Lameness With No Visible Injuries By Jim Masterson From time to time I receive questions about horses that have been caught in a fence or have slipped and fallen and have no visible injuries, yet are not sound. Here is one of them: Dear Jim, Recently my horse had her left fore-leg caught in a fence. She has since been “off”, and has pain in her back which seems to run diagonally across her back and down her right hind. What would be your advice? Signed: Person Hi, With any accident that results in lameness the first thing to do is to have the horse examined by a veterinarian. If the vet finds anything that involves damage to soft tissue such as muscle, tendon or ligament, or fracture or damage to bone, then you have something that can be treated. When a horse gets a leg trapped or slips and falls, and is afterwards lame, “off”, or not moving right, and there is nothing diagnosed in the feet and legs, then there may be a problem in the body that bodywork can help with. This would be similar to us doing something such as slipping or taking a bad step and “pulling something” or wrenching” our back. We don’t know exactly what it is, but it still hurts. This may be the case here. It is common with this type of accident that groin, psoas or other deep core muscle are strained or go into spasm. Pain from the muscle strain or spasm itself can cause the horse to be off. Many of the deeper muscles in these areas are not manually accessible, which can make the exact source of the lameness difficult to trace. However if you can release the tension in the core muscles and see an improvement in movement and behavior, then you can assume that that was the problem. There are some simple techniques that involve the use of very light touch and close observation of visual responses from the horse that the owner can use to help the horse release tension in these deeper muscles. We’ll discuss these further on. Often we don’t know exactly what has released, but the horse shows us the visual signs of release (responses to the bodywork) and he’s moving better, so we know there’s an improvement in the condition. This type of accident can also create spasms that pull or put “torque” on certain areas of the body that are connected to, and affect, other areas of the body. For example, commonly a yank on the front leg will cause a spasm that puts torque on the poll-atlas junction. Tension on this key junction can create muscle tension or spasms in other areas of the body. This is also the case with the C7-T1 junction, where the neck joins the body. This is something you could expect suspect from a front leg being trapped, but may also show up after a front shoe has been pulled or “sprung” by another foot catching a branch or heel of the shoe. Nothing can be found in the foot after the incident, but the horse is still not quite right. Often the poor farrier (you don’t hear those two words together often) gets the blame after putting the shoe back on and is accused of putting in a “hot nail”, but that usually isn’t the case. The problem may be that the yank has created a spasm in the poll-atlas and/or C7-T1 junction. These are important junctions because tension in these junctions affects the rest of the body. We can see the connection between the front and hind ends when, for example, we release tension in the poll or the neck-shoulder junction and the horse begins to wobble, shuffle or stomp the ground behind. This is due to the sensation the horse feels as tension on the sacroiliac and in the gluteals relaxes. You can see why trying to track down these sorts of “lamnesses” can be so difficult. Sometimes these will sort themselves out over time and sometimes they’ll drag on for years but it’s important that the whole horse be looked at as the muscles, fascia and nerves of the body are interconnected. As I mentioned earlier, there are simple techniques that involve the use of www.PerformanceHorseDigest.com 32 Issue 6 • 2015