Thoracic Issues Fore trauma patterns are more common than not and constitute probably over 60% of all lameness in horses; either directly or indirectly.

Usually, you’ll see that one side has taken the “hit of the trauma” and, therefore, a one-sided torsion. Often, the point of shoulder/chest will have a significant impact that stops the horses’ forward momentum. This is significant because as the horses’ centrifugal force keeps his body in motion, and a sudden stop to the front end; causes an “accordion effect’ on the whole body. That accordion effect coupled with emotional distress, will cause systemic spasms throughout the body and always creates a diaphragm twist and spasm.

Once a diaphragm goes into significant spasm, a whole cascade of symptoms appear and gain traction. They always cause lumbar and pelvic mobility issues, disrupt the free flow of blood circulating in the entire body, cause metabolic stress due to stagnating blood flow to all digestive and urogenital organs. Diaphragm spasms will always create a torsion on the esophagus that creates, along with the vagus nerve, a stomach torsion. This in turn locks down T12 so significantly that there is NO lift in the forehand and is a primary cause of all stomach ulcers in horses.

Essentially, you’ll see that the sternum and the thoracic spine have ‘COLLAPSED IN’ on the side of impact or dysfunction, and the lower cervical will usually be involved as well. The chest and lower neck (cervical) can often create a jugular problem in the cranium which leads to an array of neurological symptomology. The brachial plexus (located at C4-C6) causes nerve impingement to the shoulder, lower legs and the phrenic nerve (diaphragm Nerve)

Shoulder LamenessThe position of the heart in the pericardium is commonly malpositioned and will create a sternal lock on that area in such a way that nothing will clear it until one addresses the heart.

The lung will be in spasm (very Common) and due to visceral, somatic dominance- “organs trump muscle/ bone”- will put the thoracic rib cage in spasm, and cause all or most adjacent muscles to be locked in spasm, especially the lats and serratus muscles. This is immediately evident when one clears the lungs and re-palpates the lats and serratus muscles and finds them clear.

Next, one should reset all involved vertebral issues C4-T12 along with the sternal “knobs” associated with each vertebra/rib package, reset the 1st rib, and scapula/humoral joint. T8/T9 spinal nerve impingement is common, and these nerves are some of the most painful in the body. They’ll lock up all downwind innervated muscles especially triceps and I often see elbow subluxations associated with these nerves, Then one can work caudal (towards the tail) and reset organs –especially stomach, liver, and kidney.

Then one should clear the phrenic nerve, as it runs from the brachial plexus in the lower neck, to the entire length of the diaphragm which terminates under the lumbar vertebrae and locks them down. The phrenic nerve will “take hostages” along the way and cause holding patterns of its own. The diaphragm is ready for release. This is best done using craniosacral diaphragmatic techniques. Nudge the lumbar that are torsional in rotation, and they reset nicely if you’ve done your set-up work.

Finally, one should address the hind end. The spinal cord mobility will have been stymied, and numerous compensations will have occurred.


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