“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” – Muhammad Ali
Big, beautiful Sadie…5 years old and growing, in every possible way. Her owner and trainer Katie deserves a gold star for patience, bravery, honesty, and grit. Who knew that being a public school teacher (and mother of young children) would lend itself so well to equestrian life?! HA!
I’ll say this right from the start: Sadie is adorable and talented, but she’s not easy. She’s huge, athletic, and opinionated…traits that in combination can either mystify or exhaust a person…or both! She is learning the ropes in the dressage arena, where she scores very well in-hand and commands attention due to her natural beauty and movement. Her personality is inquisitive and dynamic and sometimes downright hilarious. There are times when she seeks what most 5-year-old horses do: proximity, play, recognition, and reassurance.
And then...then here are times when she becomes a velociraptor. We’ve all known horses like this, and we’ve all known people like this, too! We love them despite their unpredictability. Even if we can’t temper their behavior, we can manage the way we respond to it. And let’s face it…we’ve all been *that* person more than a few times in our own lives, too! The only path through these overwhelming situations is lit by an empathetic heart.
That’s just what Katie has, and Sadie is a lucky gal for that. Instead of merely trying to “train it out”, Katie has systematically enlisted the help of several professionals, to try to uncover reasons for Sadie’s intermittent difficulties.
One thing we can say for Sadie is that she is a great communicator! It was clear in her bodywork sessions that she had discomfort at the lower back, loin, and flank area, particularly on the left side of her body. There are many structures in this part of the body that can cause the type of reactivity she demonstrated. Teasing them apart can require intuitive reasoning and, often, collaboration.
As it turned out, Sadie’s left ovary was ultrasounded and found to be significantly larger than the right, with multiple follicles. Most of us ladies know first-hand what ovarian pain feels like (girl’s got CRAMPS!). Now imagine feeling that way while wearing tack and carrying a rider (translation: skinny jeans on Thanksgiving and a backpack full of shotputs). Butterflies and rainbows? Probably not.
For information on ovaries in mares, click here.
And, for information on how the ovaries and hormones can affect behavior, click here.
There are many ways to address estrous idiosyncrasies, pain at and around the reproductive organs, and resulting emotional disturbances. From a bodywork perspective, here are two things to try:
1. Simply rest your hands gently at the loin area (orange circle below), on both sides of your horse’s body. Allow plenty of time here, and wait for signs of release: lowering of the head, blinking, licking/chewing, yawning/sighing, changes in temperature, etc.
Aside from the physical proximity to the internal reproductive organs (ovaries in mares), this is the location of the 2nd, or “sacral” chakra, which energetically governs sexuality and emotionality.
2. Find the Liver 3 acupressure point on your horse’s hind leg (see below). Be careful as you touch here, as mares in-season and geldings post-castration can be very sensitive in this spot! Either rest your hands here, gently massage, or apply gentle, direct pressure to the point. As above, wait for signs of release.
Liver 3 is associated with urogenital issues, moodiness, fertility, and estrous regulation.
Some other considerations:
-“Mare Magic”, (or alternatively, generic dried raspberry leaf) can help with physical and emotional discomfort related to the reproductive organs of both mares and geldings.
-Chasteberry (or Chaste tree berry) extract can help regulate estrus and therefore decrease likelihood of follicles and excessive ovarian swelling by acting on the pituitary gland.
-Regumate (altronegest) is a prescription, progesterone-like compound that in high enough doses suppresses estrus in mares and can prevent unwanted symptoms.
For now, Sadie is finding some relief and working hard on the things she *can* control. We are all patiently awaiting (and willing!) her evolution into an even more perfect version of her already perfect self. So much ahead for this beautiful girl and her Katie!