Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hurts So Good

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. 


  1. i used a chiropractor once for an old mare. this one sounds much more extensive and in tune with your horses, and seemed to work very hard for them. good for all of you, i hope.

  2. I've found chiro very helpful for all my horses, and it really looks like yours were benefitting as well.

  3. Just began having a Chiro out for my mare on the advise of my trimmer. Like Winston her issues were old and deep. Noticed a differance in her right away, we've done four treatments now, and have three more to go (apppointments spaced further apart now). It's kind of like getting a new horse but, one you already love!

  4. This Dr. Dawn Fletcher was fantastic. She spent over 2 hours with Flash, and then showed me how to release tension in his neck and had me do it until she was satisfied that I was doing it correctly. The best $100 that I have ever spent. Very encouraging.

  5. Holy crap, how does that lady survive on $100 per horse when she spends such a long time on each!
    She sounds amazing, really thorough, really caring and really knowledgeable.
    Winston sounds more and more like Aero after he came back from his loan home :-( they have much the same issues, I CANNOT just "take" a contact on Aero, he will invert, brace or fuss, I have to wait for him to "give" it to me.
    Fingers crossed both Flash & Winston improve in her care.

  6. Don't you just LOVE LOVE LOVE people like that - that really get into contact with the animals and can give you help as well as them?!! I have a massage therapist for the dogs that does the same and is AMAZING! I am so grateful that they share their talents.

  7. Annette, Now that they've had a couple days to absorb all the body work how are the boys doing?


  8. Wonderful news! So glad to hear that this gal took her time and was so thorough...what was with the scent rubbed on their faces though? Maybe they're more relaxed if they enjoy a lovely scent?? Working in this veterinarian business, we hear about all kinds of voodoo stuff, so it's nice to hear someone who really earns her money and takes the time to do an extensive job. Annette, remember the postings from Kate about "feel"? All these horses who brace from forced contact and having no choice in so many matters that concern them just reinforces my belief that we always need to be respectful, thoughtful and give them the time to respond to our requests. We end up with a much softer, relaxed, happy and cooperative animal because of it; which saves time in the end. Like Ray Hunt always said, "the slower you go, the faster you'll get there". So true. So happy for your horses!!


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