From Endurance to Dressage
For a year or two, Izzy was getting bodywork every three months. Eventually, he quit with all of the jackassery, and suddenly, he didn't need such frequent adjustments. Imagine that. During Speedy's six-year old year, he also saw the chiropractor on a regular schedule. After about ten years of age, he only seemed to need an annual adjustment. This week he told me he was getting pretty sore.
I didn't look at my health record book until after the appointment with CC, my chiropractor/body worker, but it was actually one year ago (plus two days) that Speedy had his last adjustment. After the SLO-CDS show, I gave him a week off; we were going out of town anyway, so the timing was just good. I rode him on Saturday, and he felt the same as always. When I rode him on Monday, I knew we had a problem.
Speedy walked out just fine, but when I asked him to pick up the trot, he gave a tell-tale lurch and then proceeded to trot around with a faint hitch in his gait. My hunch was that it was a hind leg, so I asked the ranch owner, who was riding her own mare, to give us a watch. I trotted Speedy in both directions in a circle and on a straight line. The longer I rode the better he felt, but he wasn't 100% sound. I asked for a stretch, and that's all he wanted to do. He trotted around doing a deep stretchy trot for a solid five to ten minutes.
Both the ranch owner and I agreed it was a hind leg, and she felt it was the left hind more than the right. I jumped off him and ran my thumbs down his hamstrings looking for any tenderness. Sure enough, both hamstrings quivered under my fingers, the left more than the right. I untacked Speedy and called the chiropractor. As luck would have it, he was going to be in my area that same afternoon.
CC is not just a chiropractor/body worker. He's a true horseman and trainer. He really knows horses. He's never seen me ride, but he knows exactly how both of my horses work. As he points out, Arabs are built to cover ground, not collect and sit. Speedy is no exception. We've been doing a lot of collecting this past year, and his body was showing the effects. CC worked on Speedy from head to toe. Speedy's poll definitely needed some work, as did his ribs. Once CC got to his hind end, he felt pretty confident that Speedy's hocks needed some help.
I wasn't surprised; Speedy's sixteen years old. While he's had a long list of injuries and gets a daily pill for his PPID, he hasn't required any other age-related intervention. If getting his hocks injected prolongs his soundness, it's something I am happy to do. As soon as CC left, I called the vet and made an appointment.
Before CC left, I asked him to also take a look at Izzy. With Speedy resting more comfortably in the shade, I put a halter on the big brown horse. That horse LOVES attention, and CC is always willing to give it. When CC walked up to Izzy, I could almost hear that big brown horse squealing with glee. CC ran his hands over Izzy's poll, down his neck and across his back. I waited for a flinch or a head snap, but nothing, which was very surprising since his last adjustment was last July as well.
CC pointed out that as Izzy has matured and quit fighting so much, he's a lot easier on his body. I appreciate CC's attitude about bodywork. If the horse needs it monthly, fine, but if they can go a whole year, that's even better.
Since the ranch owner reapplied a fresh coating of the dust control product she uses, both horses got Tuesday off which fell in line with CC's recommendation for Speedy. On Wednesday, Speedy went to the vet. More about that tomorrow.
On Friday, when my confidence was a bit low and Speedy was a bit grouchy, what I forgot to mention was that my AWESOME chiropractor had come out on Monday. That man is simply a magician.
CC's been doing my horses for so long now that he can figure out what's wrong without my two cents, but since I am nothing if not hands on, I like to give him a 30 second summary of what I'm feeling. Speedy can't bend right, his lumbar region is sore, and his left hind seems a bit ouchy.
I was mostly on track. Speedy couldn't bend right because his poll was definitely out as was his C7, that deepest neck vertebrae in the spinal column. Those two things were causing everything else to hurt, even his lumbar region.
One of the things I most love about working with CC is that he's also a horse trainer and competitor. As he's finishing up with one of my horses, I love to pick his brain about how or why my horse is sore. Sometimes I know. Izzy has fallen a time or two which would explain why he was hurting, but most of the time, I figure they're hurting because of me.
It's not like I am doing something on purpose, but CC describes it as "wrestling with them." And yes, that is a pretty accurate description. So then I have to ask myself if we're struggling because they don't want to do what I am asking - this seems quite likely since what I am asking for is typically hard, or is it that they simply can't do what I am asking? It's both I imagine.
