By BARBARA JANELLE B.Sc., M.A.
I saw Perfect Touch for the first time on February 20th, 1996. Yvonne, the mare’s owner, called me because Touch was having severe coordination and movement problems, and she hoped that TTEAM might help. The horse had become increasingly lame over the previous week. The mare now had little hind end coordination both in walking and turning. The veterinarian had put the horse on phenylbutazone, but it was not helping.
Perfect Touch is a very attractive chestnut Appendix Quarter Horse, with the thoroughbred blood of that line showing through strongly. She was 6 years old. Vestiges of her pride and elegance were there under the confusion and uncertainty that this physical problem imposed.
Yvonne described Perfect Touch as an extremely difficult horse. She had bought Touch as a yearling but did not feel the depth of connection with her that she would have liked. The mare could be very hot. She had had an awkward, high-headed canter even as a youngster. Even now, after training by a well-respected local horseman, it was very difficult to get her to flex at the poll, yield to the bit and balance in the canter. She would fight the bit, put her head up and run blindly.
Yvonne could not understand this. Touch had not been backed until she was 3 1/2 years old and she had always been treated well. Yvonne had wanted to show the mare in Western Riding and Trial classes but because she was so difficult, she had begun to think of selling her. And then this problem appeared.
The previous October while out riding, Perfect Touch had caught her foot on something and flipped over backwards. Neither Yvonne nor Touch was hurt. Yvonne said, “There wasn’t even a scratch on her!” She did not notice any change in the mare’s movement or coordination after the accident, but wondered if this current problem might be connected to that incident.
Yvonne carefully led Touch out of her stall and haltingly down the barn aisle. I think that it is important to watch a horse move and to have the owner see the horse move before beginning to work, so we took turns walking the horse a short distance up and down the aisle of the well-kept barn. I looked for connection through the body – did the wave of movement generated by a step move through the entire body or did it stop somewhere?
In this case, there was no wave but rather a set of jerky motions throughout the body. The head-neck movement did not go through the shoulders and back smoothly. The shoulder and back movement was separate from the hindend motion, and the hindlegs, particularly the left one, sprawled and dragged awkwardly. The mare’s movement indicated a severe disconnection between the hindlegs and the rest of the body. In addition, the horse was sloppy in placing all four feet, as if she was not quite sure where the ground was.
Yvonne held the mare while I moved my hands over her entire body. I felt for temperature and tension differences, and watched the mare’s response to stroking on all parts of her body. A large area of swelling on the left side of the neck just behind the head-neck junction (3rd cervical vertebrae), and another smaller area of swelling on the right side were immediately apparent. Yvonne did not recognize this as swelling and thought that it was simply muscling. Only on palpating it and comparing the feel with surrounding areas was she able to feel the fluid swelling under the skin. (1)
The mare’s back was in good condition and accepted a pressure of 6 well. Her hindlegs were cold. The tail was tightly clamped to the body. She accepted my touch well over most of her body. I discovered in a later visit that the mare’s mouth was very tight, and Yvonne told me that it was almost impossible to worm her or float her teeth.
I have seen swelling over the 3rd to 5th cervical vertebrae area combined with the uncoordinated kind of movement that Perfect Touch showed in a few other horses. Some cribbers will develop this, as well as horses who are severely overbent in training and riding. Perfect Touch is not a cribber, nor was overbending a part of her training. I remembered Dr. Kent Vasko’s articles on a similar set of conditions (2) and decided to focus treatment on reducing the swelling in the neck and on improving nerve connection to all four legs and tail.
I used the Raccoon TTouch on both sides of the neck to reduce the swelling. Then, I gently lifted Touch’s chin and used a lift-release repetitive movement to open the head-neck junction. I also used gentle upward mane pulling to help relax the tight muscles in the neck, and subtle neck-rocking side to side. By the end of that first work session the swellings had diminished slightly.
In this same session, I lifted her back and did Clouded Leopard circles down the muscles on both sides of the spine with the intent of supporting blood circulation and nerve connection through the back. I continued the Clouded Leopard circles down both hindlegs, to the coronet bands and even onto the hooves. This was repeated on the front legs, and then all four feet were tapped to increase the mare’s awareness of her extremities. The Clouded Leopard circles and Python Lifts warmed all four legs noticeably.
Clouded Leopard circles on the tail and tail hair sliding for several minutes relaxed the tight clamping. Then, I was able to gently bend the joints in the tail.
I stroked the mare all over with the wand and addressed her balance through approaching a squared up position. This was not very successful. Next I asked Yvonne to walk her while I continued to stroke the mare as a way of supporting connection through the body during movement.
We took turns watching the mare walk up and down the aisle again, and were encouraged by the improvement in her movement. She placed her hindlegs under the body a little more and her front feet touched the floor with more awareness. I taught Yvonne to do all the work that I had done, and asked that she work on the horse every day for the next week. I also recommended a course of homeopathic Arnica for a week to help address the swelling in the neck.
