That's okay. I've got a guy.
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.
For the last two years, Izzy has had body work about every three months. This year, I decided to see how he did by spacing the visits out on an "as needed" basis. He saw his chiropractor in early November, and hadn't needed him since.
On Saturday we did a technical trail ride that had a few dicey sections. There wasn't anything horrible, but Izzy did slip and slide a few times throwing his head and neck up to regain his balance. The next day all was well, but the day after that, he was pretty adamant that his neck was broken and no amount of suppling on my part was going to get it to bend.
It took me all of 20 minutes to realize that he needed an adjustment. In the past, it's taken me three rides to figure out that he's hurting. The first ride I always blame on poor riding. The second ride I blame on his sassy attitude. The third ride is usually when I start questioning what the heck is wrong with my horse. As soon as I ask what's wrong with you?, the lightbulb goes on. Not this time; I figured out within 20 minutes which saved us both a lot of frustration.
It took CC less than a minute to pinpoint where Izzy was hung up - the C7, the last cervical vertebra. Normally, the trouble originates in Izzy's poll. Once the C7 was dealt with, CC moved on to Izzy's rib heads. He was a little tender on the last couple, but a firm nudge had him feeling much better. And that was the extent of the adjustment - a single cervical vertebra and a couple of ribs.
CC has been doing my horses for a number of years now. After all of this time, I finally discovered the method(s) that he uses. CC combines traditional chiropractics with the Masterson Method, developed by Jim Masterson. Coincidently, my endurance pal Marci has used CC as well. After he mentioned the Masterson Method to her, she bought the book which she generously lent it to me. I have found it to be thoroughly interesting.
Chapter 1 is titled, "What is the Masterson Method?" The first sentence offers a sort of explanation. "The Masterson Method - Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork - is a unique interactive method of equine bodywork in which you learn to recognize and use the responses of the horse to your touch to find and release accumulated tension in key junctions of the body that most affect performance." It's a mouthful, I know.
CC explained that he takes many of Masterson's techniques for helping the horse to release tension and combines them with the traditional approach of manipulation, or adjustment, of an affected joint and tissues. This restores mobility, alleviating pain and muscle tightness, allowing tissues to heal.
I am sold. In my experience, CC has more than proven himself to be an excellent chiropractor/bodyworker and horseman. My horses love him, and they ALWAYS feel better once he's done. If there's a name for the method he employs, great. If not, I am not opposed to winging it.
I only wish he worked on people.
I am so fortunate to have such a knowledgeable chiropractor in my area. Not only is he good at his job, but he's a trainer, judge, and all around excellent horseman. When he works on one of my horses, he always talks about the roles that nutrition, training, and riding play in their skeletal and musculature health.
While he gave Izzy a once over, I explained what indicators I had seen. Izzy wanted to carry his haunches to the far right, he couldn't canter on a left lead, and he was suddenly more spooky and tense than usual. And oddly enough, all of this appeared over-night.
While Izzy needed a bit of work here and there, it was the C7, the transverse process of the last neck vertebra, that was causing most of the discomfort. I knew that the C7 was the bottom vertebra, but I had to look up the transverse process part. Don't want you thinking I am a smartypants.
CC explained that when the horses are "out" at the C7, all kinds of things start going wrong. I get that. Just watching him work made me identify all the parts of my own body that protest when asked to reach or stretch or lift.
Every chiropractor works differently, but I appreciate CC's approach. He works slowly and methodically, getting the horse to relax and let go on his own. Rarely does he need to jerk the horse, but he does occasionally need to catch them by surprise. He had to use the surprise method to get that C7 joint to finally settle back into place. After working Izzy's body to the right, he came over to the left side, asking Izzy to bend and flex his neck to the left. When it seemed that Izzy was completely relaxed, CC gave a firm push, rocking Izzy back on his haunches.
Izzy has had CC adjust him three to four times a year for the past three years. Even with all those visits, this was the first time I've seen Izzy get so much relief that he did the tongue thing. He always licks his lips during an adjustment, and he gives snorts and signs, but this was totally different.
His tongue practically fell out of his mouth. He swung it around, flapped it a few times, and let it hang out. And then he did it again. The longer CC worked, the more active Izzy's tongue became. Anyone who is skeptical of the efficacy of chiropractics needs to come and see one of my horses get some body work done. There's no mistaking the relief my horses feel.
Once the C7 was taken care of, CC spent some time stretching Izzy and showing him that he didn't need to brace his body in expectation of discomfort. I love that strategy because that is what our horses do - resist when they anticipate pain. CC also worked the remainder of Izzy's body from his poll to his tail.
While I was dismayed that Izzy had found a new place for me to keep my eye on, I was relieved that his hocks weren't the issue. I asked CC if the misalignment could have been due to our recent work with the counter canter and half pass. He thought maybe, but it was more likely that Izzy just tweaked something during a random moment, and it took a while to show up.
This week is already packed with work commitments combined with shortened daylight hours, so it seems a good time to give Izzy a few rest days. I don't think he'll mind too much. By the way, if you're local and looking for a good equine chiropractor, let me know, and I'll pass on CC's number.
Somebody needs to tattoo the answer to that question across my forehead. A week ago, I wrote about how reliable and easygoing Izzy has become. I had just finished the best ride he'd ever given me. I'd even taken to calling him McDreamy. Life was great.
