Bravo has now seen the chiropractor three times and each time he has had similar issues to address. This last time though, was the first time I feel I can say that he needed it and it helped significantly.
I jumped on the bandwagon of the veterinarian chiropractor who comes somewhat regularly to my barn after a discussion with our head trainer about a new treatment the chiropractor was recommending for her horse to address allergies. Bravo struggled a little over the summer with…well, it seems like just about everything…but allergies were definitely on that list. She, and the other trainer routinely rave about the work this guy does and the effect it has on their horses. I was skeptical but not totally against trying it. I have had chiropractic work done on myself a few times back in college while I was heavy into rowing season. Several of my teammates went to the chiropractor and though I didn’t have any significant complaints other than what seems like a standard low-level of discomfort that comes with competing nationally in a sport like rowing, I thought maybe it would provide some relief. It didn’t really, and at the same time there wasn’t much to address, so I stopped going. I didn’t leave feeling like it is all complete garbage, but it didn’t do much for me.
I think a lot of these “treatments” can really help, but I also think it is very individual. If something works for one horse but you try it and it doesn’t work for your horse- I think we shouldn’t be so quick to label something as useless. Also, evidence that a treatment IS effective is still not a guarantee. I definitely fall more on the evidence/science-based side of the spectrum when it comes to forming opinions about these things. If you want to change my opinion about something, I am open to looking at data. I just don’t believe that YOUR anecdotal evidence cancels out MY anecdotal evidence. I also think placebos are useful and very legitimate forms of treatment.
Bravo’s first appointment with the chiropractor went pretty well overall. I didn’t quite know what to expect but the chiropractor explained what he saw right away as I walked Bravo toward him in the main barn. We were right in the midst of recovering from his big hind foot abscess so I knew I probably wouldn’t get the chance to feel any benefit from the saddle, but I hoped Bravo might be more comfortable. He was out a few places along his back and near his SI. His C7 was out causing/contributing to some of the other misalignments. This chiropractor uses B12 injections and mallets to correct these alignments as well as some limb/neck manipulation. He also noticed a soft tissue knot on the right side of Bravo’s neck that he massaged to break up. Bravo was pretty surprised and concerned about every hit with the mallet but seemed to react happily after the more significant issues were treated.
The chiropractor was complimentary of Bravo’s temperament and said he was excited to see him develop. He gave me some suggestions for things to do in our warm-ups and rides to help Bravo keep the corrected alignment. At the time, Bravo was being turned out but not quite sound enough on that hoof to be worked. I tucked the suggestions away for later, gave Bravo some treats, and headed back to work.
As predicted, Bravo took quite a while to heal from the abscess so by the time we were back to work, I couldn’t tell if the chiropractic work had done anything at all- at least it didn’t seem to have hurt him. The second appointment proved to be similar- he was out in a few different places but still that C7 displaced to the left. This time his right elbow was out which I thought maybe could be attributed to some less-than-balanced jamming on the brakes he was doing upon my request. Sorry bud. Your trick is cool and I’m proud of you for listening, but maybe I could refrain from whistling you to halt from the canter. But yet again, I couldn’t really say that it made a big difference. I still wasn’t riding much and this time I was in the midst of another round of ulcer treatment.
When the trainer texted that the chiropractor was coming back in early November, I once again opted in to have Bravo seen. Leading up to this appointment we’d been doing a lot more riding, had our saddle professionally fitted, and he’d been quite sound. A few days before the appointment I lunged him in the arena to warm up and had planned to ride but he was a little off. He had also been grumpy on the ground- biting at me often. As I get to know him better, it seems to be his MO when he is hurting or uncomfortable to act aggressively. He is normally such a sweetheart and kind soul and I’m starting to get the memo through my thick skull that anytime he behaves that way it’s my job to try to figure out what is hurting. I didn’t end up riding that night and then I gave him the next night off hoping maybe he was just a little sore. The chiropractor came that next morning and felt again like the C7 misalignment was the major culprit. Bravo was more reactive this time around and fought the adjustments more but the chiropractor wasn’t concerned. It was a pretty cold morning so I let Bravo marinate in his Back on Track mesh sheet and neck cover before and after his adjustment. I turned him back out and went to work.
That night I came back and tacked him up to ride. I noticed right away that I had my gentle sweet boy back on the ground and he didn’t snap at me once while grooming or tacking. On the lunge line for a quick warm up he was suddenly completely sound and no longer cutting in and grumping at me for asking him to move out. Our ride was excellent, we are making progress now every time, even if it’s slow or seems like basic stuff. Sure, it could be a coincidence- maybe his soreness from the other day faded on its own with rest. I think it was the chiropractic work that made the difference. Third time was the charm for us. He was loose and easy in his work and much happier. I think for me, chiropractic work will always be on probation- if I ever feel like it is not making a difference it will be the first thing on the chopping block.
Does your horse see a chiropractor? What other kinds of treatments have you done that worked but others thought were snake oil? What seems to work for everyone but didn’t help your horse at all?