Hey guys it's been a crazy and amazing few weeks. I have officially completed my first 2 weeks of my internship with Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy. Last time I worked with them I was only there for 2 weeks due to other things I had going on. I am so very thankful that they have given me this opportunity to work and learn from them again.
During my first two days on the job I went on a field trip to Fresno to do some FES therapy, Laser therapy, and Salt Vapor therapy. It was interesting to see the culture of a variety of different disciplines from cutting to dressage. The first day we worked on a few western horses getting laser treatment and the salt vapor. At the next barn we did the FES therapy on a horse that when the owner first got it, it could barely walk. As a result of therapy and training that the horse has gone through, it is currently competing in dressage shows. After, we went to another barn for a horse that is being trained in cross country but is sore in the hind end. Most of the treatments that we did were in the sacroiliac area of the horse. The next day we worked on the same dressage horse, a different cross country horse, and to finish the day about 8 barrel racing horses that received a mix of laser treatment and the salt vapor treatment. By this point I was able maintain the salt vapor therapy. Angie (one of the founders of Eclipse) also let me do one of the laser treatments on an SI region. The rest of that week each day was something new. I started doing more activities at the barn and getting up at 6 A.M. to help with the race horses. So far I have been working with two that are preparing to go on the track. One of them is a gelding and has been doing full out runs. The other is a 2 year old filly who is just getting started in her training. I’ve also been put in charge of making sure certain horses get on the walker everyday. This week I got the rare opportunity to see a horse get an MRI (picture below). For this particular case the horse had been abnormally head-shy so the trainer wanted to get it looked at.
The second week i have spent my time mainly at the barn. I’ve been slowly getting more confident working with the racehorses but still have a ways to go. By now I have developed an daily routine. I begin at 6 A.M. at the track helping the trainer with the racehorses, then feeding a mix of grain and supplements. Once those tasks are completed, I put some of the other horses at the ranch on the walker. After that it just kind of depends on the day. This week we got a horse that we’ve been starting a case study with. The story with this one is that he used to be a roping horse and was caught in a trailer fire that burned his back 5-7 years ago. After multiple owners this lady got him and wanted us to see if we could help him. After consulting with the vet we have been putting him on SMZ (sulfamethoxazole / trimethoprim) which is an antibiotic used for treatment of infections. The burn was infected so with a combination of the antibiotics and a sterile washing, we have been treating it everyday this week. Part of the therapy we have been providing for this horse is the laser therapy set on a wound setting. We took pictures everyday and it looked better each treatment session. By the end of the week Angie let me do some laser treatment on it. Also this week I have been washing retired jumpers so that they can remain in good condition during their retirement. It is important to take care of horses at every stage of their life. You can see some of my experiences in the photos below.
These past two weeks have been amazing and such a learning experience. I can’t wait to see what is yet to come. Until next time!
Progress... how do we really measure how one progresses. Is it based on a new skill we learn? Is it based on mastering a skill? Is it a tiny success? Is it a big success? Or is it based on if others notice a difference?
In my eyes, progress is the baby steps we take towards a goal. This could be from a tiny change or a monumental one. When training horses we have to notice the slight changes they make and consider them as progress. For example when teaching a horse to cross over the first sign of progress would be the horse shifting its weight. Same for people; while in training for any activity we have to reward ourselves for the tiny steps we make rather than waiting to reward ourselves for the end result. While riding, our progress can be as small as keeping our heels down or not trying to control the horse with our hands as much.
While taking my Equine Assisted Therapy class at Utah State, I have come to notice this in kids with special needs. For them, their progress is a huge deal while to others it may not be something as big. One of the kids I was working with didn't seem to want to interact with the horse as much. After a while, he felt comfortable enough to brush the horse a couple of times. Later we were able to assist him in leading the horse around the arena through different obstacles. While brushing a horse may not seem like progress to most people, for him it was. People who have disabilities can only handle so much stimulation at a time. Sometimes even touching and looking at the horse at the same time can be too much. This is why I think it would be valuable to everyone to figure out their own definition of progress.
For me I have to realize the small steps before the accomplishment. If I don't, then I start to feel discouraged. Like most people I like seeing the end result. But if I take the time to realize the small acts of progress the result will be that much more grand.
Functional Electrical Stimulation, taking the world by storm. Physical therapy for humans is nothing new. In the equine industry, the world of therapy has advanced since the 1940’s. Linda McGonagle, a physical therapist and a veterinary technician, stated in an article “The field has been around since the 1940s. It's been developing in the U.K. for 30 to 40 years; in the U.S., physical therapists have been working in the animal field for more than twenty years” (Bryant). Physical therapy for animals has become a combination of human physical therapy and veterinary techniques. The goal of physical therapy is to renew function that has been lost in the body. With the advancement of technology in today’s medical field, a new form of therapy is using electrical stimulants. One of the most common forms is Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES).
“Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) has been used extensively over several decades as an effective means to reduce or reverse muscle atrophy and to obtain some functional recovery by rehabilitation strategies for spinal cord injury patients,1-5 including those paraplegics with permanent and complete denervation of the legs (complete Conus and Cauda Equina Syndrome).6-23 The benefits of this technology are being expanded into other areas, and FES has been recently utilized for injury rehabilitation and performance enhancement in horses.24-27” [Ravara].