I added something more to the homework. When an animal or a human loses the ability to move normally, self-confidence is undermined. Perfect Touch clearly displayed her confusion and puzzlement. The life and brightness of this beautiful mare was muted. To support her through this difficult situation and to enhance the relationship between the mare and her owner, I taught Yvonne Heart Support. This simple and beautiful support of the heart center comes from Therapeutic Touch. (3)
I asked Yvonne to place one hand on the chest between the front legs and the other hand behind the shoulder just below the withers. This position cradles the animal’s heart. As she did this, I asked her to see the beauty in this wonderful. Heart Support supports the immune, the circulatory and the respiratory systems. More than that, it provides a remarkable mental, emotional, physical and spiritual bridge between human and animal. It may be held for seconds or several minutes.
ONE WEEK LATER
I returned a week later on February 27th, to find Perfect Touch walking better. The right hindleg supported her weight well; the left hind still sprawled on the turns. Yvonne’s work had resulted in the swelling on the neck diminishing to half its original size! The mare was brighter, happier – and so was Yvonne.
In this session, I repeated much of the previous work, but increased the range of neck bending and was able to add simple leg exercises – picking up and circling the feet, which moved the shoulders and hips. Perfect Touch had been too unstable the previous week to do these exercises, so it was obvious that a major increase in balance had been achieved.
In this session, I did more work with the tail including gentle tail-pulling (taking a large handful of hair near the dock and gently pulling to put some traction on the spine, and then slowly releasing the stretch). I added lines of Tarantulas Pulling the Plow from head down the body and hindlegs, and from head down the neck and chest to the front legs.
The mare’s movement improved again, and the body was more flexible and balanced. I taught Yvonne to do the Tarantulas and the leg exercises. She continued to work on the mare daily for the next two weeks, incorporating more hand walking outdoors and in the arena.
I returned for a third visit on March 12th, three weeks after I had first seen Touch. She was moving more gracefully and the swelling on her neck was almost gone. As she became more mobile, she also became more boisterous and pushy. Yvonne had some difficulty getting her to stop in 4-square balance. So in this session, I focused on balance, connection through the body and obedience. We worked in the arena and used the Homing Pigeon and the labyrinth. Perfect Touch wore the figure-8 bandage and quickly learned to control herself in starting and stopping.
Starting and stopping Perfect Touch using the Marshmallow (4) was wonderfully effective. As she paid more and more attention to us, her balance improved. Eventually, we worked her on a single line and she remained balanced, courteous and obedient.
I did a little work on her mouth and encouraged Yvonne to pursue this. In hindsight, I would have included more mouth work because it subtly moves the jaw and muscles in the neck and can also have a very beneficial effect on hindend movement.
Yvonne asked about riding her. I recommended that when she decided the time was right, that she ride the mare in a Lindell and TTEAM Balance Rein. The Lindell would help to keep the head-neck junction open and keep the shoulder movement free. The Balance Rein would support the mare’s balance and the connection between the front end and the hind legs. I suggested that she return to riding very slowly.
Yvonne took several months to bring the mare back to full work. She started with walking using the Lindell and Balance Rein and then added jogging. On the day she asked the mare to canter, she was amazed and delighted to have Perfect Touch move into a slow, steady, balanced canter – the first one under saddle that the mare had ever done!
After recovering from this severe movement and coordination problem, 6-year-old Perfect Touch, grew 3 inches from 14.1hh to 15hh. Yvonne continued with the TTEAM bodywork throughout the recovery period.
A year later, Yvonne reported that she rides Perfect Touch with a D-ring snaffle and often uses the Balance Rein because she and the mare enjoy it. Yvonne says she can put anyone on the mare now and trust her to look after him or her. The children in the barn vie for the privilege of grooming and riding her. She can work Touch’s mouth easily and although the mare is still not very happy about being wormed, it can be done without a fight. Yvonne says that she continues to do TTEAM work on Perfect Touch for several minutes each day because the mare loves it.
The most beautiful change has been in the relationship between Yvonne and Perfect Touch. They love and trust each other. Yvonne sings the mare’s praises constantly and the mare glows with happiness. Yvonne says, “I have to tell you that I am very skeptical about things. TTEAM works. And I now have a horse that I would never sell to prove it.”
As a TTEAM Practitioner, I find this case very satisfactory, not only because it illustrates the effectiveness of TTEAM work, but also because Yvonne did so much of the work to bring the horse back into good condition. My role as Practitioner is to work with the horse, but even more important to support and train the owner in the use of TTouch and TTEAM Ground Work. One of the most important and predictable outcomes of TTEAM work is a growing respect and love between horse and owner, as is illustrated by this story of Yvonne and Perfect Touch.
- A swollen area does not bounce back quickly when pressed. It feels spongy and looks puffy.
2.Dr. Kent Vasko, former Associate Editor of Dressage & CT magazine, wrote a series of articles that appeared in the magazine in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s about damage to the 3rd to 5th cervical vertebrae caused by overbending. This results in the narrowing of the nerve canal and can lead to loss of hindend coordination and front leg proprioception.
3.Heart Support is done in a neutral state, neither sending nor modulating energy and may be performed within or separate from a Therapeutic Touch treatment.
4. The Marshmallow is a way of using the wand in front of the horse as if pulling the animal through water. Moving the wand forward will start the horse walking, and can help increase stride; moving the wand back toward the horse helps to slow her and to stop the animal.