What got me thinking about all of this was Maisie's visit with the farrier on Wednesday and her visit with the chiropractor on Thursday. I always try to schedule a chiropractor visit close after major dental work, as changing the way the jaw moves affects the biomechanics of the whole horse - whether you ride with a bit or bitless. Also, Maisie recently had a bout of laminitis, and holding her body to protect her feet undoubtedly led to soreness and things being out of whack. Maisie has had a history of problems with the farrier - any farrier - due to the soundness issues she came with when I got her and probably untreated metabolic issues that made her somewhat footsore - but we've mostly worked through that together with our current farrier. When he trimmed her and shod her fronts on Wednesday, however, she had serious trouble with her left front - not the trimming or shoeing itself, but having to hold her leg up. It clearly was really hurting her, which wasn't really surprising since her laminitis had been worse in the right front. This was one of the cases like having the vet give shots where the job had to get done, and we did it - the farrier helped by keeping her left front low for the trimming and shoeing part. Fortunately, the other legs were OK.
Our chiropractor found that Maisie, not surprisingly, had cramps and soreness in her shoulders, wither area, sternum and neck, undoubtedly from holding her body with tension during the laminitis. I had been able to feel the cramps in the right side of her neck and had been working on them. Maisie helped by shaking out her head and neck while they were worked on, and was very clear about asking for work in the areas where she was sore - our chiropractor is a good listener to horses. Her left stifle and gaskin area needed work too - I had expected that from the couple of "stifle collapses" we'd experienced lately while riding. Our chiropractor, who is also a vet and an expert on endocrine matters, said that she might have some residual foot-soreness (it's 90% better due to taking her off grass and having her on a chromium supplement) so we drew some blood to check her thyroid function and insulin levels. She's been doing at the trot what my chiropractor describes as a "sewing machine" gait, particularly with her right front - lots of knee action and not much reaching out - which could be protecting her feet from hitting the ground in a way that's uncomfortable.
My chiropractor said that one of the reasons she now tries to spend most of her time doing chiropractic and endocrine work, rather than her traditional veterinary practice, is that she wanted to treat horses for causes of unsoundness, soreness and behavior issues rather than just putting band-aids over symptoms that repeatedly occur because underlying issues were never addressed either while they were developing or once true unsoundness appeared. She likes making horses feel better in ways that make them able to be willingly compliant partners in the work.