Monday, June 08, 2009

The Horse Chiropractor

It's been almost a year since Tia, the gorgeous Quarter Horse mare at the Little Valley, started coming up lame.  In that time, her devoted owner has tried almost everything.  The horse has had her legs wrapped, she had an equine massage therapist work on her a few times, and on one expensive occasion we loaded her up and took her for an X-ray.  Susan was told that the sesamoid bone (a tiny bone in the fetlock, or ankle to those not familiar with horse anatomy) had been cracked and then healed at some point.  They referred to it as "roughened and remodeled."  They didn't really give any treatment advice, other than to take Tia to the Veterinarian College in Guelph.  That sounds like potential surgery.  That sounds really expensive and scary...

Tia wasn't ever dead lame.  Just slightly off.  Just enough that it didn't seem like a good idea to use her for lessons.  She spent the winter up north at the family farm and came home two months ago, looking pretty okay.

But she's not okay.  She was still looking stiff.  

What do you do with a slightly lame horse who's only 12 years old- in her prime - and is so good, so talented, well trained, and has such ladylike manners?  She should be a show horse, not a lawn ornament.  But at what point do you draw the line on how much money will be spent to figure out the mysterious unsoundness and get it fixed?  I knew a woman years ago who'd spent close to $10,000 on a $200 horse.  In a perfect world we'd have unlimited funds to keep our horses sound and healthy but it's not a perfect world.  

On a recommendation, Susan got in touch with a horse chiropractor.  She figured it was worth a try.  I had to check it out because I was very curious about the treatment.  Plus, I am concerned about this horse.  She's been so important to my education for the last three years.  I love the look of her, I love her hyper-aware but respectful attitude.  She's been good to me.  I want her to be healed up again.

Out of respect for the Dr's wishes, I won't be showing pictures of the treatment.  Or, for that matter, describing what he did.  This is very much a "don't try this at home" kind of thing.  

I will say this: He didn't adjust her with a sledgehammer and a 2x4!  Don't believe anybody who tells you that!  And don't judge me for my gullibility!!

This man is gentle in manner and seemed to not really care about getting information about the horse.  I think he could find out what he needed to know in a few minutes of watching her walk.  
When he first lifted her lame front hoof, his first utterance was, "Uh-oh."  

I felt a sick chill, and this is not even my horse.  Dr was concerned because the front leg had a limited range of motion.  After a few clicks and jerks, she was much more mobile.  

He slowly worked his way around her body, and with each adjustment her head would go up and her eyes widened.  At one point, she suddenly let out a breath. I could see a change in her eyes.  She appeared to be relaxing.  Now Dr was saying things like, "She's going to respond well."

Susan was starting to relax too.    

He explained that her ligaments have been stretched and that it will take some time for everything to strengthen again.  He's optimistic, but can't say how long before she's sound again.  He also warned us that the bones will easily pop back into the wrong place again, since it was like that for a long time.  She'll have to be on stall rest, and walked for 20 minutes twice each day.  

That's not so hard.  It can be done.

Of course, putting the alpha mare in the barn means putting everybody in the barn.

Bo was very happy to give Tia a big smooch as soon as they were side by side again.  She actually allowed him to nose her.  She must have been feeling better!

Everybody was happy to have Tia close by.  Her presence means all is right in the world.  See the two "kids" here?  They crack me up.  Being the smallest, they get the double sized stall.  They can barely see over the wall. 

Tia will have to have several more treatments to get her back in shape.  Finally Susan feels like there's hope for this wonderful horse.  I'm thinking about my own little mare, who has ended up being cinchy despite all my efforts while training her to go slow and not develop a phobia about it.  It makes me wonder if she's got a pinched nerve or something.  

Forest Ranger Dave thinks the horse chiropractor is a magician... who magically removed a chunk of cash from Susan's wallet.  I think sometimes money is a small price to pay for peace of mind, and a happy horse.  

Has anybody out there gone this route for treating lameness?  Anybody had an adjustment yourself?  I've gone to several chiropractors over the years, some very good and some just in it for the pay.  I'm not seeing a "backcracker" right now, although I should.  I know it'd do me some good.  Especially with my scoliosis, it's good to get everything mobile.  I'd love to hear your opinions!


jules said...

