Thursday, October 30, 2008

Clipstravaganza and Chiro Work

McKinna was decidedly unimpressed with this whole clipping business. I did her left side, then we went on a trail ride (awful, I know! But the weather was so nice), then I did the other side. It's amazing how thick her fur is, especially down her barrel - the line between clipped and unclipped is very definite. On the plus side, her clipped fur is only barely darker than her unclipped fur, so unlike clipping a bay or chestnut, it's actually not super-noticeable.

It is definitely doing its job. I worked her hard in the round pen the night after, and the sweat on her clipped areas was clean and wet and dried within minutes. What sweat got on her long hairs (a little on her shoulders and neck) again took quite awhile to dry out. I did work her very hard though, so that's unlikely to happen often. If it does, I can always expand the clip.

Seriously, though - she produced enough hair for two small cats. Really! Look below, that's what came off her right side alone.

More of a medium-sized cat, maybe.

In other news, the chiropractor came out on Tuesday! Though technically on his sheet he is called an Equine Sports Massage Therapist. Pandora had a lot of stuff out of whack, but he said she was even worse the first time he saw her. Let's see -- left TMJ was pretty out (very cool to see how her teeth lined up correctly side-to-side after he adjusted it), upper neck on the left, lower neck both sides, her shoulders were reeeally bad, elbows also needed work, a little adjustment in her spine, and a lot back in her sacroiliac/pelvis area. Also some stuff in her tail.

Here were his comments: "Jaw - TMJ shift, strong reset. Neck - multiple cramps, released to full range of motion. Significant pelvic (roll?) and tilt, release on extension. Shoulder retraction & lock out, deep release on extension and rotation. Topline lifted, stance balanced, neck restored cervical arch."

The change in her was considerable, and very cool to see. Tension faded, her eyes were softer and more relaxed, her neck looks smoother, her shoulders feel smoother, and after watching her move last night, her motion is definitely smoother and more relaxed. She actually broke out in sweat a little during the work. Every time he made an adjustment that made her recoil (like when working the neck, he uses a strong release to get them back on track), she would jump straight back to him and put her forehead on his chest like she wanted to get in his pocket.

He uses a 1 - 5 system for issues, 5 being "get the vet out for some anti-inflammatories and we'll try working on the horse in a few days," 3 being bad enough to affect performance and behavior. Pandora had a lot of 3s, a 4, and a couple 2s. He said when he first saw her she was in way worse shape, lots of 4s.

It took him an hour and a half to work on her.

Next was McKinna. Minor jaw adjustment, minor upper neck adjustment, and a slightly more intense shoulder adjustment. 2s all around but a 3 on each shoulder. She figured him out pretty quickly (he commented that she's a very intelligent horse -- aww, yay!) and was working with him politely. Comments: "Primary: both shoulders retracted. Dramatic but easy release to full range of motion. Minor cramps in neck, released to full range of motion. Top and bottom line lifted, neck recurved, front stride extended."

McKinna took about 20 minutes. Both were very polite and willing to work with him and both were very cheerful to get turned out.

I love the way he works with them. He carries around a big huge cotton rope that he uses to help them work out their own issues. Some adjustments, like the jaw, do require a big motion from him, but he doesn't go thwacking and thumping on them to get things done. He also spends time working with pressure points to help relax muscles.

One of the most interesting things was when he adjusted the shoulders, which both mares needed. He loops the rope just above their heel bulb on a foreleg. He pulls the foreleg gently back, stretching it underneath them, then pulls it out in front of them and down and holds, letting them relax the shoulder and stretch all the way out. After a minute or so of this, he pulls up and out, hard, causing them to resist. They go up (ideally), and as they do, they roll their shoulder back, up, and forward away from the rope, essentially popping it free. The difference in the two mares was remarkable. Pandora, for one, had a lot of interconnected issues that made it hard for her to make the correct motions to release her shoulders, but even when she did, it was stiff and difficult. When he asked McKinna to do it, the first time she wasn't sure, but she got it eventually. The second time, she knew exactly what he was asking; she immediately went up, rolled that shoulder, and came back down. But her body motion! She looked like she was made of rubber. Seriously.

She was bendy and flexible. When she went up, she rocked back on her haunches and hunkered down, and looked like she could poke her nose back between her back legs if she wanted to. Her back rounded. Half the time when he was stretching a foreleg off to the left, she'd curve her head all the way around to the right to look behind her. It was incredible to see how much she could bend her body around, and testament to how physically sound she truly is (outside of the shoulder issues).

He praised her back soundly -- it's short, flat (not swayed), and strong. He said that holds her together so that even if something goes wrong at a corner, like her shoulders, the rest of her body doesn't get thrown out of whack because her spine is so strong and centered. Cool stuff.

I could see the difference in her, too. Her shoulders look wider now that they're not locked back, making her chest not so narrow. Her bottom line truly has tucked up -- her big ol' belly has faded a lot.

All in all I was very pleased with his work, and I'm super glad I got him out to work on Pandora before I really started asking her to work hard. The difference in her is so tangible. He told me to do belly lifts on her a few times before each ride to help her stay adjusted. I'm sure she'll need work again, simply because she was so messed up, but she's on the right track with correct work, nutrition, and turnout.

Oh, and he is coming to speak to Pony Club about horse physiology and the importance of keeping your horse pain-free when you're asking him to work. How cool is that? I'm giving a presentation on rider/horse mechanics and stretching for the rider, so I asked him to give his talk at the end of mine. Should be cool.

Have any of you guys had experiences with chiropractors, good or bad? I know many of you use them. I know it's made a huge difference in the horses I ride, especially ones that come with a history, like Pandora.


Sydney said...

I am an equine massage therapist. I learned a lot about out of place joints and bones. It's a wonderful thing and it can often fix things quicker than modern medicine.

When you explained Pandora recoiling when he adjusted something that hurt here is how I explain it: It's like having a piece of glass stuck in your foot. It hurts like bloody hell wile its in there and especially wile you are getting it out but once you have the glass out the relief is immediate.

Anonymous said...

I'm jealous! I really wish we had an equine chiro here!
An equine massage therapist is flying in from the Big Island next week and I'm getting an appt. with her FOR SURE!

wolfandterriers said...

I LOVE chiropractic appointments for my horse! I know I definitely need one (hah!) but it's fantastic to see how it improves the horse. I can't wait to move closer to VA so I can get Kit (and the others, which I will be babysitting while Mom is working in AZ) checked and adjusted on a regular basis.

manymisadventures said...

That's a good analogy, sydney. You could definitely tell that some of the adjustments hurt her, but she also understood he was helping.

I'm glad you guys are going to be able to get work done on your horses! It helps my peace of mind so much, knowing that my horses are physically 100% when I ask them to work hard for me.

FuglyAtHeart said...

Great posting--really detailed. Just so you know I am a daily reader, first time poster. Love your blog. I have a half arabian/paint gelding who is my western pony:)

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