Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pie and Scout Play and Pie Visits With the Chiropractor

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.


  1. Kate, Glad that Pie had such a good session with the chiropractor and can respond so well to her efforts. And how nice that he has found a "play buddy!" I know what you mean about wanting to take a picture of a horse, but instead they come right up to you- when I want to take a picture of Buckshot, he seems to think this little thing (the camera) is a potential treat that he needs to explore immediately!

  2. "Long and low" is always the first thing I try to teach my horses. There are training methods that do not approach dressage from that perspective, but I can't quite relate to them.

    My chiropractic/acupuncture vet always commented how good my PJ looked as he aged...good in the back, etc. He was worked long and low from the initial training with me, and even as he progressed to FEI, I still warmed him up that way.

  3. Great pictures of the guys !! I LOVE Scouts "play face" kinda like the kid who is trying to be the funny guy and get his buddy to play along.

  4. I'm sure your work with Pie will have him using his core and muscling up properly as his training continues. Glad he enjoyed his chiro visit, all my horses seem to benefit from them as well.

  5. I love how they both stoped playing to come and see you. And it sounds like Pie is well on the way to becoming a fantastic horse

  6. Very nice pictures. It;s so cute how Pie reacts to the chiropractor (and smart!).
    I really enjoyed the attached article on the importance of the horse stretching forward and down. Thanks for posting it. Luckily Rogo natually asks to stretch (maybe all horses do who haven't been taught not to?)

  7. The photos are great :) Very cute. Glad Pie seems to like the chiro. Ozzy is due for a second visit (he threw his hip out last winter and probably re-busted it when we sank in the swamp). Chiros are so wonderful <3

  8. Legs loves his carrot stretches. He's stretching before the carrot is even out of my pocket. LOL

    "Low, deep and round" doesn't describe at all what I've seen. Funny how they can make something bad sound good.

  9. So glad Pie got his yummy feel good work today! I bet he feels great now. That second photo of him stepping out to say hello is the best ever! Priceless!

  10. I love the way Pie and Scout came over to say hi... Pie obviously loves his Mom! With all the cold you're reporting, I may have to stop complaining about the cold down here, lol.

  11. I'm so glad that Pie has a friend. That Scout is a cutie.

  12. Scout and Pie are adorable! I love them! I had no idea that horses needed chiropractors. That's very interesting.


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