CC always offers training solutions for what might have led to the soreness. He also says that horses excel at hurting themselves without our help. I like hearing his perspective and would love to have him on site. Wouldn't it be great to board and train with an equine body worker?
I gave Speedy the next day off and then rode him lightly on Wednesday. The changes in his ability to bend and in his overall attitude were obvious. Izzy was the one who was needing an adjustment every couple of months. It looks like now that Speedy is solidly at Third Level, he's going to be needing some more frequent body work.
That's okay. I've got a guy.
It is no secret that I consider bodywork for my equines an integral part of my "program." While I wish both horses could have monthly work, my budget doesn't allow that many visits a year. Izzy sees the bodyworker/chiropractor at least quarterly, and Speedy just got a session after nearly three years.
I used to see a human chiropractor pretty regularly. And then I didn't hurt so much anymore, so the visits went from several times a week to several times a month to several times a year to ... I don't know how long it's been. And once I quit going, I simply couldn't find time for it any more. I've managed a few massages over the past year, and I do a lot of stretching, but nothing was helping the pain that started to develop in my hip.
We recently added a new regular to the ranch, Deborah Goaldman. Deborah's been riding the ranch owner's Thoroughbred mare who doesn't have much of a day job. During a recent conversation done over grooming, I explained the method that CC, the chiropractor who works on my horses, uses. He combines the Masterson Method (lots of stretching and manipulation of the muscles) with traditional chiropractics.
Deborah revealed that she is the owner of Healing Stream Body Wellness, a practice (for humans) that uses "the body's natural healing ability and allows it to self-correct at its own perfect timing." Deborah is a registered practitioner of Ortho-Bionomy® and Reiki Master. That's a mouthful, I know. We talked about what Ortho-Bionomy is, and I was immediately intrigued. Deborah describes her practice this way:
The practitioner uses gentle movement to find and follow a path of greatest comfort and ease in the body. This direction of comfort and ease is the same direction of an overly shortened muscle. The body is positioned to shorten the muscle further and then held with gentle compression for about 30 to 60 seconds. By exaggerating what the body is already doing, the brain becomes more aware of the muscles that are too contracted and sends signals for them to relax.
A session lasts approximately an hour and a half and costs $60. After hearing what the session would entail, I scheduled an appointment with her. My hip has been in near constant pain for the past year and a half, and I was ready to try anything.
I cannot say enough good things about the body work that Deborah did. That was the best hands-on session I have ever had. It was like a yoga class met a chiropractor who then switched to massage but without any pain or sharp movements. The whole thing was relaxing, soothing, and very effective.
As Deborah worked on me, I had to stifle a giggle because her techniques were the exact same ones that I've seen CC use on the horses. Both of them stretch and rotate limbs. Both rock the body to generate movement down the spine and neck (or poll!). And both really listen to and watch their patient for signs of a "release." I of course didn't yawn, roll my third eyelid, snort, blink, or hang my tongue out like the horses do, but I did take enormously deep breaths, and I might have even groaned a bit.
In fact, I enjoyed the session so much and felt such immediate relief of my hip pain that I scheduled a second visit. The walnut-sized knot that has taken residence just above my left my seat bone is now the size of a pea. During that second session, I might have fallen asleep; it was that relaxing.
If you are suffering any body pain due to an injury, stress, or just because sitting the trot is so damn hard, give her a call. I can't guarantee she'll be able to fix what ails you - she already told me she can't improve my sitting trot, but I know you'll at least feel better after a session with her.
Now I know how my horses feel!
Speedy is a wet noodle and extremely flexible. In most ways this is a good thing. In other ways, it means that he is the king of evading because packaging up a bowlful of cooked noodles is pretty difficult.
As a younger horse though, Speedy needed to see the chiropractor a lot. Back then, I could tell when he needed an adjustment. These days, he feels pretty good. In fact, he hasn't needed to see the chiropractor since February of 2016. And even that visit just required a "minor" adjustment.
When the saddle fitter found that Speedy was tight in his back though, I put in a call to my chiropractor. He was out the next day. Besides being a noodle, Speedy is also expensive. I spent a lot this winter at the vet dealing with his numerous injuries and issues. Last year was also expensive.
