Sudden onset of stringhalt in a 3 year old mare.
Presented in one hind leg. Professional diagnoses was stringhalt due to ingestion of false dandelion. Upon initial evaluation, the mare also presented with atrophy in her shoulders, a locked up neck and a twist in her spine.
This was confirmed in a movement analysis where she was unable to correctly mobilize her shoulders. Due to the lack of correct mobility and strength in her front end, she had begun to misuse her hind end by chronically “fishtailing” around her front end any time she needed to turn.
Overall, if I wasn’t looking at her stringhalt and simply reading what her body was showcasing, I would say that the mare is suffering from thoracic sling failure and a spinal twist. Both of which can present as different neurological symptoms.
So, that’s how I proceeded.
Treatment: Full body manual nerve impingement release and myofascial release, followed by the Balance Through Movement Method pillars for spinal integrity.
Result: Activation of her thoracic sling and mobilization of her neck, shoulders and spine. Movement analysis showcased a significant improvement in soundness. Every time we were able to activate her shoulders and lead her body into alignment through correct movement, her stringhalt symptoms completely went away. The moment she went back to her “neutral” her stringhalt would come back.
It was beautifully specific.
It’s important to note that you can do all the bodywork in the world, but if the body is atrophied and therefore incapable of holding itself in correct integrity, it requires specific physical therapy to restore balance before “neutral” will be healthy.
I tell this story because it is not an isolated situation. And because of the nature of the disability, it’s incapable of being left up for debate.
Body in alignment - Sound.
Body out of alignment - Unsound.
A lack of correct spinal integrity causes a long list of symptoms:
Catastrophic bucking fits
Failing manual neuro exams
Excess Stifle and hock loading
And likely more that I haven’t discovered!
Medical suggestions for stringhalt per UC Davis - Surgical resection of part of the muscle and tendon (myotenectomy) of the lateral digital extensor at the level of the hock may alleviate signs of chronic stringhalt, but the success rate is variable.
Even if it was something that couldn’t be alleviated without surgery, the best thing we can do to set the body up for success is to look at and treat the “whole horse” versus simply the disability presented. So that’s what we did.
Maybe it was just the spinal twist, and she didn’t really ingest that much toxicity. Maybe she did and it just made her nerves hyper reactive and her spine needs to be held to the standard that all horses should be at. I really have no idea
What I do know, is that more often than not, biomechanical failure is the root cause of most lameness.
The moral of the story is, if we’re going to treat lameness, we need to start looking at supporting the entire system instead of just putting on a bandaid for the lameness that is presented.
Her 2-week update showcased massive improvement. In the same day as her update, we did the same protocol on a horse that was diagnosed as neurological, and by the end of the session she was also sound.
Don’t give up.
Image source: https://ceh.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/stringhalt-equine-reflex-hypertonia