Thursday, July 9, 2009

Crack A Lackin'

Today was chiropractor day at my barn and oh what that is. Some horses respond really well to it, some don't. One of mine actually kicked the lady's truck when she was putting his spine back in order. I'm usually pretty skeptical when it comes to these things. I mean we've been riding horses for thousands of years without chiro work right???

But alas, I have fallen into the trap as a part of my horses maintenance schedule. I feel it's good for their bodies and I have seen first hand the good it can do some horses. Shoulders back straight, spine aligned, neck popped. Ahhhhh sounds good to me. BUT, here is the part I found most odd. When I asked how to maintain and what stretches or exercises I could do to help the horses stay decent until the next adjustment, the lady told me nothing. That there was nothing I could do. Now I've never used this lady before, but I feel that can't be right. Is it? I mean neck stretches daily are good, and leg stretches, but what else is there? What is anything do you guys use on your horses?? Stretches, aromatherapy, acupressure, oh there is just so much to choose from nowadays!!!


Long Island Five said...

There's pretty much one way to maintain the adjustments, that's avoiding or working on the muscle spasm or injury that caused the problem in the first place.

This can be maintained with:
* proper training that is mindful of where the muscle spasms occur;
* avoiding muscle overuse and strain, anything that can lead to injury; and
* some very basic massage work.

Usually an equine massage therapist or physiotherapist is more helpful than the chiro person, in this regard. They're the ones who actually understand how to avoid the problem in the first place.

My physiotherapist has been very generous in her knowledge and has given me a lot of homework over the years, so that I can maintain my horses between visits.

wvfarmgirl said...

Years ago my equine chiro gave me several stretches to do with my TB in between adjustments.
1) lead the head between the front legs with a treat
2) slowly make them stretch their head to each hip with a treat and hold for a few seconds.
3)"lift" his back by pressing your fingers under his stomach, starting at the girth area and running straight back 10". It's kind of like us on our hands and knees and rounding our back up.

My TB would start galloping the fence every time he saw the chiro's truck headed up the drive and he'd be the first at the gate. She would also do acupuncture on him -- made him look like a pincusion, but he loved it! And he moved so much more freely after his adjustment.

LivnLaf said...

Unfortunetly I haven't found one I'm 100% sold on yet. I DO routinely incorporate into my horse's work-out some neck flexion exercises which were taught to me by an equine massge therapist and then post work-out massages. My horse seems to like it and with a gaited horse (absolutely no pads-no soreing), I have no doubt it really does feel pretty good to him.

Heather said...

There is a book I really like:

It's got really nice stuff. I can't belief the chiropractor didn't talk to you about stretching. I don't think I'd let someone crack my horse's back if she didn't talk about maintaining the alignment through stretching exercises. To me (ever suspicious) it would seem the chiropractor hoped to be making more maintainance visits, rather than fewer.

The number one thing in my book has always been proper saddle fit. Not as easy as throwing your most comfortable saddle on just any horse. Each of our horses has his or her saddle, which fits them, not always every rider. Elementary, but can't count the number of yahoos I've seen riding their horse in a saddle that was obviously uncomfortable.

Kimmy Gustafson said...

I had a chiro once who had a very specific schedule and method of treatment and it was EXPENSIVE. There were stretches and a whole guantlet of things to do- but you had to to stick to his schedule of a visit every 4 weeks for 6 months at $80 a visit.

Now I have a great chiro who comes when needed- which isn't very often. He tells me to do things make sure to walk my mare backwards in a straight line across the arena once a day for a week after treatment. Also we do carrot stretches where you hold a carrot and ask them to stretch till they can't anymore and then let them bite the carrot while still stretched. Other than that I don't do much. I only need my new chiro about once a year :) He is great.

Nicely dun said...

I have done the stretching-the-neck for a treat stretch and the head to either side also. As well, if you stand behind your horse (depending on the horse!) and scratch or rub really hard starting at his hips working down to his (on a cow we would call it pins?) "butt bone" that also helps stretch out their back.

