Moonsong Highlight: Banc

 “Practice puts brains in your muscles.” – Sam Snead

It’s Banc! Banc and his devoted rider Erin are on an exciting and very promising journey together…but it wasn’t always that way! To say that Erin and her mother Karen have invested tremendously into this OTTB’s physical and emotional well-being would be the understatement of the century. An abundance of patience, intention, tenacity, and kindness have gotten Banc and Erin to where they are today, cleaning up as an accomplished Training and Prelim eventing pair.

When I first met Banc, he had a history of back pain, generalized sensitivity, and reactivity at and around the SI (sacroiliac) joint. He was also frequently nervous and distracted and had some anticipatory behaviors under saddle. Previously he’d responded positively to GI protectants, magnesium supplements, chiropractic, and SI injections, but Erin was hoping for something different, effective, and sustainable. She committed to Banc’s bodywork with curiosity and dedication. What an incredible difference it’s made!!

Many horses that I get to meet have known discomfort in the sacroiliac area, and pain there can (of course) present behaviorally. Horses do all they can to communicate nonverbally with us; it’s our job to sensitize ourselves to them…not the other way around! Physically, the question usually becomes whether the root problem is with the SI itself, or if it’s (more commonly) originating elsewhere.

In Banc’s case, we found substantial reactivity near what is known as the “iliopsoas junction”, which is part of the psoas muscle group. For a *very* comprehensive explanation of this (complete with diagrams, descriptions, and even videos!) click here. Trust me, it’s worth it to take a peek!

This area of the body is interesting, in that injury here can manifest in vague ways at first, mimicking many other problems, including SI dysfunction. See the chart below for the “why” behind this. The group’s 3 main muscles connect the trunk to the hind end, flexing the hips and pelvis, and allowing a horse to engage the hindquarters and maintain posture…PRETTY IMPORTANT JOBS, I’d say!!

The psoas group can be injured or strained for many reasons, including: falling or becoming cast, exercising without proper warm-up, working in deep or very uneven footing, or any sudden loss of balance. Once muscles here are injured, signs to look for include:

-asymmetry of the pelvis as viewed from above or behind the horse

-crooked tail carriage

-exaggerated hock action and/or intermittent hind end lameness

-loss of muscle tone in the hind end (“A-framed” appearance)

-tension over the hips and lumbar (lower) back

-horse becoming “upside down” or “ewe-necked” (hollow in the mid-back, overdeveloped in the underneck, and wasting in front of the withers)

-head tilt and/or pain at the upper neck and poll from compensatory actions

-lack of impulsion, particularly in the trot (rider feeling “twisted” in the saddle) and canter (horse preferring one lead over another)

-changes in exercise tolerance and temperament (anxiety, reactivity, naughtiness)

The good news? Relief is possible. Work in this area takes time and requires patience, exactness, and regularity. Luckily for Banc, Erin was on-board with his plan and has worked with him DAILY prior to their early-morning training sessions. I might add, this is in addition to her full-time college, work, and commute schedule! We can all take a page out of that inspiring book! The result? A more comfortable, more functional, and happier Banc…and a deepening of his already wonderful bond with Erin through the experience of bodywork.

In bodywork, as it is with so many things, practice makes perfect. Here’s to a future of positive experiences for this endearing pair. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for them, and so glad to know them both!!