 pound bag ($35) of flax seed since that tends to have a bit of omegas in it. Beware though, you must give horses ground flax seed, whole flax seed will simply go straight thru their body. But, when grinding you can only grind a small amount at a time (like a week) otherwise the oils in the seed will go rancid. However, when doing my research I found out that the whole seed can sometimes aid in colic since it becomes very slippery when wet and will kind of glide right through their intestinal tract. If I had a horse that was prone to colicking I might give them some ground and some whole seeds in their grain, but definitely do your research first, I only saw a mention of this, and it could not be accurate at all. I am also putting apple cider vinegar into her feed, she honestly LOVES it and gobbles it up. Its a natural anti inflammatory.
I also currently have her on MSM, but I am going to keep her on a joint supplement simply because she is 15 and why not help her joints out? Also, since she has a mechanical problem, this can often cause horses to compensate with other muscles/parts of their body. If she is going to be using other parts of her body I want to help support them as well. What joint supplement I want to use or keep her on I am not sure yet.
There are a lot of joint supplements, immune supplements, feet supplements, intestine supplements. But what are there none of? Muscle supplements! This is ridiculous. Muscle health comes from all around health and minerals, so I would like to get a blood panel done on her, but first I want to make sure she is on a stable diet so I know what to change. There have been too many varying factors right now so I don't want to get one done and realize thats not exactly what she is getting. Regardless, there should seriously be a muscle supplement on the market!
My massage therapist mentioned the supplement transfer factor to me, but I am still doing research about what I want to put her on.
Second is fitness. Pony is seriously fat right now. When you gain ten pounds, do you feel better or worse? Immma guess you feel like crap and don't wanna move. The extra weight on her is going to make her joints/muscles/everything hurt. So she definitely still needs exercise. Lunging her is out of the question, turns make it difficult for her. and at this point I don't want to stress the muscle. I want to engage and use the muscle without making it hurt. If you pull a muscle in your leg, getting the muscle warmed up will make it hurt less, but if you run a marathon its gonna damage the muscle further. Such a fine line to walk.
So I can't lunge her, I don't want her to go balls out in the arena when I turn her out, since accelerating, bucking, galloping is all intensive on her hind end. So, I ride her. However, I'm doing lots of walk trot in straight lines. Which pretty much means around the ranch, since who wants to walk trot around the rail forever. Plus, this has been going on for so long she is very nervous while being ridden. She is apprehensive about having to lope, knowing it is difficult for her. She gets super nervous and overall its not a fun time in the arena. So i've been doing just a little each day, walk trot, around the ranch in long straight lines. She's such a sensitive little thing I am working on trying to build up her confidence and show her she doesn't have to be a spaz. I am going to start adding some lope in before too long, but there again, right lead lope in a straight line. I am going to stay away from her left lead for a while, she has so much anxiety over it, I want to ignore that specific problem until it isn't such a big deal anymore.
Third is Physical Therapy. We all know what scar tissue is. It's hard, calcified, and not elastic any longer. My goal is to break up this scar tissue. Is that possible? I don't know. But I am going to try.
How do you break up scar tissue? Well, first, I am heating up a rice bag and holding it on her leg (warm compress) and then stretching the leg. I'm trying to do this multiple times. I am being very gentle with the stretches, she needs to give into it and not pull against it. Therefor, do not force their leg!!! I hold her leg around her fetlock and stand by her front foot and pull it towards me. When she gives, I am gentle to her, and she will eventually tell me when she is done. I stretch it forward and up, and also forward and down...anything to get that muscle stretching out. Try to keep it held for a little while (30-60 seconds) at a time, and then do it again. I do it a few different times while doing other things in between.
What else I am doing is massaging her leg with DMSO. Ever heard of it? I hadn't either. I did some research and understood it totally less after reading about it than I did before I read about it. Regardless, I'm using it. It was recommended by my massage therapist. Caution, USE GLOVES! It burns. But I am massaging it into her leg and her hock, my massage therapist mentioned her hock could get stressed from the muscle being so tense. I try to make sure it is all massaged and loose, and then I do the stretches again. The solution gets weirdly hot when you begin to rub it on, and also it crystalizes in anything under 70 degrees. I got it out and went to pour it and realized it was totally crystalized. It quickly liquified again just by me holding it enough to pour what I needed out. Its kind of messy, be warned.
My farrier was out today and mentioned that from a shoers perspective that it would make sense to put bar shoes on her hind. Bar shoes support the heel and therefor support the hock, stifle, and hip. My shoer simply said that anything that is supporting her hind end could help her to maneuver. He wanted to make sure I had my vets blessing before he did it though, since he doesn't know the precise condition the way a vet would. I heard back from my vet, and while he said he didn't know if it would help, that it definitely wouldn't hurt. So I am going to do that so that we can help her out as much as possible!
Basically, this is the immediate plan in the works. Its all about trying to help that hind end out and break down the scar tissue.