Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lilly Gets A Massage

My saddle came on Friday, but it was such a busy day that I didn't have time to do much with it except open the box, caress it, and confess my love for it. And did you know that you're supposed to coat the thing in oil before using it? So Saturday morning I ran out and found some Pessoa oil, coated it, and now I need to let it soak in for 24-48 hours. Hopefully I can ride in it tomorrow. :)

One more thing before I get to the massage... I've been working Lilly in the round pen trying out all the different methods to get her to WALK when I politely ask her to. Yesterday I free longed her and used the turns to make her change direction when she wouldn't walk. Well, Lilly thinks she's smart, and she has this whole round pen thing figured out.

She doesn't like going around to the right, so that's the way I've been working her the most. She started off walking and then proceeded to trot as she always does. I asked her to walk and she ignored me, so I used my dressage whip and made her change directions. Now she's trotting the other direction, so I ask her to walk again... she ignores me and I have her change direction. We did this a few times until she finally walked going to the left. So I tell her she's a good girl and let her walk around for a while.

Going nicely to the left isn't what we need to work on, though, so I ask her to change directions back to the right. She starts trotting again, I ask her to walk, she ignores me, we change directions. We played this game a few more times and she decides to walk to the left.

I let her walk for a bit, turn her back to the right, she starts to trot, we change directions back to the left, and she walks. So she's figured out that if she trots to the right, I'll have her change directions, and as long as she's walking, she can keep going to the left.

I don't know why she just can't cooperate.

Moving on to the massage. The message therapist, I'll refer to her as "V", had requested that I withhold food from Lilly for at least 30 minutes before she arrived. Our appointment was at 10:30, so I brought Lilly in at around 9:50, and groomed her to pass the time. V didn't actually show up until 11:05, so Lilly had been standing in the cross ties for over an hour without any food, and no cookies (the horror!), so she was a little irritated from standing around for no apparent reason.

V took notes as I went over the extensive history regarding Lilly's medical issues. Yes, she had to flip over her paper... (normally I would insert an 'LOL' there, but it really isn't funny) Once we were done with that, V got to work. Lilly didn't know what to think at first and was looking here and there, not really paying attention. V wanted me to keep the lead rope slack and let Lilly do what she wanted to do, but it was driving me crazy.

We didn't really see a reaction from her until V started working on her neck. About a hand's length up from Lilly's withers she was very tight and sore. When V was working that area, Lilly pinned her ears, stomped her back foot, and swished her tail. We only got that reaction on Lilly's right side, though, which is good because V said it is most likely muscular in nature and not skeletal (which would require another visit by the chiropractor).

V said Lilly's 'badonkadonk' was also very tight and sore and while I could tell Lilly was trying to be a good girl, V ran out of time and Lilly let her know she was done back there. She never did anything bad, but she kept moving away and stomping her feet. V said if Lilly is uncomfortable or anticipating pain, the massaging isn't going to do her any good, so she switched to the other side.

Lilly's girth area on her left side caused her some discomfort as well as her hindquarters on that side, but we didn't have the reactions we did on the right side. Lilly did a lot of licking her lips throughout the process, although I never really saw any signs from her that she was enjoying what was going on. She did attempt to groom me a few times when V was working on her back, but she loves a good scratch there so I think it was more related to that than the massaging itself.

Overall, V said Lilly was a good candidate for massage therapy because she found her to be extremely tense and tight and thinks the MT could definitely benefit her in a lot of different ways. When I asked her about ulcers, she gave me the usual "I'm not a vet" speech, but pretty much said she'd be surprised if Lilly didn't have them because of the stall rest and the tension in her body. She also didn't work much on Lilly's belly area because Lilly showed a lot of discomfort there. V said she wouldn't want people poking at her belly either, but future sessions will incorporate that area a little more once she's used to the procedure and begins to relax more.

I'm going to work on those few problem areas until our next massage, so hopefully it goes better the second time around. I'm going to do some research on ulcers and determine if it's okay to treat horses as if they have them, or if she needs to be scoped first. I'm not sure if the vet would recommend scoping her just because, or if it's really necessary, but I want to be a bit more informed before I call to talk to her.

