Today, the horses had a visit from the chiropractor. We were curious to see what she would say, and do. Flash was still off this morning when Brett and I rode so we were feeling discouraged. Brett had even made an appointment to look at a horse on Saturday.
We used a chiropractor, Dawn Fletcher, that was recommended to Brett by one of his fellow mounted posse members. She was new to us and new to our horses. She was very thorough, taking a complete history of work and injuries before starting. Flash was up first.
She started her work by making friends with Flash and explaining to him what she was going to do. She also let him choose a scent that she rubbed on his face. Flash had a definite preference for this one.
I had to run back up to the house and do some work, but Brett told me that she went all over his body feeling for tightness and clues. Then she had Brett lunge him so she could see how he moved. She got to work, and work it was. She spent a couple hours with Flash. But she thinks that with aggressive management of Flash's extensive arthritis (its everywhere), Flash will be sound for regular work for a few more years at least. She suggested talking to our vet about putting him on a non-bute anti-inflammatory to supplement the Adequan and hock injections. After she finished working on Flash, she evaluated the saddle fit of Brett's western saddle. The saddle fits him well but she recommended a different saddle pad, one that will give more support to his back.
I think Brett is going to cancel the horse shopping for this weekend.
Winston was up next. I warned her that he is highly suspicious of strangers touching him. She went through the same introductory routine, letting Winston pick a scent, rubbing it on his face, and slowly talking him through everything she touched in her evaluation.
She couldn't believe how tight his neck muscles were and asked if he braces. I laughed and said that he is getting better but from the day he arrived, he has been very braced and it takes a long warm up to get him to relax and swing. His back was also very tight, consistent with bracing. He wasn't too sure about her poking and prodding.
Then I put him on the lunge line and she noted how he braced in the transitions. I asked if it was something I was doing and she said, no. The tightness is very old, very dense, and deep. It's been there for a long time and is something that probably came from him being forced into a frame when he was started. The biggest issue I've had in training Winston has been overcoming his fear of contact, getting him to trust that I will be soft in my feel, and getting him to relax into the contact. He's been improving; he will do a stretchy trot and a long necked free walk now. I'm hoping all the work on his neck and back today will make him more comfortable so he stops bracing completely.
I asked her to help me with my western saddle fit. When I first brought Winston home, my western saddle was too wide for him. Then I broke my foot and while I was recovering, Winston grew taller and wider. The saddle now fits him pretty well. He is a tad croup high so she suggested a pad with extra padding in the wither pocket to lift it up a little bit to level. Other than that, we're good to go.
Brett and I were very impressed with the work she did and Winston was soft in the eye and relaxed when she finished. She said that there is a movie playing in Winston's head regarding an experience or experiences he had with contact and a forced frame in his past. It's not a romantic comedy. Its more like a horror movie (for him anyway). He is trusting me more and more, giving and releasing, relaxing and letting me create a new memory. I'm going to keep my focus on tempo and swing/relaxation. I want a happy partner. We are going to take as long as it takes to work our way up the training pyramid.