Izzy is the opposite of a noodle; he could use a weekly adjustment, but instead, he gets one every quarter. As I explained to CC, my chiropractor, when your wallet is not a deep pit of money, you tend to put out the biggest fires first. So even though Speedy probably would have benefitted from a visit a year or so ago, it just didn't happen.
Since Speedy hadn't been seen in several years, I was somewhat worried that CC was going to find an assortment of issues. To my relief, there were just a few things. He was out in his poll, a bit in the neck, and his lumbar region needed loosening up. It was all pretty basic though. Izzy has more issues every other month than Speedy did after three years!
By the time CC was finished, Speedy's eyes were much softer than I've seen them in quite a while. As CC ran his hands over Speedy's body looking for anything missed, it was obvious that the tightness was gone. If you've had your horses worked on, you know that sleepy look they get when they're feeling really good.
Even though CC was out last month to do Izzy, he just couldn't leave without checking on the big brown horse. Like I said, that horse could use a weekly adjustment. CC did his usual little tweaks: poll, ribs, and lumbar region. He had actually started on Izzy before I got there, which was a first, so he was just finishing when I walked up.
While it's tough to spend so much on things like saddle fittings and chiropractic work, I know that it keeps my horses healthier and definitely sounder. I don't buy and sell horses very often. That means I need to keep the ones I've got feeling their best so they can work well into their senior years.
I do wish people would stop inventing ways to help our horses feel better though. If I am not careful, I am going to be getting a horse communicator and family therapist out here. I want them to feel good, but there has to be a line somewhere!
I have a really great team of professionals who keep my horses fit and healthy. My vet, farrier, chiropractor, trainer, and saddle fitter are all genuinely concerned about the well-being of my two boys as well as my success as a competitor. Unfortunately, they rarely get to meet - how cool would that be?, but I make sure to pass on any observations to the team member who most needs to know.
Even though she was out less than a year ago, I was able to have Tina Fitch, saddle fitter extraordinaire, out on Wednesday to evaluate my saddle's fit. I use the same saddle on both horses, so I am pretty vigilant about keeping up on its suitability for what, at first glance, looks like two, totally different shaped bodies. Speedy is 15'1 with good withers and a well sprung ribcage. Izzy is 16'3 also with well formed withers and a lot of back.
Even though my saddle has felt balanced while I ride, I decided that with the move to Third Level, it was worth having it looked at again sooner than expected. It didn't take Tina long to say that everything was in great shape; no adjustment was needed. She liked the fit better on Speedy and reminded me that she doesn't love it on Izzy, but with careful placement of my half pad, it still works.
I didn't get off scot-free though. Before she even looks at a saddle, Tina always gives the horse a pretty thorough hands-on exam. Seeing where a horse is tight or tender gives her an idea of what she might expect to find on the saddle. To her surprise, and mine, she immediately discovered that Speedy's back was pretty tight. That's the first time she's ever noticed anything amiss.
She asked a lot of questions - was my trainer happy with my position? I think so. Has Speedy been behaving differently? He's been kind of grumpy. What pad am I using? The same one as last time. Try as she might, she just couldn't find an issue with the saddle that would account for the tightness in his back.
I told her that we made the move to Third Level this year which has meant an increase in Speedy's workload. She agreed that the work we were doing could explain the tightness, as could just general anxiety associated with his "winter of woe." I had told her about the three abscesses, the Cushing's diagnosis, the lacerations to his front legs, the knocked out tooth, and the recent bubble wrap debacle. His pasterns are nearly healed by the way.
Tina shook her head in amazement and said that all of that combined stress could have just added up to a tense, sore back. While she was working on the other two saddles, I put in a call to my chiropractor. He was at a cutting show, but assured me he'd make it to the ranch within a day or two to give Speedy a check. Like I said, I have a great team of professionals.
While a saddle fitting isn't free, getting a professional evaluation of my horses' backs and comfort level is worth the fee. What I thought was just grumpiness as Speedy recovers from his woeful winter, might actually be due to some soreness. And if my chiropractor can adjust him before it turns into something more serious, the saddle fitting (and chiropractor) fee will be more than worth it.
Asking my horses to work so hard for me means that I owe them these small courtesies. They're worth it.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read