Sweeney Shoulder

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Sweeney Shoulder

Postby jmorris » Tue May 29, 2007 8:21 pm

Hi everyone,

I am new to the board although I have "lurked" for a very long time!

On Saturday I had a pretty good pasture accident involving my mare and her 3 year old filly. The filly has been at the Univ. of Florida since Saturday and has been diagnosed with Sweeney Shoulder. She was acupunctured today and I bring her home tomorrow. I have my massage therapist lined up to come Saturday and my holistic vet recommended I get a TENS Unit to supplement between the acupuncture treatments. I also have a friend who has offered up her magnets.

Is there anyone out there who has re-habbed a Sweeney Shoulder and what other treatments can I try? Are there any remedies I should consider? I already have Lathryus Sativa on hand (200c) from when I gave that to her Mother for possible glute/hamstring atrophy.

I am desperate to do whatever I can for my baby. She was just backed 2 months ago and had been doing great. She is(was) my upper level Dressage prospect. She was 3 in February and is a Swedish/Trakehner/Dutch/TB cross - a real "Heinz 57" and she is Pinto to boot :D

I appreciate any help. I am hauling off in the morning to the Univ. so I am sorry if this is too brief. Unfortunately, I am having to take her Mother as she has sustained a possible head and neck injury. I did not realize the mother was hurt until I returned from the Univ. after dropping off her filly. I have been hit with a true double whammy.

Jill (and Mingo and Mattie)

Postby moderator » Wed May 30, 2007 7:52 am

Dear Jill,

Thanks for your post! To get you started with some helpful resources on this topic, please visit the following links:

HHH Wikipedia page on this topic:

Supplements following trauma treatment http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=427

Stabling a sick horse http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=446

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Postby emckenna » Wed May 30, 2007 8:18 am

hello jill,

does this short article sound like your filly's symptoms? i wasn't sure if the atrophy was observable before the accident or if the vets feel she will experience atrophy now that she's had an accident?

"BY - Fred B. McCashin, VMD, MSc -
Don't Give up too Soon - The term Sweeney Shoulder refers to a horse's shoulder musculature that has atrophied. The appearance of the shoulder blade once the muscles have shrunk is wide up near the withers and narrow near the point of the shoulder (at the actual joint) and the long spine of the scapula can be easily palpated the length of the shoulder blade. The shape of the scapula (shoulder blade) is obvious once the muscles have shrunk. The cause is usually trauma to the suprascapular nerve which supplies the major muscles on the scapula. Horses can collide with trees or be kicked by others while turned out. I once treated two horses who were "warming up" for a barrel racing event and they collided in the warm-up arena going opposite directions at speed. They both suffered temporary loss of function of the suprascapular nerves. I treated them with anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. They both recovered, but one took a long time. On the one that took longer, the muscles did waste away and it was accurate to describe him as a Sweeney shouldered horse before the nerve re-grew and the muscles returned to their normal size. There are some horses that are not able to regenerate an adequate nerve supply, either because the trauma was so severe that the nerve was cut or scarred, or the area lost blood supply so that healing was diminished. This can be the case if the neck of the scapula is fractured and it is not stabilized enough. The prognosis varies with the trauma. Full recovery is expected with minor trauma and prompt treatment. Of course, there are "shades of grey" in between. There have been Sweenied horses that took a year to respond, so don't give up on them too soon."

i have a student whose horse fractured his scapula years ago and time and exercise have helped him regain his mobility and range of motion. he does seem to fatigue more quickly on the injured shoulder more frequently but steady work has helped signifcantly.

from a nutritional standpoint i'd suggest:

simplexity essentials http://elinda.net/page.php?p=essentials to support her entire body and digestive system. having eficient elimination as she recovers will aid the healing process and enzymes can support healthy inflammation responses.

amazon herbs offers several products that deliver a wide range of nutrients, carefully harvested from the peruvian rain forest that can assist with recovery, calming, and stress relief and offer support during times of stress, trauma and for everyday maintenance.


calming and stress relief:

daily maintenance:

stresses like you've described can be supported w/ a combination of healing modalities and nutritional approaches. we're here to help - if you'd like a consult to discuss your horses individual needs we can schedule a complimentary phone appointment.

best wishes, i look forward to hearing that your girls are both on the mend.