FES targets deep muscle and tissue to cause strong contractions meant for reducing pain. In a study done by Sheila Schils, she found that FES is proven to be beneficial and safe in the long –term. The Equine treated during the study showed signs of improvement from the treatments and remaining calm during the treatments. It's like a spa day! Vets will often recommend FES to patients who had muscle atrophy, muscle inflammation, scar tissue, and weak muscle or tendons. “The goal is to produce a smooth contraction and relaxation of both superficial and deep muscle groups that mimic a ‘real’ muscle contraction and relaxation cycle (hence producing “functional” movement), which helps damaged sensory nerve and muscle fibers heal, returning the muscle to a healthy state” (Oke).
FES has become more popular in the sport horse industry. With the amount of pressure the equines endure while training and competing they work down their tendons and muscles faster. After an injury, equines can experience muscle tightness and atrophy because when a horse is injured the natural electrical stimulation is disrupted. The three most common types of injuries in performance horses are in the suspensory ligament, the stifle, and sacroiliac damages. During performance or training an equine can create microtears (small rips) on the suspensory ligament which can lead to poor blood flow, inflammation, and strain. The stifle joint is made up of multiple structures where the injuries result from direct trauma. Most dressage and jumping equines will suffer sacroiliac damage in their lower back, causing signs of being “stiffed backed”. There are multiple theories that can help reduce the pain and inflammation. FES has become more popular because it is portable. This means that injuries can be treated at the competition and is comfortable for the equine during a stressful situation. “Many of the injuries encountered in athletic horses are the result of repetitive strain/overuse or speed” (Guelph). Racehorses are prone to ligament injures due to the amount of speed and force their ligaments endure with running at high speeds. It is important to keep updated on these injuries before they get to the point of having to put the equine down. In a study conducted by Cecilia Lönnell, Lars Roepstorff, Elin Hernlund, Caroline Schöön and Agneta Egenvall in the book: “Performance Diagnosis and Purchase Examination of Elite Sport Horses”; they found that injuries are often varied between rider and training conditions. The more the equine is pushed to work the higher the risk of injuries. FES is designed to promote blood flow and simulate the cells within the injury to regenerate the tissue. With time and treatment, the equines can return to training.
FES uses a microprocessor-controlled device to generate electrical impulses to the surface electrodes. These electrodes are placed on pads that sends electrical waves and then is placed on the area where the injury is. The electrodes come in a gel form making it easy to apply. Simulation of the electrodes are measured in volts to produce muscle contractions. The intensity is increased or decreased due to the severity on the injury. After the electrodes are placed on the equine and the microprocessor places the FES will begin to send electrical waves until the machine reads that there is a functional muscle reaction. When the FES machine is set for a higher intensity it is targeting the deeper muscles. With the signals being closer to the natural charges of the body it allows the treatment to be comfortable for the equine. By using the stimulation on different trigger points, it helps repair the sensory and motor responses of the equine. FES has assorted styles, in which can be applied to the equine. One way is by using a giant pad that covers most the lower back targeting those muscles. There is also a smaller pad that can be wrapped around the leg targeting the ligaments. FES is unique in the way it can be combined with acupuncture needles for electroacupuncture therapy. The treatment is one of the few that is modified specifically to each individual equine muscle. The practitioner needs to understand how the electrotherapy works to understand when it is and is not working and when the equine is uncomfortable.
Because FES is still a new part to equine therapy it isn’t a common treatment yet. There have been multiple case studies done with the FES treatment. The majority of them have resulted in recovery within a short time period. As stated earlier, FES targets inflammation, pain, muscle spasms, as well as other symptoms. By sending electrical waves deep to the muscles and tissues so increase stimulation leading to repair. FES is one that while being treated the equine can relax, eat, and drink as long as they don’t move too much while being treated. With performance equines under a lot of stress and training they are more prone to injury. Because of this their injuries have to be monitored and treated with therapy. FES can help the regrowth of the damaged tissues allowing the equine to return to training or to choose a new career path. FES is part of a wide variety of therapeutic treatment and this was one that is becoming well known in the equine industry.
Sorry this was a long post. This was research that I did for a class and I'd thought I should share it because it has been a topic of discussion. I hope you enjoy it!
• Schils, Shelia. Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) in Equine Rehabilitation: Initial Observations (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
• Oke, Stacey. "Equine Functional Electronic Stimulation (FES)." TheHorse.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
• Ravara, Barbara et al. “Functional Electrical Stimulation as a Safe and Effective Treatment for Equine Epaxial Muscle Spasms: Clinical Evaluations and Histochemical Morphometry of Mitochondria in Muscle Biopsies.” European Journal of Translational Myology 25.2 (2015): 4910. PMC. Web.
• Bryant, Jennifer O. "Equine Physical Therapy." TheHorse.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
• Lindner, Arno. “Performance Diagnosis and Purchase Examination of Elite Sport Horses.” Web.
• Guelph, Equine. "Developing the Sport Horse: Common Injuries." TheHorse.com. N.p., n.d. Web.