While riding you can start him on a small circle bending him as usual, but then bring the inside leg back to stretch the inside leg so that he crosses it over. Its supposed to help stretch the ham strings.
Im sure im not very good at explaining this but it can help a short strided horse realize that he can stretch himself out.

CCH said...

I really believe chiro should only be done by a trained and licensed vet. Say what you will about people who just "know how to do it" or went to a class. I respect the idea of a degree in veterinary medicine and having the ability to X-ray, ultrasound, administer drugs and develop an entire treatment plan, etc.

As for massage therapy, I looked into several people, their qualifications and how to get certified/qualified. There really is no state/national recognized certification. There are schools who will give you their certification, but really the extent of training is a couple of weeks to about a month. That's when I just decided to pick up some books on equine massage and anatomy and do it for my own horses myself.

That being said, I completely did not believe in chiro until after my horse had major colic surgery. He was messed up and needed something. I found a vet at an amazing facility who could take the x-rays to find the problem, do adjustments and acupuncture. He also gave my horse an injection of muscle relaxer right into the spasmed part of his back. You would not believe the instant difference that made.

The end point of my whole rant is that I have a fully documented veterinary record of the problem areas, what was treated and the future plan which included specific exercises and stretches.

So, depending upon what you had done, yes rest is good for the first few days, but after that you should do stretches, massage, and targeted training so the problem doesn't recurr

Equus said...

I have a great respect for chiros - for the reputable ones that have gone to school and do a great job (wom). I've had them work miracles on our own horses, from my Quarab who was in bad shape at one time to the OTTB we purchased last fall who went from running for $25,000 as a 3yo down to $7,000 as a 4yo - and returning to the barn without a bead of sweat on his neck and hardly breathing, despite keeping up with the pack the entire race. Turns out he'd been in intense pain due to a misaligned pelvis - once the chiro did her job he was back to wanting to run again (we decided against running him though, in his best interests). I have been lucky enough to find some great chiropractors and they have worked miracles on our horses. I respect that a vet should ideally be involved, but chiro is NOT their specialty (same as for humans) and they often will not condone it or help you out. Want records? Ask your chiro, he/she should be maintaining a logbook of work done on your horse. Chiro is NOT something that should be done on a rigid schedule (too much is not healthy for a horse's structure either), however it IS something that should be done on a need-to basis. If a chiropractor does not understand this, I would be hesitant to have them work on any of our horses because I would suspect they were interested more in their personal financial gain than in our horses.

I am shocked though that the chiro you used told you not to stretch your horse or anything, though it depends on the type of work involved I suppose. If it was a minor adjustment, there might not be much you can do. With our OTTB, my chiro told me to trot him out long to stretch his shoulders out and also to continue developing his topline. With our Quarab, once he was back in shape, there wasn't much I needed to do. For our horses on the track, I often had to do shoulder streches (etc) - as per the advice of our chiro, to stretch out a horse. I would personally get a second opinion from another chiropractor.

As for horses responding well or not, I find they typically might not respond well to it at first, because it hurts to put those bones back into place! Afterwards though they should feel better and therefore also move out better (our own horses experienced a WORLD of a difference in either area) and therefore will usually grow to appreciate the chiropractor. Our fractious OTTB threatened the chiro the first time and kept dancing away from her, but as the session progressed he became increasingly quiet. By the next session he was still as a rock for her.

We may have been riding horses for hundreds of years, but that doesn't mean our horses were always in comfort all those years and that we were always doing things right!! As an individual who previously used to have chiro visits daily and who entered my chiro's office crippled up and having difficulty walking and left feeling fabulous with visits now down to once every month (given I don't re-injure myself, haha), I can appreciate human chiro's and so have to appreciate it for our horses. It's done wonders for me and (the right ones, mind you) also for our horses - the difference is very visible. I most certainly would not have been able to do without it and some of our horses would not have either (even when I was suspicious of it previously).

Patricia said...

My horse's chiro told me to do carrot stretches from side to side before and after riding. She also said to stretch out his front legs, like shaking hands, until he extends out and drops his shoulder.

Also, bending work in hand and under saddle is always helpful. As mentioned by a few others, massage is a great way to keep muscles from pulling the spine out of alignment.