Tell me that I really should, have to, absolutely, maybe MUST do something for my horse, and I’m likely to look at you with a slight head tilt and a raised eyebrow, known as the “Skeptical Kodiak” around here:
There are so many unique horse personalities out there and so many ways to achieve various things depending on your goals or situations that I feel you can apply absolutely, maybe MUST to just about nothing except “Listen to your Horse.”
Oh, and get your horse a chiro check up.
First let me say that I tried a handful of horse chiropractors before finding the one the horses and I liked best. I never had a bad experience, per se, but 2 of the practitioners my horses didn’t respond to as positively and one had a sky high bill that I couldn’t stomach. I was lucky to finally find a wonderful Chiro gal, D, who the horses love *and* I can afford, even with the ever growing herd. I guess what I am saying is, if you aren’t happy with your first experience, please don’t write the whole thing off! Whether you have a youngster, a rescue project, a sound and active riding horse, or a retiree, Chiropractic work is your friend. Oh, you want examples?
1. The Youngster
My Arabian filly Sheza turns 3 in April. She will also be heading out to a dear and trusted endurance/trainer friend for 30 days of very light saddle training and general world exposure this spring. Sheza has been blasting around this place at top speeds, with the occasional tumble, since the day she was born. Is she sound? You betcha. Has she ever been put under work/carried a rider before? Nope. So can I fairly say that because she is sound her back and neck and everything else is all in order and ready for a little work/carrying weight? No, I’m simply not qualified.
on a slight uphill, my almost 3 yr old..!
I’d never had Sheza checked before due to her young age, but since her life is taking on new challenges soon it was only fair to at least establish a base line of where her body is, if not correct anything. D found the logic sound and checked her all over and only found one small spot in her neck to adjust! Good news, and I can now send her for some light saddle work in good conscience. Just think: your sensitive young horse sent out for first under saddle training with their neck/back/hips out of adjustment? No thanks.
2. The Rescue/Project
Rambo has been here for just over a week now. He has this scar on his right hind leg:
He drags both hind toes at a slow walk. He swings this right hind outward slightly at the walk. He has no butt muscle on either side, but it appears a bit atrophied on the right side. He is not lame in the least.When he moves out with impulsion he looks wonderful and you’d never guess he had a thing going on, but he doesn’t have the muscle to maintain that for long. He has lovely big bare feet and wears all 4 hooves completely evenly. Quite interesting!! I could see the bread crumbs along the trail but I didn’t (and still possibly don’t!) know whether they lead to a sound riding horse or a horse that can’t hold up to work because of that previous injury. Oh boy did I want a professional opinion!
These pictures don’t accurately capture his butt. Oddly,he photographs much better than he looks in person. He’s darling in person, but scrappier, younger looking, and his butt is much more pathetic.
right side atrophy?
the good side
D’s face when she saw him walk made my heart sink. She saw the slight swing and the toe drag, and thought stifle damage. Then she saw his even toes and felt his intact, undamaged stifle, and got kind of excited. I moved him out for her in circles and on the straight, and she re examined him. She determined nothing was “out” that she could adjust, and was really excited by the prospect that with time and gradually upped butt building work he could well go down the trail as a riding horse yet.
With the knowledge that his stifle is okay and a professional second opinion from head to toe, my plan of action is moving Rambo onto Sheza’s hilly pasture (scroll up and look at her butt again! really!) then after 4 weeks observation on that, start taking him walking/jogging in the various degrees of hilly terrain around the neighborhood, upping and adjusting work load as appropriate.
3.Sound, Active Riding Horse
I bought Scrappy in July 2013. Despite already using and appreciating chiro work, I wasn’t quite at the mindset of “have a new horse checked first thing” yet. He rode great aside from the occasional left hind toe drag on a steep downhill and a bit of reluctance to canter. I felt 10 funny steps on a September 50 miler and rider optioned with a sound horse, just in case. D came out to see him after that and was amazed at his solid, sound, willing, performance for me over the last few months, as his hips were completely out! I watched the top of his croup go from pointy to completely soft and jiggly, then upon riding a few days later, found the toe drag had disappeared and my horse suddenly not only enjoyed cantering on both leads butt threw flying lead changes for funsies, too!
I had Scrappy rechecked with D on Monday and his hips needed a slight adjustment but nowhere near as dramatic as before. His initial months of stoic performance despite being out of whack cemented my personal preference to have a Chiro out to check all new arrivals before they do any serious work.
4. The Retiree
In my ongoing pursuit of a juustt-right Desire in fall 2012/most of 2013, she had massage, chiropractic work, supplements, hock injections, and I still felt a slight, intermittent something in her hind end under saddle. She is a forward, hot horse who slams her feet down and has a lot of torque, plus is naturally spooky and doesn’t roll often. At every chiro adjustment she was out of whack nearly from head to tail. She is also 18 this year, so I was fighting the uphill battle against age, regardless. She was a fabulous endurance horse and LOVED eating up the trails, but I had reached the point of keep trying and pouring money into it, or give her a well earned retirement. In early summer last year I turned her out in the biggest pasture with the goats, declared her retired, and put the money I could have kept pouring into fighting for soundness into buying Scrappy.
It hurts my heart a bit to see my beloved first 50 miler and multi day partner flying around the field looking fabulous, not to be doing the same with me on her back in the future, but as I also told friends recently, I could tell she was content despite her (in my mind) unused natural work ethic. She flirts with Blaze over the fence, bosses goats, and runs about when she wants to, taking her easy days as needed when she isn’t feeling as fleet footed.
retirement is rough
You can see that I would be very interested to have D look at Desire this time around, since this would be Desire’s first adjustments since being fully retired for 6 months+. Guess what? She didn’t need a single thing adjusted! I would have really felt bad if she had continued to be that out of whack without being under work, but clearly retirement agrees with her. I am so grateful I can give her the big pasture she deserves to rock her Retired Status in, and am comforted knowing I made a good decision retiring her.
5. The Smug Flexible One: You may be wondering where darling little Blaze is in all of this. Mr. Blaze, my craigslist special, has old scars and bumps and a hoof that looks like it was nearly ripped off at some point in his life. He also rolls at least a few times a day, every day, and does downward dog stretches and all sorts of horse yoga of his own accord. He is 18 years old like Desire but unlike Desire he is sounder than sound, has the best knees and flexion on the place and has only ever needed one small neck adjustment, ever. His contribution to the chiropractic spectrum is being a good story, sound and well adjusted against all odds!