Postby mward » Thu May 31, 2007 6:22 am

I have treated several cases of shoulder sweeney using acupuncture and they have done well. As the previous article states you have to give them time. I would agree with Elinda about the nutritional support as well as some body work such as Bowen or Equine Touch.
As for your mare I would look at the homeopathic remedy, Arnica, to start with and if she has any lingering effects such as headaches give natrum sulph. I like to use higher potencies such as 1m for the arnica but you can start with a 30c for the natrum sulph. I would give 1 dose and wait a week or so to evaluate the response. So sorry you have had this bad luck and we want to support you in any way we can. Madalyn
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Postby jmorris » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:17 am

Thanks for the replies! It has been a whirlwind since I brought the filly home Wedensday evening. I did take her mother Wednesday morning and the vet school diagnosed her with Sweeney as well although my "gut" is telling me it is not. The mother is not nearly as bad as the filly. I think her problem stems more from her topline muscle, just under the nuchal ligament. When I found the mare not wanting to move when I got home from the hospital (after dropping off the filly) I noticed she broke a sweat pattern on her topline muscle half way down her neck. The sweat pattern was about the size of my palm and hot. It also was rock hard, but not terribly swollen. It did not palpate for pain. I gently began to massage it and the mare was very appreciative so I applied more pressure and really began working that area. She was in heaven! The next day she was walking quite a bit better. She is obviously protecting the right limb - whether it is the shoulder or on down the leg I am not sure, but she is not willing to take a full step with it. Looks more like a half step. My "feeling" is that when she does extend the leg, it is pulling the topline muscle back towards her withers. I pointed this out to the attending vet as the mare did break a sweat in that area while we were at the vet school. The vet said it was "possible" since that muscle ties into the shoulder. This is what aggravates me with Western Medicine. The reason I do not think it is nerve damage (Sweeney) is because when these horses all spooked and ran, they all ran the same direction. My mare and filly would have had to be coming AT each other in order to hit right shoulder to right shoulder.

Anyways, on to the filly...........She was acupunctured on Tuesday by Dr. Xie (Of Dr. Xie's Jing-tang Herbal - if anyone is familiar with him) and re-x-rayed on Wednesday. X-rays still look fine. So I brought her home Wednesday evening with her mother and yesterday morning she decides to colic :shock: So, I have been dealing with a mild colic. Vet came out and tubed her with oil, water and electrolytes, but most of the water refluxed back out. The oil did go in o.k. I did get the "mineral oil" poop this morning :D but she still will not drink for me. She has only had about 1/2 bucket since she came home. The vet school is on city water and I am on well water. I betcha she had a taste of "good" water and now will not drink mine :evil: So, I will attempt to mask the water with either gatorade, apple juice or possibly dilute it with my water from the house which has gone through the areator.

I am able to soak small handfuls of hay and make them "grass like" and feed that every 30 minutes or so. If she does not drink within the next few hours, I am having the vet back out to tube again. I wanted to try nux to encourage the gut and also for the water problem, but the filly is also on 1 gram bute for a few more days. Will the bute "cancel" out the nux? (I absolutely HATE bute!)

As far as the Sweeney Shoulder goes..........I just ordered a TENS unit on the advice of my holistic vet. I will get that on Tuesday and do treatments every other day to the shoulder since I can't get acupuncture as frequently as she needs it. She also recommended the remedy Hypericum for the nerve damage. I ordered that last night. Both mares will be massaged tomorrow. I will probably haul them both to my holistic vet in a few weeks. Right now, they both just need to "chill" and I do not want to stress them again for a while.

So that is where I am currently. Going to check on them now then come in a take nap :)


Postby mward » Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:05 pm

By all means give the nux. It may not work with the bute but it can't hurt. Have you given her any probiotics? She probably needs some extra support for her gut and if she continues to have trouble I would consider taking her off the bute. You can get the results with arnica and hypericum without the side effects. Madalyn
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Postby jmorris » Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:30 pm


I keep all my horses on Ration Plus (prebiotic) all of the time. Other than that she gets Gro and Win and Flax. I did gove her 10 grams of probios today to try and hide the bute.

I did give her the nux, but just now forgot to give it to her again tonight. She was de-toxed with nux (and Thuja) about 2 months ago, so maybe this single dose will be o.k. for today. So many things to remember :)

She did just poop and pee and drank a tiny bit and is happily munching hay soaked in a muck bucket for the night. Soaked hay is about the only way I have of getting water into her.