The very next day, he turned into a monster. On the ground, he was still polite, but tense and spooky. He started craning his neck while being tacked up, something he hasn't done in a long while. Walking to the arena, I could hear him suck in short breaths, and his eyes had lost their softness. Under saddle, he just couldn't. He couldn't relax, he couldn't soften, and he couldn't canter left.
It took me three rides before I finally snapped in frustration, What's wrong with you? And like a lightening bolt from above, I remembered: He probably needs to see the chiropractor. I have been having chiropractic work done every three months, but when he didn't need an adjustment in May, we decided to try for an every 4th month schedule.
November was to be his adjustment month, but I was hoping to do it mid-month when I had a bit more time. I guess that was one week too many for the big brown horse.I put in a call to the chiropractor over the weekend. If everything goes to plan, he should be out this afternoon. I have a jam packed week, so I really hope we can get it done today. The way Izzy felt on Saturday, I am not riding him until he gets some work done.
So in answer to the what's wrong with you question, It's not you. It's ME needing to stick to the schedule.
I am not sure why Izzy gets all the cool stuff - Speedy's the one doing all the work, but he does. Last week, the chiropractor was out for his quarterly visit.
When CC was out last time, Izzy was in great shape and no work was needed. I knew he wouldn't get off so easily this time, and I was right. Nothing was seriously out of whack, but he had a few issues.
Izzy's tension starts in his poll which then creates a domino effect. Once his poll gets sticky, the problem moves on down the line through his neck, withers, ribcage, and pelvis.
Besides working out some general body soreness, CC is also a great resource for training questions. CC is a western trainer, but training problems are often the same no matter the discipline. When I explained the bitting issue, he said I should mix it up. I should switch back and forth between the bit Izzy likes and the legal one. CC explained that by this stage in Izzy's training, he doesn't get to be picky.
He said that in their training program, they might use two different bits for one ride. If a horse needs a reminder, go to the bit with more oomph! and then switch back. Basically, he felt that Izzy has a job to do, and he doesn't get to have so much of an opinion about it.
I know Izzy enjoys the body work, and he really likes CC. Even though it was hot as blazes, CC took the time to play with Izzy when he was finished just like he always does. Having the chiropractor out multiple times a year isn't exactly cheap, but it's sure worth it.
I know Izzy thinks so!
Izzy's been seeing the chiropractor since June of 2015, nearly three years. Since May of 2017, he's been seen every three months like clockwork. Each visit required pretty major bodywork from his poll to his hocks. I am happy to report that for the first time in three years, the chiropractor couldn't find anything to adjust.
In fact, the visit was so short that I barely had time to get a photo. I explained to CC that several times a week I have been doing the stretches that he'd shown me in January. He nodded approvingly and then offered another one.
I also described how much better Izzy has been working over the past six months. I told him about the over-flexion exercise and he said that they do something very similar with all of the babies they bring along. CC is an accomplished trainer and competitor in the western world; they work cattle.
We agreed to keep to the same every three months schedule for at least one more visit. Depending on how that goes, we'll try a visit every four months. Ultimately, it would be great if Izzy could go on a twice a year schedule. Poor Speedy hasn't been seen since February of 2016, more than two years ago. I think he's probably due.
I think my big brown horse is getting broker by the minute.
After getting Izzy's hocks injected for the second year in a row, I decided that I needed a better maintenance plan. Injecting hocks every year is pricey and carries some risks. There's also some doubts as to its true efficacy. In an effort to reduce the frequency of hock injections, I decided to bring the chiropractor out every three months whether Izzy looked sore or not.
I think one of two things will happen. First, Izzy will still need his hocks done in the summer or fall which will mean the chiropractic work kept him happier, but didn't address the hock issue. Or, Izzy won't need his hocks injected which will mean that the general soreness that builds up along his top line is the cause of his sore hocks.
When CC did the adjustment in August, Izzy was really sore even though he'd been adjusted just three months prior. CC recommended hock injections which I had done in early September. When CC returned in October, the adjustments he needed to do were pretty minor. This week, Izzy was sore in all the usual places, but the adjustments were once again easy to make.
One interesting thing to mention was that even CC noticed how much more mature Izzy has become over the past few months. Our hope is that as he gets broker and less prone to being a wild card, he'll let some of the muscle tension go which should help him feel much better.
The day before the appointment, I was with a friend who was lamenting her horse's sore hocks. I told her my chiropractor was coming out and asked if she'd like him to look at Glee. Since she already had the day off, she figured a chiropractic visit couldn't hurt.
I love watching CC work. Even though my friend was certain the NQRness was coming from the hocks, CC quickly pointed out that he didn't think so. Glee didn't have any of the hamstring tenderness that comes with sore hocks. Instead, he felt confident that she was just body sore.
After asking Glee to stretch throughout her body, he tackled her mid-section. Even a non-horse person would have been able to see that her back and ribs were sore. CC explained that she's probably been sore for a very long time but has been so stoic about it that she just works through it. He went on to say that horses like Izzy are easier to work on because they're so vocal about what hurts. With him, there's no mystery as to where the soreness is coming from.
When he finished working on Glee, her already lovely stride was even longer and more fluid. She clearly felt better. When I texted my friend the next day, she felt pretty sure that Glee was once again sound. Body soreness is definitely better than hock issues.
Unless anything changes, CC will be back in April for Izzy's next quarterly adjustment. Glee might get to see him again as well.