The dressage horse knew he was good, very good. He was the boss in this world, independent, impatient. He was not evil in any way, just very self-confident! He knew the stable guys didn’t know how to handle him. They were glad to get him in and out of the stable and the paddock without having their shoulder joint suddenly pulled out of its socket. The stable owner ran the risk of having her stable hands put out of action. So she took things into her own hands and tied the horse briefly to a post with a lunging rein, whilst bringing some other horses into the paddock. A mistake. The horse, horrified at this indignity, pulled to break away. The lunging rope, stronger than the biomechanical structure of his upper neck, held.
I saw the horse 4 days later, after a vet had diagnosed that nothing was wrong with the upper neck and thereafter the rider had ridden him in a M-Dressage competition. The rider, also a client of mine, described how he continuously tore the reins out of her hands. Despite the discomfort and probable pain, they were still placed with a rosette. This horse, like so many horses, performed his absolute best, under painful conditions, for his rider.
I started, as always, with an energetic massage, something nice to introduce myself and my touch to the horse, as well as to obtain the first information about which body parts required further attention. I completed the left side: first, second and fifth neck vertebrae; seventh neck vertebrae, first rib or thoracic-cervical transition, or all of these; pelvis and flank. I documented this and walked around the head to start the energetic massage on the right side. I stood to the right of his head, and laid my hand on the first vertebrae, the atlas. He immediately laid his jaw on my right shoulder and rested his head there! Hmmm! At first, I thought he was just being cheeky, and gently but firmly removed his resting head from my shoulder and brought my hand back to rest on the first vertebrae. He again, deliberately, laid his head on my right shoulder. Ok, so he wanted something, was trying to show me. My left hand remained in contact with the atlas, my right hand held his nose secure against my shoulder. I broadened my stand to take his weight, and we began to move in a gentle dynamic motion (OB phase 5), a dance together. My right hand then wandered up to his forehead, and my left hand moved to meet it, coming to rest over the top of the atlas. A small compression into the joint between the two, hardly made, more just a thought. I carried the full weight of his gracious head and he let go, chewing, eyes half closed. The middle finger of my left hand wandered again, down a little, to the right side of the occiput-atlas joint, and here the tissue began to work, to relax, to throb under my finger. His body had understood, was beginning to reorganise itself.
His head hung low, eyes almost closed, deeply relaxed, I worked now with the two upper vertebrae, one hand on either side, sandwiching the bone in between, concentrating on the movements that came. The atlas was rotated and tilted, the second vertebrae also rotated. First following the movement in the free direction, and then letting it rebound back, allowing it to find its original position. Then the
treatment of the long neck ligament, as well as the shorter extensions to the lower neck vertebrae; and the back ligament, from the withers to the tail. He stretched and arched his whole neck slowly, deliberately, beautifully, freely. Now he was able to carry his head, to arch his beautiful strong neck, with no pain. There was no need any longer to throw his nose upwards, in an attempt to relieve the tension at the top of his neck, no need to snatch the reins out of the hands of his rider.
I checked his pelvis, there was little movement there, was relatively normal. The ilio-sacral joints were free. The tuber ischia, with focus on the pubis, were grateful of a guiding hand. With my hands on the sacrum, however, I felt the tension, my hands started to shake and the energy from the trauma retained in this body structure began to dissipate. This horse had suffered a shock and the cranial-sacral system was under tension. The Dura Mater, non-elastic, reaching from the occiput, the head, to the sacrum, had been severely strained, transferring the force of the injury of the upper neck vertebrae to the sacrum. Trauma, shock, stress: The iliopsoas muscle as well as the diaphragms would require attention. Easier thought than done! He was not at all happy about letting me put my hand on the inner side of his right back leg, whereas normally this would have been absolutely no problem. Easy does it! With his rider by his head, giving him moral stability, and gently, gently, but with a firm touch, I was able to make contact with the lower end of the iliopsoas muscle with my right hand, my left crossed over to cover the upper end of the muscle. I felt as if I had stuck my fingers in an electric socket, the energy flowed and he relaxed again. The left iliopsoas also reacted well, indicating that the stored-up psychosomatic energy was being released. In order to consolidate his bodily reaction into a state of relaxation, I then treated the six diaphragms: the head basis, the pelvic floor, the upper pelvis, the diaphragm, the heart, and the thoracic-cervical diaphragm, thus helping to reinstitute the longitudinal information and energy flow throughout the body, and connecting with the emotional and mental energetic levels also involved in a traumatic experience. A sandwich treatment of the third, fourth and fifth vertebrae followed to round things off, and I thought I was finished.
During the following conversation with the owner and rider, I received the information that the vet had diagnosed back pain. A quick test confirmed that the horse had pain in the upper thoracic vertebrae on the right side. Whilst continuing to listen to the owner I palpated the area, and after being drawn to a particular spot above the right shoulder blade, let my focus sink into the muscle layers, following the slight movements that came. I could feel the muscle become soft, letting go, under my touch. I palpated the whole of the upper back again, and there was no pain, no sign of irritation from the horse. “How did you do that?!”, came the astounded response from the owner. Sometimes it is just the way it is!
Anna Hayes, Ph.D.