It's a pretty nice day - mid-20sF with little wind. All the horses - even Dawn - are out without blankets and seem to be enjoying themselves. I made a trip to the barn, hoping to get in a brief ride on Pie before the chiropractor came for his appointment - I'd noticed during grooming that his lumbar area seemed a bit tender.
As I went to get Pie from the dry lot, I saw that he and Scout were playing - much pawing, face tag and even some rearing. When Pie first got here, he didn't play at all but has recently decided that playing with Scout is OK. I had my camera with me, and hoped to get some pictures of them playing, but instead I got this (Scout on the left, Pie on the right):
They stopped playing and had to come say hello! And here's a Scout "play face":
Pie's wondering what I'm up to:
I had brought him into the barn and groomed and was about to tack up when our chiropractor, Dr. Alice Marold, showed up. So no ride today, but that was OK.
Pie had a very good session with the chiropractor - this was his second. He seems to really understand what it's all about now, and was very clear with her about what needed doing. He was also very clear with her when she was doing something that made him feel better - there was lots of stretching, yawning, and when she was all done he gave himself a big shake all over just like a dog. All of Pie's chiro issues arise from how he carries himself - his core isn't strong and he tends to travel somewhat inverted with his topline shorter. He has the confirmation to carry himself using his core, but just hasn't learned to do that with a rider. As a result, the ligaments that run from the poll to the withers and then back to the tailhead are tight, as are his top-line muscles, and since he's using his top-line muscles to support himself instead of his core, those top-line muscles get sore.
He had some soreness in his neck, and Dr. Marold showed me how to massage the muscles supporting the vertebrae in the mid to lower neck in order to release the tension and cramping. He also had a noticeable hot area at the point of his rump (sacral joint), which I will be keeping a hand on to see how it does. We also have a program to do some belly lifts and tail tucks as well as carrot stretches - particularly downwards ones that will stretch the ligaments and muscles on the top of his neck. We'll be doing some pole and cavelletti work, which strengthens the core, and working on getting him to stretch down whenever possible. Work up gradual inclines is also very helpful for this. Gradually working on softening will also make a big difference. (For a very good discussion of why work stretching down and forward is so important in developing the core and the ability of the horse, particularly the young horse, to lift its back and use itself correctly, see this article by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, DVM - he is also the author of a number of works that deal with the damaging effects of rollkur (or hyperflexion - they're one and the same in my opinion) and how it produces incorrect muscle development. This thinking, and the article, should be of benefit to all horsemen and women, regardless of the English or Western discipline they ride in. Stretching down and forward, as Dr. Heuschmann recommends, is not at all the same as "low, deep and round" that is another euphemism for rollkur or hyperflexion.)
I'm not too worried about any of this as it will come right as his core muscles are strengthened, allowing his top line to relax and lengthen, as we progress with our work. We got Dawn when she was 4 off the racetrack, and she was if anything more inverted than he is now, and she now uses her core really well to carry herself with softness.