Tomorrow will be day 3 at home and I have always heard it takes them 3 days to adjust to a new routine, so maybe the 3rd day will be the charm.

Thanks again for the support!

Postby emckenna » Sat Jun 02, 2007 8:12 am

jmorris wrote:Soaked hay is about the only way I have of getting water into her.

hello jill,

i used soaked hay also, espeically when hauling long distances and when either the weather or health conditions require more efficient hydration.

to assist the body's own healing abilities she may need more micro-nutrients and a new supply of probiotics. the APA blend/horse matrix from simplexity and/or the horse formula from amazon herb company are are good options for increasing the raw, nutrient fuels and elements needed for optimal recovery and healing.

you can learn more about those products here:
amazon animal formulas: http://elinda.amazonherb.net/Pet_Care_Main.aspx

simplexity APA/horse matrix:

if you are interested in specific botanical blends to suit your horses particular needs you may find something here:

i'm seeing good results by using the treasure tea as the liquid base for my horses grain ration and then i toss the contents into their feed for added nutrients - my dogs like it too and i'm enjoying it as the foundation for smoothies.

best wishes for a full and robust recovery,

Postby jmorris » Sun Jun 03, 2007 8:34 pm

6-3-07 UPDATE (I apologize in advance, but I copied this update from another BB I frequent - too darn tired to type it twice :D I think the Nux is working and I took her off the bute, as well as her Mother. For the filly, I am substituting 5cc's of banamine IM to ward off minor colic and to aid in anti-inflammatory. The mother I am switching over to B-L Solution as she is considered Grade 1 lameness and appears to be doing well on full turnout and Mother Nature :D )

Mattie drank 6 1/2 gallons of water today!! YIPPEE - BUT I have not seen a poop since 12:30 this afternoon. She was able to go into the big paddock off her stall (50x70) as long as she stayed quiet as a mouse - which she did She did not get much hay because she was on grass for most of the day - so not "too" worried about the poop thing. I am more excited that she drank as much water today as she has had since I brought her home on Wednesday. I figured she has had only 7 gallons total before today.

My massage therapist came today. She did not want to do much in the way of actual physical therapy until she researched Sweeney Shoulder more. She did not want to cause any kind of setback. She went to work on a more relaxing massage and focused on the muscles she is now using more to compensate for the right shoulder/leg. She was working away on the left hindquarter and I think she hit the "drink" button because Mattie took a big yawn, licked and chewed then went for the bucket and drank a gallon :shock: I said, "Hit that spot again!"

"Momma" Mingo also got the works today. Mingo was sore all over her front end, especially on the right side of her neck along the topline (that area that keeps sweating) and also right behind the shoulder where you snug the saddle into place. The therapist also found she was REALLY sore on the right side of her face, between the eye and where the buckle of the halter or bridle is. There is a tiny muscle that runs vertically that was super sore. I am beginning to wonder if she got broadsided by her daughter. Mingo has that spot on her face (which probably caused the slight nosebleed) and the spot on her topline. I am thinking Mattie's right shoulder hit Mingo's face and Mingo got a secondary hit to the topline with Mattie's left shoulder or head. Mingo was quite dazed/drunk looking when I came home from the hospital Saturday night. I know she took a blow to the head and I told the vet school this, but they never radiographed her head Anyway, The Mighty Miss Mingo seems to be doing pretty well - back to a Grade 1 lameness in my mind. Still do not think it is Sweeney as the vet school diagnosed. I spoke with a vet friend of mine that said shoulder lameness is often mis-diagnosed when the T1 is out of whack (that's the first rib after C7) Mingo was JUST adjusted for C7/T1 3 days before the accident!

So glad the masssage therapist came because I got a massage too :D from BOTH of my girls. When the therapist hits a "good" spot, they want to do that wiggle/scratchy thing with their muzzle, so I oblige and turn my back and let them go to town on my aching muscles. It was great until Mattie discovered my neck and hair and decided I needed a hair cut - OUCHIE! Gotta love those babies!

