Improving Recovery Rates At Vet Checks

Improving Recovery Rates At Vet Checks

We have heard of the great results that TTEAM members on endurance ride pit crews have been able to accomplish. This TTEAM magic has been given credit to many a win by endurance competitors, and even said to have saved lives in colic, tying-up and exhausted horse syndrome cases. I wanted to learn what I could of this seemingly secret formula. What could I do to increase recovery rates, help my horse rest and eat better, and reduce painful injuries?

Working The Ears
Ear work is said to be one of the most effective things you can do to help lower the pulse and respiration rates of your horse in a short period of time. There are several ACTRA members who already put this technique into practice. Stand with the left hand on the noseband of the halter, the right hand works the horse's left ear, switch hands as you change ears. Start with your hand at the base of the ear, gently, but with a firm contact, pull the ear from the base to tip, pressing the edges of the ear together. Be sure the crown piece of the halter is pushed back slightly, so it does not interfere with the ear. Pull the ear as if it was laying back towards the horse's neck and you can also bring the ear forward, but slightly out to the side.

The tips of the ears have a number of acupressure points for shock and stomach pain. Which is why TTEAM members work the ears, when the horse has colic. There are also other acupressure points which assist in bringing the horse's body back into balance, thus helping it to recover from stress.

If your horse does not like to have his ears touched, start by using a damp cotton sock, or washcloth over your hand. If you work your horse's ears at home several times, so you can practice, you will find that he responds more quickly, when you work him in a competitive situation (the pulse comes down quicker). You will feel more confident with the procedure as well. It is said that if you could only do one thing on your horse to help recovery, it would almost always be working the ears.

Lick of the Cow's Tongue
This touch is said to be wonderful to use on a tired horse. It helps to increase circulation and because it is relaxing, horses tend to eat and sleep better in an unfamiliar environment with its use. This move is particularly good on a hot day at a vet check in an endurance ride, during the ten minute pause on the endurance phase of a 3-Day Event, after a hard, not pleasure ride or at the end of a long day at a horse show. IT is easier to do if the horse is wet or you can use a wet, but well-wrung out, cotton sock. The sock is easier to use than a cloth. With your fingers slightly apart and gently curved, place your hand (fingers pointing away from your body) under the horse's belly just past the mid-line, slide your fingers across the belly with a slight lifting motion. As you start to come up onto the barrel, rotate your hand so your fingers turn upwards. Continue across the hair completing the motion as you cross over the spine. The contact is with the heel of the hand and the tips of the fingers.

Your other hand should rest lightly on the horse and you must remain balanced over the balls of your feet. When the motion comes from your feet rather than just using your arm, you will tend to take deeper, slower breaths. The horse's response will dictate the amount of pressure you use. If he shows discomfort, lighten the pressure. You can also use the Lick of the Cow's Tongue across the shoulder, going across the hair from the point of the shoulder, and across the hair on the hindquarter.

Raising The Back
This movement, in combination with the belly lifts, can work wonders on a sore backed horse. After the first day of a two day ride, one rider's horse near fell to his knees when his back was examined by the vet. The rider, I knew had some TTeam training. I suggested the back exercises. The improvement was amazing, for the horse competed another 25 miles, the next day, with no sign of back pain.

Stand facing the horse's barrel. Your fingers are spread apart and the tips are curved up. Start under the horse's belly just over the mid-line and 'rake' your fingers across the bottom of the belly bringing your fingers up to a height just above that of the horse's elbow. Start out with a gentle 'rake' so you don't startle the horse, but you will find that with most horses you will use quite a firm pressure. Besides the back raising you will usually see the back fill out on either side of the spine. Do this from both sides of the horse, starting just behind the elbow.

Belly Lifts
The difference between the belly lifts and the back lifts is that, with the belly lifts the intention is to support the belly, taking the downward pressure temporarily off the back. With the back lifts you are asking the horse to bring up its own back. Belly lifts can be done in several ways. You can do them with two people (one on each side of the horse), holding hands under the belly or by using a folded towel, wide girth or surcingle. When using your hands allow as much flat surface as possible to lay against the horse's belly, be sure to remove any rings that might poke the horse. The preferred method is to use a folded towel whenever possible, because the pressure stays more even and it is easier on the people's backs.

Starting just behind the front legs, gently lift the horse's abdomen. Hold that position anywhere from 10 to 45 seconds depending on the horse. Then SLOWLY release the pressure. The slow release is of utmost importance in getting the desired effect. If you can make the release twice as long as the lift, that would be ideal. Be sure and use your legs, not just your back to lift If your horse objects, lift less until you can just feel the downward pressure of the belly. Move your hands or towel six to eight inches towards the hindquarters and repeat the procedure. Continue until you are as close to the flank as is comfortable and safe. The belly lifts can then be repeated three or four times starting each time at the elbow. When you are alone, you can use your arm from the elbow to the hand to do a one man belly lift. Be sure to use your legs rather than your back and shoulders to lift.

Tail Work
Working the tail will relax the back and hindquarters and is practical in terms of preparing the horse for a thermometer and to be handled around the hindquarters safely by strangers. Work your horse's tail at home, before doing it in a new place. Stand off to the side of the horse's hindquarters and take a few minutes using the Raccoon Touch (very small light circles with the tips of the fingers) along the tailbone and down the buttocks before picking up the tail. If your horse is not clamping his tail down, pick up the tailbone with one hand supporting under the tailbone and the other hand holding towards the bottom of the tailbone making a question mark curve. Lifting and slightly pushing towards the backbone, circle the tail 3 or 4 times in each direction.

If your horse really clamps his tail when your start to touch it, spend more time doing the Raccoon Touch on the hindquarters. As you start to work the tail, gently pull the hair at the top of the tail, and then instead of putting your hand under the tailbone, take a large clump of hair on top of it. Lift the tailbone with the hair and make a few circles to accustom the horse to the feeling.

To pull the tail, carefully stand behind your horse and slide your hands down the tailbone so one hand is above the other. Slowly rock your weight back, feeling for the connection through the spine as you pull. Hold for the count of about 6 and then SLOWLY release back to the original position. This type of tail pull gives a gentle stretch to the spine and is very relaxing to the horse. If your horse has a very loose connection when you pull back on the tail (it will feel like the tail is attached by a loose rubber-band), DO Not Pull This Type of Tail. Instead use the question mark position with the tail curved. Besides making circles with the tail, gently pull back with the tail curved and then push the tailbone towards the spine.

Python Lifts
The python lifts are a good way to increase circulation and help the muscles relax. Start with your hands on wither side of the horse's leg, just below the shoulder. Using both hands lift the skin and muscle just enough to lightly support the muscle. Hold for about 4 seconds, SLOWLY return to the starting position and then release. You can do this down the front and back legs. On the back legs, it may not feel as though your get any lift because the muscle is so tight. Instead of trying to lift more, lift less in those areas and it will still have a positive effect. Your can also use the Raccoon Touch on the legs particularly around the fetlock joints to increase circulation and help prevent and reduce filling in the legs.

Once you have practiced these techniques at home, you can go over your horse in about 5 to 10 minutes, or by just using the ear work and back raising and a few Lick of the Cow's Tongues, when time is limited. Many people have found these methods helpful in lowering pulse and respiration, and alleviating and preventing sore muscles. In cases when a horse begins to dehydrate, the TTEAM methods have been successful in stimulation eating, drinking and gut sounds.

Ear Work

c)2001 by Karen Murray. All rights reserved.
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