Almost a year after starting to work with Aquiles, my own gelding had a terrible accident that left him unable to be ridden and unsound at all gaits in-hand. Spike fell six times in 20 minutes (he’d tweaked his spinal cord in the first fall under saddle and couldn’t feel his hindquarters, which caused him to fall the other five times). After the sixth fall, he stayed on the ground for two hours without trying to get up. I truly believed while he was lying on the ground not even attempting to get up that I was going to have to put him down when the vet got there. It was absolutely heart-breaking! When he started to nibble on the grass he was lying in, I thought there might be hope, and I resolved to do everything I could to help him – but all he had to rely on for care were me and the vet I used from Tijuana. It turned out he’d thrown his pelvis, sacrum & lumbar spine out of alignment, leading to an impact trauma to his spinal cord which caused his entire hindquarters to be numb for 2 weeks.
After the immediate first aid and a couple weeks of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and supportive care, we gave him 6 weeks of gradually increasing hand-walking to help his mobility and comfort. We then tried joint injections to his lumbo-sacral spine and hips to help the area recover from the trauma of his fall. He responded minimally, but after 2 months of treatment and rest he was still extremely unsound at most gaits, and somewhat unsound at a walk. His “canter” was more of a 4-beat uncoordinated gait somewhere between a trot and canter. From speaking with several vets in the U.S., the overwhelming opinion was that he would never recover sufficiently to be ridden again. The options I was given were grim – retire him to pasture (of which there isn’t any in Mexicali – it’s in the middle of the desert), or euthanize him.
I couldn’t accept that prognosis, so I decided to call the therapist that I’d used in Ohio, and ask for her advice. She told me that it sounded like his pelvis might be out of alignment, and that she knew some techniques that might help him. I agreed to come see her later that month when I would be traveling to her area for the holidays anyway. She showed me how to evaluate a pelvis and correct its alignment – which I did immediately upon my return to Mexico. Where Spike had been completely unsound prior to his adjustment, the next day he actually had a 3-beat canter again! He wasn’t completely sound (his hindquarters and topline had atrophied significantly from disuse since his fall), but he was so much better that I finally felt like there was hope!
With another 4 weeks of careful rehabilitation, stretching, and a gradual return to work, I FINALLY HAD MY HORSE BACK!!! It was the most rewarding thing I’d ever experienced – after all of the stress and grief of trying to bring him back, and thinking that I’d never be able to ride him again, I was so happy when he cantered correctly that I cried! Rehabilitating Spike was what motivated me to return to school to learn as much as I could about physical therapy for animals, and that’s the best decision I’ve ever made. This is the most rewarding job I could ever imagine having.
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