Saving Chaco - Gelding Scars & Adhesions Release

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Lynda Zimmerman has journeyed through the joy of unprecedented four successive Paso Fino Horse Assoc. High Point Endurance Trail Horse awards (2015- 2018), and the anguish of mysterious behavioral issues with her beloved Paso Fino, Chaco. With the help of dedicated equine health professionals, she has found her way back to the ultimate success of having a happy, healthy horse. Read on for Lynda’s eye-opening experience with treating and releasing gelding scar tissue and adhesions.

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Meet Chaco

Chaco flew down the trail, cantering smoothly at almost full speed, ahead of the group of riders. A steady rain began just before our 25-mile Limited Distance (LD) event at 6:30 a.m. but ended by the time we finished the first loop (16 miles). Chaco hates rain on his face, but that didn't deter him. He was all "GO!" and led in first place the entire ride. He loved running up and down the hilly, rocky kettle moraine trails in southern Wisconsin; the trails were in great shape. His top speed was 17.8 mph and the average was 7.8 for the first loop. The second loop had a new single track segment winding through woods and dripping bushes, which we both enjoyed. It doesn't get much more FUN than that for us, even though we were both soaked on the first loop!

Chaco is a pinto Paso Fino and does very well for his breed in Endurance, but he had a difficult time just getting to the starting line last year.

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A little rain doesn't hold Chaco back from doing what he loves!

Finding the Cause of Distress

Chaco experienced extreme back pain under saddle the first year I had him (2016), but it wasn’t identified as such for almost a year. I and others thought it was a training issue. He bolted with me the second time I rode him here in Minnesota. After going back to some remedial training, I tried to compete with him that fall. He bolted four times at one ride when I pulled out before anyone got hurt. He would work himself into a frothy sweat and just quiver.

Ride vets could find nothing wrong with his back, hips or legs. A massage therapist found nothing that significant, and an equine lameness expert found nothing and noted anxiety as the potential culprit. Another vet wanted to do a $3,000 spinal injection with a 12” needle in an experimental study!

I tried all sorts of feeding regimens and consulted various experts, thinking he might have some kind of nutrition deficiency. His saddle fit checked out fine, but I couldn’t ride him for even 15 minutes in an arena without him shaking, lurching and jerking in pain spasms. Everyone recommended getting rid of him one way or another before I got hurt.

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I couldn't bear the thought of having to give up my Chaco.

I tried selling him, then donating him, but he was unrideable and dangerous, which people didn’t seem to believe. I couldn’t in good conscience let them take him as-is, concerned he would hurt someone.

But Chaco was good on the ground for
me and beautiful; he had so much potential
if only I could find the source of the problem.​

He would free lunge around the arena doing jumps and pirouettes, but under saddle was starkly different. I ground drove him around the arena to see if he could drive a cart and promoted him for sale as a driving prospect. Even that didn’t work, although he picked up the driving cues very well. Finally, as a last resort, I feared I would have to put him down, which broke my heart.
Last Chance Effort

As a last effort, I contacted a horse psychology friend in Wisconsin who knew a problem horse that an equine osteopath helped using manual palpations. I called her and she came over with a recommended veterinarian. The equine osteopath examined him and from my description thought it sounded like he had pain from gelding scar adhesions. The only way to know for certain was to do the release procedure. I had nothing to lose but a modest fee - this was his last chance.

The veterinarian sedated him and performed the rectal procedure (not a surgery) right there at the barn. We wouldn’t know for weeks if it worked. I agreed to give him to the end of Autumn for recovery. Chaco had adhesions for so long that his organs and ligaments were out of position; he needed three months of stretching and rehab to get everything back in place and keep it there.

That was mid-April 2017, almost a year to the date I had bought him. I did the rehab and exercises faithfully according to instructions. The equine osteopath came for follow-up bodywork treatments and to check his progress, and I was finally able to start light riding in mid-June.

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I couldn't wait to get back out riding, but I knew Chaco's health and happiness came first.

Chaco's Recovery

The first thing I had to deal with once I started riding him again was his memory of the pain. He flinched and squirmed when I tried to mount, then refused to move, obviously expecting it to hurt. I was disheartened thinking the procedure had failed but took baby steps with lots of encouragement and reminders that, “It doesn’t hurt anymore, Chaco.”

He also had anxiety from his previous timid owner who always fed him calming supplements before riding, and who must have ridden only in good weather as Chaco was afraid of the wind, rain, and being in the open. If I barely moved in the saddle, he startled. He also had been spoiled and could be a bully when not getting his way.

Chaco had been trained only to walk for this person, so he got overly excited and nervous about gaiting or any pace under saddle; he’d been with this person throughout his youth (ages 3-9). He had a lot of issues, but once the pain was gone, we could work on overcoming the behaviors and fears with patient, slow progression. We did one thing at a time, including learning to ride in a group, following and leading.

On an early spring trail ride the following year (2018, two years post-purchase), Chaco deliberately walked through every puddle and tasted the snowmelt, focusing on the environment. He relaxed and actually enjoyed the trail; I cried. He made so much progress in simply becoming a normal horse! The Gelding Scar Release procedure literally saved his life.

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The Gelding Scar Release procedure truly did save Chaco and allowed him to love life again!

Success Story

Last year, Chaco had his first full season of distance competition (2018). It was a rocky experience, and he had a lot to learn (and I had to learn how to manage his energy and strong will), but he earned High Point Endurance Horse for PFHA nationally! He’s still learning, and this past weekend we had our most fun competition yet. Chaco went out at a canter at the head of the LD group, and we led the entire way both loops.

He was flying, but not running from
pain and not frantic out of control
just running for the sheer joy of going.

We finished in third place because two Arabians came in right behind us and pulsed down ahead of him. But it was a great ride, and I was so proud of how far he’d come. We also did an obstacle clinic the day before, and he did very well with all the obstacles that pertained to trail riding, including stepping through a box of plastic bottles and water jugs and standing still while I threw a lariat over my head. This was a far cry from not being able to move my hands or shift my weight in the saddle without him flinching when I first brought him home.

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Me and Chaco doing what we love - cantering down the trail!

Lessons Learned

We’ve been together for three years now (2019), and Chaco has been a miracle story!

I’ve read that as many as 30% of
geldings
may be dealing with some
pain related to gelding scar adhesions.​

Some handle the pain, but others, like Chaco, experience intense, excruciating pain that just gets worse over time. Mysterious, unidentified pain develops at about age 8-10 which can prompt bad behaviors (bolting, bucking, etc.), often incorrectly attributed to training or nutrition issues, as I first surmised.

This pain is not necessarily the result of an incorrect gelding procedure. When the tubes are cut, they retract into the body and stick to other fascia and ligaments because they are wet. As the horse ages, the adhesions prevent normal movement and restrict or pull on fascia/ligaments. To correct the problem, the veterinarian reaches through the colon to release the scars and adhesions with her fingers.

She can also tell if the organs are out of place. It’s an amazing procedure and the two women work together. The equine osteopaths cannot do the procedure themselves and the vet relies on the osteopath’s bodywork assessment. In my experience, most riders and many vets have not heard of this condition or procedure.

Chaco is still learning about long distance riding, but he’s making good progress towards reaching his potential! This would never have been possible without the Gelding Scar Release procedure. More information is available on the website for Worldwide Alliance of Equine Osteopaths (WAEO) or on The Osteopathic Vet Facebook page.

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The Gelding Scar Release procedure gave Chaco a second chance that I will be forever thankful for!

~Lynda Zimmerman
 
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