Manchester started life with all the advantages. Well bred, born into a good home, and caring owners. He is a very athletic and well bred warmblood born into a breeding program producing numerous international level dressage horses. He was always beautiful. Beautiful and black. But even with all of that, his owners having tried everything, were exhausted from the years of trying to solve a lameness issue that just couldn't seem to be solved.
No need to say that the lameness has been diagnosed and treated from every possible angle offered by traditional and alternative therapies. Despite all efforts the problem has persisted for years. Manchester is a case of “idiopathic lameness,” a lameness where no one can really find the cause, and if you can't find the cause of the lameness how do you find the cure?
But there comes a point that no matter how much money you spend, no matter how many years you try to find a solution, eventually you run out of options and the time comes for you to make a heart-wrenching decision. A decision that has you second guessing yourself as to how it makes sense to take away a life that is still so young, so vital. It is that much harder, for all the time, thinking, and caring that you have done, trying to find a way to help this horse.
Jean Luc Cornille had been preceded by his reputation. A man known for his knowledge of biomechanics and taking on horses that everyone else had given up on. Strangely, few know of his participation in the Cadre Noir or the incredible skill and success that he has had as a top level competitor, as instead he has made it his life's mission to first of all understand the mechanics of the horse and then next, to find a way to share his knowledge to help others learn what he has. Too modest to even think that those around him might be interested in his past success, instead he presents himself as a humble rider, who is always there for the horse.
Hearing of his reputation for helping to heal horses that others had given up on, Manchester's owners decide, well maybe one more time. One last chance, anything to delay the inevitable. They load Manchester up in the trailer and take him to the clinic hoping against hope that Jean Luc will suggest a solution that they have not been able to find through the years. Already in 2005, the diagnosing vet forewarned of a locking patella in both hind legs, intermittent abnormal hind leg movements, but the flexion tests showed nothing, x-rays, neurological exams showed nothing.
This is the immense frustration of idiopathic lameness: you know there is a problem, but you don't know what the problem is.
The owners gave their permission for Jean Luc to ride him, after warning him that Manchester had not been ridden in several months.
During the ride there are a few moments when Jean Luc feels the lameness become not as intense. Manchester's owner confirms that he sees the same thing. Those moments make Jean Luc think that maybe, just maybe, this horse can be helped. This momentary reduction in lameness prompts the thought that this horse might, just might, be recoverable.
Can every horse that has been this far gone be rehabilitated? No, not necessarily.
It takes a very special horse. A horse Jean Luc says that has good conformation, great athletic abilities, intelligence and above all is very, very courageous. His heart must be big and strong so that he can face the upcoming challenges. Without the guts, without the heart, to face the challenges day in and out, ongoing for months, the chances of success are slim.
In the process of the ride, Jean Luc senses that this horse has the courage and the intelligence to make it through, if somehow, just somehow, arrangements can be made. There is no guarantee, there never is, and with this horse it is that much more problematic to know for sure. The owners hope against hope that Jean Luc can suggest a few exercises to the trainer, but unfortunately it is going to take so much more than that.
It's going to be a long hard road to hopefully bring Manchester back to fitness. Jean Luc said he wouldn't even have considered it possible if the owners hadn't been very good horse people and because of that, hadn't pushed Manchester beyond all possible repair.
Jean Luc finds himself in some way touched by this horse: "I only rode the horse for a relatively short period of time. However, there is a phenomenon that cannot be explained. I liked him at first sight. I have very good reasons to believe in this instant impression. This is what happened when I met Helyn (his wife) for the first time and life has shown that it was the right feeling."
But for the owners, it has been years of paying and not finding answers to how they were going to take on this financial burden one more time. Jean Luc knew he had to find a way to help the horse, and knowing how expensive it was going to be, with no guarantee of success, how could the owners be stretched any further? But wanting only what was important for Manchester and knowing that Jean Luc was Manchester's only chance, they wanted to give that chance to Manchester and so gave the horse to Jean Luc.
