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Thursday, 2 July, 2020

Horse well-being and health after a long period of inactivity: my mare is particularly moody, what can I do?

Sexual hormones excesses often bother mares, not only morally but also physically. They lead to mood swings, small colic, cervical, back, and lumbar muscle tensions. Besides, sometimes, training sessions or intense emotions can induce stress and can even trigger Myositis.

Discover this particularly unsteady mare’s case and solutions to relieve her tensions in this article.

1. Introduction: consultations’ process

The following article has been written by the veterinary doctor Eva Jonville. To understand it better, she explains her consultations’ process in the next paragraph:

Acupuncture is part of my work approach and is central during my consultations, built over a Traditional Chinese Medicine method. Then, I use osteopathy or Natural Medicine, in a complementary way, to evict musculoskeletal-type structural focuses when necessary.

Finally, depending on the problem, after a session using acupuncture needles, I realize a Chinese pharmacopeia treatment, that allows the acupuncture needles’ effects to last in time, avoiding too many consultations.

Ma Niu I Fang, 1399
Ma Niu I Fang, 1399

The diagnosis is therefore done and refined according to 3 methods:

  • Veterinary,
  • Traditional Chinese,
  • Osteopathic (structural, fascial, neuro-vascular, craniosacral...)

The mutual use of these technics allows to have maximum results, the goal is to give horses an Integrative Medicine for a complete follow-up, that is also complementary and coherent.

This being said, there is not only one type of consultation: each horse guides me towards his needs, which are also my limits not to break the dynamic that is settled between the horse and me. It is about being precise in the choice of information given to the technic used.

Therefore, the method of treatment that is chosen depends on a precise and individual diagnostic, deep knowledge about therapeutic technics and a continuously enriched experience.”

2. A reason for consultation: a mare that is physically and mentally unsteady, moody, and stiff the day after her training sessions.

Luna is a 5-year-old Iberian mare, nervous and muscular, quite complicated, mostly during the first heatwaves of Spring and during Fall when her ovary cycles persist. In these moments, she hates being touched. During her training sessions, she shows irritation, wags her tail, resists to engage her hindquarters. As she is usually flexible, when she resists like that, the owner insists with her aids thinking that she just needs to make her accept her demands, overcoming her “mare’s behavior”.

The days after these sessions are quite hard: the mare does not engage her hindlimbs anymore, her hindquarters are weaker, she resists and gets angry… a vicious circle starts.

Since the end of her period of inactivity – which was very sunny, these problems got bigger, and the owner is even fearing Myositis, since Luna already had one back after holidays, 2 years ago. She is confused because, despite the work done, her mare is stiffer and stiffer, and she is afraid to let her rest for several days because of the risk of Myositis when she will be back working.

Unhappy horse

3. What is going on?

Luna is a hormonal mare, her ovaries are overstimulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary hormones, in particular GnRH, which causes mood swings and muscle tensions. In Chinese Medicine, it is explained by a liver overload (the liver metabolizes excess sexual and steroid hormones, especially during Spring). Consequently, the muscles are less oxygenated. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver makes “the blood circulate”; when the liver’s energy is blocked, this function is not ensured anymore. The energy excess goes up to the head, the horse overreacts, becomes irritable, and the muscles do not breathe anymore. It then produces lactic acid which accumulates, producing muscular pains, soreness, tensions appear in the psoas, powerful and extremely used muscles, and in the lumbar area, due to the over-stimulation of the ovaries. This pain is amplified by contractures which make the muscular oxygenation less and less performant… until the Myositis of the “ovarian colic”.

Cycle of female sex hormones in the follicular growth phase

Scheme: the cycle of the female sex hormones in the phase of follicular growth, before ovulation: a period when the susceptibility of the mare reaches its paroxysm. The steroid hormones are catabolized into metabolites in the liver. These waste products are then excreted in the urine. An excess of steroid hormones contributes to the saturation of liver and kidney functions.

4. How to overcome this vicious circle?

Once more, acupuncture is a big help to regulate the hormonal sphere and the ovarian activity, with pharmacopeia as well, to drain the muscles and the liver.

Concerning the mare’s workout, it is crucial to avoid “conflictualsituations: when the mare becomes anxious, aggressive, contracts herself, and comes into defense. Patience and listening are highly needed to make her trust her rider, with calm and relaxation. The rider needs to stay focus and calm, comforting but also determined. Finally, it is very important to walk for a long time after training to help muscles recovering through breathing and drain lactic acid if there is any excess because of stress.

Knowing how to detect warning signs of the beginning of the ovarian cycle, a moment when the mares are particularly tensed, sensitive, delicate and reactive is crucial; that are moments when the rider needs to show even more patience and kindness, more than exigency. In the case of an ovarian mare, Seaver technology allows to detect a stress peak or an annoyance, thanks for instance to the heart rate measurement. Therefore, the rider can be warned in case of abnormal measures. The heart rate measurement of a resting horse is 30 to 45 beats per minute. When working, it can go up to 240 bpm. Of course, these data can slightly vary depending on the horse and the discipline.

Seaver application
Normal heart frequency curves

However, when observing a cardiac peak during training, this can show a pain that is necessary to analyze and understand. “Does this peak took place when I asked a trot or canter start?” “Does this cardiac peak happened when I asked for more hindquarters engagement at one particular moment?” It is necessary to link cardiac peaks to the work done to identify key moments when the pain occurred to adapt work and demands afterward.

abnormal heart frequency curves
Abnormal heart frequency curves, with peaks

We hope you enjoyed reading this article,

See you soon for a new article,

Dr Eva Jonville

Eva Jonville