I'm going to adjust her supplements and perhaps replace her Ultra-Elite Digest with SmartGut... and I'm considering adding SmartCalm to see if it will help her relax.

Maybe then she'll walk when I ask her to..?


  1. When Junebug had his massage/chiro appointment he started out very cranky because all the other horses had be let outside without him. He started out basically trying to get away from her but by the end he was so relaxed he was practically asleep. And he isn't really a fan of being touched anywhere but his mouth.

    Have you considered doing chiro, too?

  2. That's the reaction I was hoping Lilly would have, but it wasn't even close. V even said she was going softer on Lilly than she does most horses...

    Lilly has been adjusted twice, but her last adjustment was August of 2008. The first time she had her TMJ adjusted, one vertebrae, and her pelvis. The second time she adjusted her TMJ and a vertebrae and we called it good. My chiropractor adjusts more than that on me! It felt like the chiropractor had to really search for something to adjust, so I didn't feel like Lilly got a whole lot out of the experience.

    Granted that was 3 years ago, so I'm open to having her adjusted again if she needs it.

  3. Smart (but opinionated lol) Pony! Learning she can have her way in the roundpen. Ive never had a problem with a horse with too much go, so I really cant give any words of advice...wish I could.

    Im glad you had her looked at by the MT. That same spot on her neck is the area where I have been working on Milo as well (as well as the shoulders, back, and hip). Hopefully you can keep incorporating the small exercises until your next session with V. Even something quite small Sarah showed me for that neck spot has helped him release in the last two weeks. My suggestion is to work on those areas after riding, when the muscles are loosened up better. I also find that after a ride Milo is paying much more attention to me and thinking about working, versus when I first put him in the crossties. Not only is he thinking about releasing, but his body is warmed up and ready to release some tension too. Just a thought.

  4. Oh oh, and Im SUPER excited about the saddle for you! Wish mine were here already!!

  5. Lilly has been such a challenge for me, and continues to make a fool of me! LOL

    And thank you for the suggestion about waiting until after I ride! I can see quite a few benefits to that, so that's when I'll work on her. I was worried about doing it wrong but V said as long as I do it lightly I should be good. Hopefully it will help her.

    It was killing me to wait 4 days for my saddle, so I can imagine what you're going through! Hopefully the time passes quickly and you have yours soon!

  6. YAY for the massage.

    I have this coming Sunday off(ssshhhh don't tell anyone) if you want me to bring my western saddle out and fit it on her. We can also play in the roundpen some and work on that broke/trained horse stuff.

    Personally I think there are some great ways to test and see if a horse might have ulcers BEFORE paying for a scope. We suspected my sister's mare had ulcers so we stopped her grain altogether and started feeding her alfalfa hay when the other horses were being grained. Alfalfa calms the stomach. We fed her this for a few days and then would give her a flake right before they were grained. She put on over 50lbs in less than a week and stopped looking so gangly just from her stomach settling down. Now we don't have problems. I don't think she had a very severe case though. I have had luck in the past with "healing" them without meds though.

  7. RE the massage - do you do stretches with Lilly? I've found that doing stretch work before and after a ride can really help with overall soreness and flexibility. My chiro/MT taught me a number of different flexes that take maybe 5 minutes to do (total). And, my guys often self-adjust when they're stretching! Drop me a line off-line if you want details.

  8. Yay for your saddle!
    As for the round penning, have you tried this? Ask her to walk to the right, she says no, so then have her change direction to the left, but then after only a few steps (So she knows she did do what you wanted, a change of direction) turn her back the way you want her, the right. Ask her to walk, she says no? Rinse repeat. Thats what I'd try next! If that doesnt work you may have to try with the line again so you can reinforce your 'walk' signal.

    Ive never had my horse massaged. Heck, IVE never had one, I hope she likes her next session better!

  9. Double A and jenj, I sent you both emails! (Thanks!)

    Britnie, I sort of tried your method... towards the end I was giving her just enough time to walk so she knew walk was what I wanted, but each time I turned her back to the right she would trot. Perhaps I'll just have to put her back on the longe line like you said and go from there.

  10. Very cool!

    IIRC, it's fine to treat horses for ulcers without scoping them. Definitely look it up for yourself, though - I don't even trust my memory! :)