“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” - Rumi
I met TC following a workshop where I’d crossed paths with his owner, Michelle, and her other horse, Remi. TC is a 16-year-old Paint gelding who lives at Michelle's quaint and lovely private farm in Damascus, MD. He is provided with everything a horse needs to be happy. He is content and peaceful, and he will stay there for the rest of his idyllic life.
So, why am I writing about him??
Two reasons: First, he sustained an injury to the deep digital flexor tendon in his left front leg. This is not an uncommon injury, but is one deserving of attention because it affects horses in all stages of life and fitness, and can be difficult to address. Secondly, he has experienced the gift of unconditional love from Michelle. And, isn’t that what this season is all about? Regardless of our own spiritual or philosophical beliefs, the winter and holidays can be a time of reflection, giving, and gratitude.
Let’s start with the nuts and bolts: the deep digital flexor tendon. For a good description of its anatomy and physiology (form and function), click HERE.
In a nutshell, the DDFT supports and stabilizes the hoof and allows for proper use of the leg (and, therefore, the body). Pretty important! It can be injured traumatically, by conformational flaws, and from sustained hoof imbalance. Signs of injury include swelling, intermittent or consistent lameness, “pointing” of the foot, and resistance to standing on the toe. Diagnosis is made by ultrasound or MRI imaging.
As far as the healing process goes, rest is usually the first line of recommended treatment, along with physical therapy and corrective farriery, to re-align the skeleton and take pressure and strain off of the tendon. This takes time, of course. Steroid injections are not generally helpful, but PRP (platelet-rich-plasma) injections can be.
In terms of bodywork, I find that a combination of passive range-of-motion exercises (for mobility, flexibility, and balance), acupressure (for pain relief and general well-being), and cold laser therapy (combatting inflammation and pain) generally work well, in order to expedite the healing process and support the body in its innate ability to recover.
It’s also important to remember that sustained pain in the lower leg and foot will always translate to dysfunction of other parts of the body. The only way for a horse to relieve discomfort in the lower limb is to use the other 3 legs for support. This obviously creates asymmetry in the body. For a front limb, a horse will also “shrug” the shoulder to take weight off of the offending foot; this creates tension, compression, and resistance above the leg (elbow, shoulder, back, neck, etc).
TC is undergoing methodical, corrective trimming by a great farrier, and Michelle is dedicated to providing him with manual pain relief and an exercise regimen that suits him (body and mind). He is not a horse who’s happy “doing nothing”, so he ponies children and goes for walks at his leisure. He lives on good footing and he is looked over and tended to every day.
This has been the case for the last few months, ever since he was returned to Michelle after several years away, during which time he worked as a riding and therapy horse. She’d owned TC since he was a baby and gifted him to a friend at 8 years of age, with the promise that she would take him back if ever the need arose. And, that’s exactly what she did, no questions asked.
She selflessly made room in her farm (and her pocketbook!) for him. She would’ve made room in her heart, too, but there was no need – his space there had been reserved long ago.
The greatest act of loving kindness is to offer ourselves.
We may profess to do this. We may accept another despite differences or perceived flaws…but acceptance and love are two very different things. How often do we truly love without condition?
It’s a conscious choice to continually evolve with someone else, to meet every single day as if it were the first (or the last). It’s an exercise in trust to allow our hearts to inform our minds and behavior.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been loved unconditionally. Thanks be to those that welcomed us home this way!