Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pie Gets Chiro - Desperately Needed - a Photo Essay

Pie has been increasingly grumpy and sore lately.  The sorest areas are the left side of his neck and his left shoulder - he objects strenuously (ear pinning, threatening to bite, head shaking, glares) to having those areas groomed except with the lightest of touch and softest of brushes.  And since he doesn't want to be groomed, he also doesn't want to come out of his stall to be groomed and tacked for riding.  Yesterday he came very close to biting me when I went to get him out of his stall - he didn't connect, and I made it very clear that biting was never acceptable and that I understood that he hurt.

He doesn't seem to object to saddling or being ridden, although I expect having to relax his top line may hurt as well, since he's been much fussier with his head lately than is normal.  So for the past several days, we've just done very light rides at a walk around the pastures, which he's seemed to enjoy.

Fortunately, my vet/chiropractor was coming to the barn today anyway, so we were able to book an appointment.  As I suspected, he desperately needed to be worked on.  Now a word about chiro - I used to be a skeptic until I saw how much the horses appreciated it and how much of a difference it made.  That said, there are good chiropractors and many not so good ones - anyone can call themselves a chiropractor - pay attention to recommendations, if possible use a chiropractor who is a member of the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (excellent training and every member is also a vet), and above all, pay attention to your horse's reactions - your horse, together with your own judgment, will tell you if the chiropractor is any good or not.

Pie desperately needed work - his entire neck, from poll to withers, particularly the left side, was a mass of knots and muscle spasms.  At points during the work, his entire left side, particularly his shoulder from the withers down to the elbow, was twitching and spasming.

My chiropractor is very insistent on listening to the horse and paying attention to their reactions as the work proceeds - she uses this as a guide.  And, once the horses learn that she will listen, they have lots to say.  She also usually allows the horse to freely move its body, both to show her where the horse thinks work is needed, and to be sure that the horse is comfortable with what she is doing.

Here are some photos, with minimal commentary from me, showing some of the work, and some of the interactions between Pie and the chiropractor.  Scroll through - I think you'll see some interesting things - pay particular attention to Pie's ears and eyes.  In all the photos where he's bending his neck around, this is his choice, not something the chiropractor is doing.

She started with areas on the edges of where he was most sore - in the middle of his neck on the left side.  She did a lot of work on his nuchal ligament area, starting with the poll - even his temples were tight, and working down his neck:

In this photo, you can actually see the huge amount of tension in the muscles of his neck:

He's a little worried here:

And even more worried here - this is one of the sorest areas:

But he was very grateful when things started to release and feel better - the lipping and licking were his way of saying thanks:

Now he wanted more pressure on the sore area:

Notice how much more relaxed his neck is than in the earlier photo:

He was uncomfortable here and told her about it:

More thanks: 

A little sore here:

Tail pull - she also did some work on his withers and his sacral area, but no photos of those:

Happy Pie with a neck that is much more relaxed:

Tonight I applied arnica gel to his neck on both sides - he was skeptical but once I started he was cheerful about it, and tomorrow we'll do carrot stretches within his comfort level, and he's getting today and tomorrow off from riding.  He'll have another chiro treatment on Monday - she didn't want to do so much that he got sore from the treatment.  It's likely that the soreness is a result of his series of spring vaccinations, many of which he got in the neck - the tissues got irritated and the numerous muscles could no longer slide against one another freely - hence the cramping - from now on we'll do all his vaccinations in the strap muscles along the back of his hindquarters.


  1. I love the photo progression. I always spend too much time entranced in watching my own horses than to actually take photos or video of the progression. I really should though.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the photo documentary. My chiropractor is coming tomorrow, her 2nd visit. I hope to get a feeling for her work this time, the first visit I was just worried because the horse seemed uncomfortable the entire time. Since then I've discovered my horse's vet trauma, so that may have been part of it.

  3. Great series of photos. You sure can see the difference in his neck. He is a very expressive horse- funny because I thought Red was the expressive one.

  4. My vet does both acupuncture and chiropractic. Combine the two and miracles can happen.

    Does chiropractic work? Ask a horse. Unlike human beings, the horse will not "think" he's better just because someone did something. He will be honest and react accordingly. When he feels better after an adjustment and shows it, the skepticism has to be put aside.

  5. I love the photos!! What a difference! My horse hasn't shown any need for a chiro, but I would love to get one out just for a nice massage eventually. :)

  6. Seeing the difference in how he stretches after treatment is pretty amazing.


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