Time for night check and hoping to see another gallon gone, a flooded stall and a pretty pile of poop. I was talking on the phone in the barn today when a friend called to check in on us. Right in the middle of the conversation, I had to interrupt by saying out to Mattie, "Oh, what a good girl, you made such a pretty pile of poopy. Mommy is so proud of you!" Then when my therapist came, we were standing outside Mattie's stall watching her and she made another poop. My therapist said, "Oh, that's a nice one, good and wet!" Oh to be the flies on the walls of my barn

Good Night!

Postby mward » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:28 am

Sounds like both horses are recoveing well. I agree that many shoulder lamenesses are actually C7/T1 subluxations. Keep us posted. Madalyn
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Postby jmorris » Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:46 pm

Well, the filly seems to have overcome the colic - yea!! Now onto the re-hab of the Sweeney Shoulder. The remedy, Hypericum, came today - but they sent the wrong size pill :x I asked for #10 size as they do not roll out of the mouth. I just treid giving what they sent, since I won't have #10's until Friday. Any hints on giving the #30 size??? They just seem to roll right out. Can I put them on her feed? It is not grain, it is Gro and Win.

Also, can I go ahead and give the hypericum to my mare who also was diagnosed with Sweeney? I just don't believe that it is Sweeney with her, but I thought I may be able to cover that base just in case. I think the mare got broadsided and is chiropractically out - probably in the C7/T1 - heck it could go as far up as C3, not to mention her poll as well. I really think she is suffering from a bad case of whiplash. The mare is doing better each day and only has a slight hesitation to fully extend the right front. I am just wondering if it isn't her C7/T1 - especially since she was just adjusted there 3 days before the accident.

I also gave both mares a dose of RRA 30c (Rhuta, Rhus, Arnica) this morning. I am wondering how often I should repeat this? Both mares were supposed to be on bute for 10 days, but I took them both off as they both are Fire/Wood and I know bute is not good for the Wood.

A small animal vet friend of mine (certified to do horses) offered to come and do dry needles on the filly since her TENS unit only has short leads and is handheld for small animals. I am going to try and have her out within the next day or so and then next week haul both the mare and filly to my holistic vet (2 1/2 hours away) for the full meal deal. This friend of mine (also a horse owner) will be able to tell me if the mare is out in the C7/T1 - she just can't adjust because she lacks the physical strength to do so.

So that is where I am currently. I am an advanced beginner :lol: when it comes to remedies and I am only used to giving one at a time and not sure if I should be mixing these. I am spacing them apart (a.m./p.m.). I have discontinued the Nux on the filly since the colic seems to be resolved (drinking well and stall this morning had 5 poops and 2 pees :D )

Any other comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Postby mward » Wed Jun 06, 2007 4:33 pm

I usually dissolve the pellets in a syringe of spring water and squirt the solution directly in the mouth. I does take the 30 pellets longer to dissolve. You can give the ARR 2 to 3 times a day until you see improvement and then cut back. You can alternate the ARR with Hypericum but by now the actual swelling aroung the nerves my have subsided so they are not as painful.
You may not get as good of results from the dry needles and my suggestion would be to wait and see what the ARR can do.
I am glad your friend will not try to adjust your horse. The technique is much more important than strength but C7/Th1 is one of the more difficult adjustments. Timing is so important and the direction of the thrust. I have had some good results with deep massage down under the shoulder blade directing my hand towards the elbow. Once I get my hand deep under the shoulder blade I slowly bring the head towards the side I am working. I have had quite a few horses adjust with this but you have to go slow and never use force. Madalyn
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Postby jmorris » Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:43 pm

Dr. Ward,

Just a quick update on my filly. Today was 3 weeks since the accident and it appears as if she is beginning to drag her toe a bit on that leg. Is this the "natural" progression of this injury? She also appears to have very slight atrophy beginning, but nothing horrifying - yet! It is so hard to tell because of the way the elbow protrudes away from the body. She can lock the shoulder and bear weight and everything "looks" normal, then she takes a step and out comes the elbow.

There is so little info out there on Sweeney. Just was wondering if this is the beginning of the "it will get worse before it gets better" saga ahead of us.

She finished up on her inital doses of hypericum 30c. I am supposed to dose her again 2 weeks after the last dose. I also have stopped the RRA. Should I continue on with the RRA?

She was chiropracted this past Monday and was a "train wreck." She will be seen by my holistic vet in about 3 weeks or so for chiro/acupuncture and then again by this chiro that came Monday in about 6-8 weeks.