Jean Luc didn't know himself where he was going to find the money to help this horse. But he knew he had to try. Because of Manchester's health problems, it is going to be important to ship him with the best carriers. The trip has to be taken carefully with safeguards in place so that the minimum of physical trauma will be experienced by the horse.
And how was Jean Luc going to afford the feed, care and training for a horse that he had just met? But he could feel the courage in this horse. The horse had a heart big enough to overcome so much, didn't he deserve a chance? Wasn't it up to Jean Luc to find a way to make this happen?
As natural as breathing and wanting to help each horse that he comes across, it is just as natural that Jean Luc wants to take every case and use it to help other riders with their own horses. As close as he felt to this horse, he knew that this could also create a wonderful opportunity for riders to follow along step by step and see for themselves, what would work, or perhaps not work, every step along the way. What a wonderful educational opportunity. But how to make it all happen?
Promising to try and document the whole reeducation, the initial analysis, the working hypothesis, the daily gymnastics, the numerous adjustments, the good days and the bad days, Jean Luc turned to the readers of his online newsletter asking if maybe they could help out. Knowing that every $10 or even $20 can make a difference, Jean Luc cannot but hope that somehow this is going to be possible, that he can find a way to help Manchester and how incredible it will be, what a joy it will be for Jean Luc, if he can at the same time help other riders and their horses by documenting the journey along the way. What a wonderful way to freely share the knowledge and experience he has taken a lifetime to learn.
Maybe one day, if Jean Luc is successful, the horse will once again have the potential that he was born with.
Already the work has begun as the scientist in Jean Luc begins the long, sometimes frustrating road of analysing and trying to figure out exactly what is happening in Manchester's body, but also trying to figure out what muscles, which movements will have the best chance of success when Manchester finally makes it to him. Poring over all the information that he has found to date, conversations with the owners, past vet reports combined with that brief time riding, he digs for details, for a new frame of reference, hours, days, spent trying to figure out exactly how to help this horse.
What can be done?
First of all there is the stifle problem. The stifle joint is stabilized between the two main muscles on the outside and ligaments on the inside. One thing to consider is that often this type of stifle problem results from imbalance between the tension created by the muscles and the ligaments, for whatever reason. Therefore it makes sense to try to re-stabilize the stifle by working with exercises that work on strengthening and developing the two muscles, the quadriceps femora and a branch of the biceps femora.
Other times, the problems in a stifle can result from excessive rotation of the hind limb around the hip joint. The problem can be resolved by increasing the dorso-ventral rotation of the pelvis (the bascule of the pelvis). Sometimes, stifle situations result from a combination of both issues. This kind of problem is becoming more prevalent, or at least better known. And it seems that in their field experience, some veterinarians are noting that they are seeing more and more patella problems, the problem sometimes being attributed to the fact that many horses today are only worked on level ground. This doesn't always provide adequate development of the quadriceps and biceps of the horse. Which is why it becomes even more important to provide the proper gymnastic exercises to developing horses that don't always have the opportunity to work and play on a varied terrain.
Then there is the hock problem that Manchester is experiencing. As the joints are fused, the reeducation will have to focus on the abnormal stresses that created the collapse between the joints in the first place. Finding the source will help in alleviating excessive strains on the hock joints -- a first class opportunity to show and explain how hock problems can be prevented in the first place, in other horses.
But what about the neurological problem of the hind legs that has already been diagnosed in Manchester? In Jean Luc's personal experience, he has seen kinematic abnormalities originally diagnosed as neurological which in actual fact resulted from an imbalance of the back muscles and all the consequences which follow that, including problems with deviation of the spine. This deviation of the spine, which in turn can result in an abnormal alignment of the pelvis, of course might explain the problems with Manchester's abnormal movement of his hind legs. The hope is that if Manchester’s situation is about back muscle imbalance, and the consequent deviation of the spine, the problem might be fixable.
But of course, none of this is going to be possible if they can't find a way to ship and to give Manchester one last chance. It's going to be a long hard road to hopefully bring Manchester back.
Join us on the journey.
"If we succeed, the horse will regain soundness and everyone supporting the adventure will gain enormous knowledge and experience. However, the whole experience is costly. Help us into this fascinating challenge. "
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