Horse Health Care: Can a Roach Back Horse Be Fixed?

Oh yes, it is truly the season to be cheerful, to give thanks and to give gifts. This year I got to pick my own Christmas present: a baby Hughie from a horse named Moose.

To cut a long story short, Moose (now called Fezzywig) is a 16.2 hand Holsteiner Warmblood, a 3 year old gelding, who developed a roach on his back. I had asked about him earlier in the year, when he was up for sale rather than up for adoption, and I let him go.

He was then available for adoption, his former owner couldn’t help him with his broken back, and I had to take him in. I think I can help him, back cover and all.

Case Study: Moose (aka Fezzywig), the Cockroach-Backed Horse

So Fezzywig is a gentle giant with a giant hump on his lower back. The hump on his back is quite significant, though it doesn’t seem to interfere with his stride, solidity, or movement. Other than that, he seems to have no other health issues or vices.

Based on my conversation with his former owner, I believe he developed this cockroach as a result of jumping out of a six foot round pen. He probably sustained some injury after that jump, and I think his cockroach back developed as a result of that injury and subsequent internal adhesions.

Fezzywig’s bump, or cockroach back, doesn’t hurt at all, even when you feel the area with firm pressure. However, it is tender on its flanks and abdomen. His last rib is very close to his pelvis on both sides of his body, and I think this is caused by the cockroach on his back. Also, his abdomen is very distended and tense, which makes me think that when he jumped out of the pen, he may have torn some muscles and ligaments in his belly, causing his internal organs to “fall out”. This, in turn, puts pressure on the abdomen, causing it to sag and bringing the pelvis closer to the last rib. Hence, the cockroach back.

Fezzywig Horse Health Care Treatment Plan

In terms of horse health care, my goal with Fezzywigis is to release his internal adhesions, lift his belly and move his pelvis backwards, thus relieving the roach on his back. I also like to free his withers, which are lower than his rear and a bit lopsided. To that end, I give him network chiropractic sessions once a week, and Bowen sessions (also called Equine Touch) two to three times a week. I’m lucky to have learned these techniques as I couldn’t afford to pay a vet to work on him that often!

Fezzywig responds very quickly and well to the bodywork, although it is sensitive and many times it moves away from my hands. As he walks away from me, he tells me, “That’s enough. I need to process this change.” She licks, chews and yawns frequently during these sessions, which are signs that her body is processing the changes.

As for diet, Fezzywig is getting my “horse glue” rule made from mangosteen juice, blue-green algae, probiotics, and enzymes. He also gets additional enzymes to help him remove the toxins generated by the released adhesions, and a special herbal supplement to help him get back into this “healing” parasympathetic nervous system. So far, he doesn’t like the goo too much, but he’s willing to eat it.

The vet’s report

I spoke with Dr. Madalyn Ward, a well-known holistic horse veterinarian and osteopath, and she feels that Fezzywig may be healthy again, though she may never completely lose that “cockroach” look. That’s fine with me. There are tons of cockroach-backed horses out there living useful working lives, and I think Fezzywig can definitely be helped in that direction.

I haven’t tested Fezzywig’s horse personality type on the Horse Harmony Test website yet, but plan to do so as soon as I get to know him a little better. This will help me better assess how to restore his health, what to feed him, and how best to manage his care. You may want to check out the Horse Harmony Test website, along with Dr. Ward’s other horse health care websites, which are Holistic Horsekeeping and Horse Harmony.

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