When I was riding, my Instructor had a horse chiropractor come in for some of the horses there. She firmly beleived in alternative medicine. She also sent me to her chiropractor. He is a God! He fixed me then, and continues to crack between my shoulder blades and my neck so I can move freely again. I have set up a shrine. (He's pretty cute too!)

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh cute always helps!

it does feel good when your shoulder blades and neck move freely. Maybe if I can find a good horse chiropractor I'll ask to have a treatment too...

Like, anybody who takes an unintentional dive off a horse every three years or so should have things set right every now and then, y'know?

lopinon4 said...

I am big on chiro adjustments now, too, for my QH. He has navicular in his front left, and refuses to be lame from it, so I knew the rest of his body was suffering the consequences. When he started getting cinchy and dragging his right hind toe, I called up the chiro. His hip was out, some ribs needed adjusting and a TON of stuff going on in his legs. He gets a massage between adjustments, and he's a new man now! The proof is in the pudding. Not every chiro is a quack.
Hope the mare heals up quickly now! :)

JKB said...

I believe they work wonders. It's a smart choice to get her looked at and worked on!!

Kudos to Susan!

Heidi the Hick said...

Jkb, I have a lot of respect for her... she's practical about her horses and has her priorities in line. (Like, her kids don't go without so the horses can live in luxury!)

I think now she's cautiously optimistic that her horse can be healed up. Me too.

Lopin- This is interesting! Navicular is kinda scary. It's good to hear that he's doing so well and very interesting that the problem is showing up all over his body. It totally makes sense, right? Any movement that hurts is going to affect the whole spine. Thanks for sharing.

pseudosu said...

I haven't had much luck w/ chiro's, but know people who have. I very much hope it helps Tia. This is the thing about horse ownership I don't like- when their existence gets boiled down to usefulness v.s. expense. I hope she get's healed and is pain free and this has a happy ending.

marsh to the fore said...

Years ago I had something out of place in my neck which meant I couldn't turn my head without a lot of discomfort. Not fun. A chiropractor cracked it, did a few other such things with my neck and voila! fixed.

I believe in them. They fixed my neck. I understand today they no longer crack bones but have some sort of "clicker" that does the same thing. I don't think doctors can provide anywhere near the same relief with certain kinds of ailments.

Triple Star Cowgirl said...

A chiro saved me from spending years in pain and having to take pain meds after a car accident. Within a month and by following his direction to walk walk walk after each adjustment I was good as new. I truely believe that if I had done as the MD said "take the pain meds and rest" I would still have trouble to this day. My family has been using chiros for years even my grandparents swore by them. They do not take the place of a regular doctor for some things but they help keep your energy flow through the body, which in turn helps your body help itself.

Biddie said...

Shawn was thinking about seeing a chiropractor. I have no idea how much it would cost (can you tell me?) but we are desperate to help him with his pain.
As for me, there is absolutely no cure for my lameness :)

Biddie said...

Oh, I am so happy to hear that Tia is doing better. I hate to hear of any animal suffering.

Heidi the Hick said...

yes, I just heard that her second appt with the chiro went really well. He's very pleased with her progress!

Still cautiously optimistic...

Bid, I totally think it would help Shawn, but it can be terribly expensive. I quit going because I just couldn't afford it anymore. I was paying around $75 for a treatment... and it was at the point where he'd come in, use that clicker, which in my opinion hurts more than a quick neck-crackin' and then boom he was onto the next patient. I wasn't getting my money's worth and my back was getting worse. It's a shame cuz he was a good doctor years before that; I think his office just got too busy and he was trying to take too many patients. It's really worth it to look around for the right one.

I do think Shawn would benefit from massage. Think of all those muscles strained over the years!

Triple Star, so glad you left a comment because I'm a big believer in "use it or lose it." Walking is so good for our bodies. Rest has its place, for sure, but with back pain especially I think if we start protecting too much we start to atrophy. Our bodies were built to move, right?

Marsh, the clicker thing... I would rather be adjusted the old fashioned way, actually. I think the clicker hurts and also, my opinion, it allows the doctor to breeze along and go too quickly!