Good news on her Mother. I am 99% certain she DOES NOT have Sweeney as the vet school diagnosed. She was also chiropracted and was out in her poll, her right shoulder (badly), the C7/T1 (which I thought) and her right hip. Chiro told me to give her another day off after the adjustment and I got on her Wednesday and she was WONDERFUL!! I then got on her yesterday and worked lightly for 30 minutes - again, she was great. I will take a lesson tomorrow to get her stretching and loosening back up again. I am so thankful and knew my gut feeling was right with her. edited to add: I had my lesson today and my trainer said she was the most sound she has ever seen her. She went wonderfully :D

edited to add: what are your thoughts on the surgery to release the nerve? She is beginning week 4 and showing "some" signs of atrophy, but not the horrific signs that I have heard of i.e. rapid muscle wasting. Her's is very gradual and somewhat hard to discern. My Sports Med Vet is somewhat against it as he has seen horses fracture the shoulder when coming out of anethesia which means "curtains" for them. I am tempted to haul her 2 1/2 hours the the hospital where I would have the surgery to have them evaluate her, if they believed she was a good candidate. Just was wondering what your thoughts were. Right now, when she walks, she places the foot, then it turns inward (toes in) and when she does that the shoulder slips and the elbow protrudes out. I have no idea how "severe" her Sweeney is. I have read some accounts where people have comtinued to ride their Sweeney not even knowing it was Sweeney that they had. This filly - to look at her walk- you would never even dream of trying to get on her, it is that pronounced.

Let me know your thoughts on the filly.

Thanks so much!


Postby mward » Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:34 am

From your description it does sound like your filly has some nerve damage and this is causing the gait abnormality. I would continue the ARR(arnica, ruta, rhus.tox) and acupucture. I do not know why she would be getting worse instead of better and do not think it is a healing reaction. I would give her a bit more time before doing surgury. It takes nerves six weeks to heal so you may still see some change if you are patient.
I am glad mom is doing so well. Madalyn
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Postby jmorris » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:58 pm

It has been awhile since I last updated. The filly appears to be getting better. This Saturday will be 8 weeks. The elbow is not protruding as much as before and she has begun to lay down on her right side - something she has not done since being injured. She is also beginning to really use the leg. The dragging has disappeared although she still does the plant and pivot motion as she moves over the leg.

She started all day turnout about 2 weeks ago in my 50x100 paddock attached to her stall. 3-4 hours a day was not giving her enough movement for a 3 year old :D I talked to my regular western vet about it as I was getting concerned with her antics and they were scaring me! She advised to give her more turnout time and it has worked out really well. I actually think she has improved quite well with the additional time outside. Last week I began leaving her back door open at night so she could go out in her 20x20 pen that we installed. That pen then opens into the larger paddock. This is a tough spot to be in as the filly needs the movement to help bring back the muscle, but yet she can't run into anything or fall down. I have left it in the hands of the man upstairs! I don't know what else to do. The longer turnout has quieted her down quite a bit - so hopefully she will behave!

She has not received any additional acupuncture treatments since she was in the hospital due to the fact that there is no one locally and my holistic vet is not due back here until July 24. I have started using a TENS unit on her and she licks and chews the entire time it is on. I also have continued with the hypericum 30c about every 2-3 days. Everytime she gets a dose, I see more improvement.

She still is a grade 5 lame, especially at the walk, but her trot and canter are looking quite good. She looks pretty steady on that leg. She took off the other day across the paddock on her left lead and did a flying change to the right and was very steady. I try my hardest to discourage too much "action," but how do you keep a 3 year old from kicking up her heals??

After my holistic vet visits next week, I will ask about beginning a therapy program for her. I have a friend who has re-habbed 2 Sweeney's and she told me to begin working her over ground poles and then eventually working up to cavelliti. I also was told to teach her Spanish Walk! That should be lots of fun to have a "trick." I asked her trainer to brush up on his Spanish Walk skills.

So that is our latest update. The filly's Mom has been going gangbusters since her chiro adjustment 10 days after the accident. She is a different horse. Her only lingering problem is that spot on her topline muscle. It is still hard and remains dry when the mare is working. Not quite sure what to do with that. I will try more massage and also ask my holisitc vet what she feels is appropriate.

Madalyn - any suggestions??????




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