Sue- that whole usefulness vs expense thing is the main heartbreak of keeping animals. A farm has to function that way because otherwise it becomes a critter old-age home, and those cost money, not make money. Then the farmers starve. But damn, when it comes to my horses... I am not so reasonable anymore. I'm blinded by love. Not to the point of stupidity, but it does make for difficult decisions.

Lynn Sinclair said...

I've no opinion(s) about chiropractors, but I did want to say that I hope Tia will soon be completely mended.

dilling said...

no chiropractic experience...
accupuncture and "real" shiatsu had helped me in the past. Real, meaning like a real Japanese Shiatsu expert, as ooposed to that whoe "North American" variety. Haven't actually found one since leaving Hawaii, but the guy never promised it wouldn't hurt...and it did, mothah...but after?!? bliss, bliss, bliss....i'd fly back to see him tomorrow, if i could.

Tribble said...

ha, Dilling, no pain, no gain? I used to be like that but I'm really softening up in my old age! Maybe I just haven't found that blissful result. I"ll have to ask my sister about the real Shiatsu. She knows a few people who do that.

Lynn, she's doing great, and even though there are no promises, it looks like her tough little self will eventually be okay!

Laura Crum said...

I had a horse adjusted by what I believe to be a good chiro. He said if the horse got better within 24 hours, even if he got worse again, then he, the chiro, could help the horse. The horse never got better. The chiro told me to save my money. I tried numerous other people. Nothing helped. I still own the horse. He is a retired pasture pet, with an aberrant waddle that no one could cure. I think that first chiro told me true.

Sharon McMaster, BSc(H), MLT, EMT said...

Chiropractic work is great ... and goes hand in hand with massage treatments. By using massage inbetween chiropractic adjustments - you can help the adjustment last longer. Releasing the tension in the muscles that wants to pull the skeleton back to the position it had been in prior to the adjustment. I am so glad that alternative therapies are becoming more widely accepted in the horse world. They really do complement conventional vet medicine. Wishing Tia all the best!

CindyDianne said...

Equine chiros, good ones, are awesome and worth every single penny. I've had both my horses worked on with much, much success. Amazing experience, isn't it? I love it when they drop their head and their lips hang loose because they feel better...

Heidi the Hick said...

Hey- that wasn't "Tribble" up there, that was me. Looks like somebody forgot to sign out of her account!

Laura, I do think your chiro was honest and reputable. I would have hired him again, just for that alone. I'm sorry to hear you old horse never really recovered but I do hope he's having a happy retirement!

Sharon, I was really hoping you'd wander by and leave a comment! I do think massage and chiro work well together; muscles and bones work together, right? Thanks for your good wishes.

Cindy- EXACTLY. When you see that relief on the horse's face... that's what makes us feel like we're doing the right thing.

mommyrides said...

I'm a big believer in chiropractic done right, and just like every other Dr it sometimes takes a while to find the right one. My third child, my girl, was born face up and with a knot in her cord. To top it off she was 10 lbs!!!! Yes, I had an epidural, even my midwife said I would never have been able to give birth to that child au naturel!!!! hee hee. Well this young lady cried herself silly for the first four weeks. Her carseat made her scream and the only place she would sleep was on my chest. I took her to see my chiropractor and he took one look at me and her and said "we will get you fixed up". I think he was worried that if I didn't get immediate reassurance I was going to have a complete and total breakdown right there infront of all his patients! I took my baby to him almost every day that first week and it turns out that her birth had been so traumatic that it had messed up her neck. He indicated that he actually felt one of the bones pop back into place. I'd like to say that it put an end to all that cranky behaviour but although she was better she never did like lying on her back. I think she remembered the pain and responded to that. Still she was way better than before we went. Myself I have seen a few "backcrackers". Too many falls from figure skating and riding anything that would stand still long enough to let me get on, lol!! You know the good ones, they only expect you to return if it helps, they don't use that silly popper thingy and everyone in the office gets a different treatment, not like some factory where you are a number in a line. I am probably one of those people that will need to have my bones adjusted periodically from now till eternity, they are just so badly whacked. As far as my horses, I have had it done, by a reputable Dr. when nothing else seemed to help and it did help my mare. And he only had to adjust her a couple of times. He was honest about what he could and couldn't do. Long winded but that's my experience with backcrackers both human and otherwise.