Equine Chiropractor

Demi saw the chiropractor last week and it was AWESOME.

I’m honestly kicking myself for not putting her on the last appointment. That was shortly after she arrived, and she was still putting on weight and getting used to us. I knew with work her balance and musculature would change (it did!), but the change since last week is HUGE. I’m sure it would have made her first rides more comfortable- for her!

A good equine chiropractor is always handy to have on call. The emphasis, of course, is on good. Like massage therapists and dentists, there are a lot of ongoing arguments (and even lawsuits) about who can legally practice these therapies and how they should be trained.

I’ve watched enough friends and students go through vet school that I don’t agree that they should all be vets. Many schools have no training requirements at all for massage or chiropractic, and often only a single dentistry course. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to go out in the world and practice a mentally complex and physically difficult- not to mention dangerous- trade after 30 hours in the classroom.

On the other hand, in many areas there are no local certifications or training courses…and that can also make it hard to determine who a “good” practitioner is. Here’s what I look for: some sort of training or a very long standing practice (ideally both!), willingness to work with a veterinarian if they aren’t one, and if I’m lucky a local reference from another client.

I knew Dr. Don was good. He’s adjusted Buffy, my lease horse, a few times, and she’s been so much sounder and easier to keep fit after- to the point where I’ve paid for her appointments a couple times when her owner was away and it was just me riding.

After seeing him with Demi, and riding her after, I will say that he is GREAT. So how does he stack up with my method above? Local reference: Check. He’d been seeing horses at Moon Dance Ranch for a while, I just tagged on to their appointment. Certification? Check. But! Here’s another reason I don’t agree with only using veterinarians: his doctorate is in human chiropractic. Long standing practice? Check. And like most in our industry, he had a hands on apprenticeship. Willingness to work with a veterinarian? Big ol’ check! The same day as Demi’s appointment, he looked at one of my students’ horses. The mare had had some indeterminate lameness and associated crankiness earlier in the summer. Some massage, stretching, and careful targeted exercise got her going again for a bit, but she’d started to relapse- and, I think from seeing her day of (it had been a while due to covid), gotten worse. He evaluated her, and then said no, I’m not going to adjust this horse. She needs to see a vet first. He was right, and x-rays caught some early hock degeneration and slight pastern osselets. Good call, Dr. Don.

So back to Demi. I walked her to the upper barn where he usually works. This was a outside her “home” area, and required standing in a spot she’d only walked through once, months ago (I’ll have to work on that! When it cools down…) She got increasingly anxious. I’d gone up early to watch the other appointments, especially the mare mentioned above. Between horses, he glanced at Demi. “This the rescue?” “Yeah.” “She more comfortable somewhere else?” “Down that hill.” And so down we went to wait our turn, he’d meet us down there.

I thought I’d work Demi a bit to get her settled, but she relaxed progressively as we walked back and by the time we got to the round pen she was hooked on to me, and even sidled right up to the mounting block. So she went back in her stall to chill. He ended up adjusting her right in the breezeway outside her stall, between her buddies’ stalls- she was a very different horse in that space! He noted the hock that she’d had trouble with when she came in (every joint in that leg went off like a shotgun!), and connected it to the shoulder that used to have a divot (more loud pops!)- that’s the front leg that kept getting stuck in ground work and riding. And then. And then! Her upper neck. The lower neck she accepted pretty easily, and was fairly quite. The upper neck (atlas, axis, and probably down as low as c4) she was CONCERNED. He waited. She relaxed a bit, and then I’m sure they could hear it down the barn aisle. And then her head shot out and down (something she pretty much never did unless eating) and her jaw worked wide and sideways and she sighed so big.

We’ve had a couple rides since, including my longest ride on her, one of my few rides outside on her, riding in company, riding at night, riding while I chatted with people going by. Almost no stick on that front foot until she gets tired. And a beautiful long strided, steady, neck long and relaxed, head bobbing walk.

Next time I take on a rescue project, I’m calling Dr. Don as soon as they’re settled it. He also works on other animals! A multi-species chiropractor for a multi-species trainer. And yes, Demi has a followup- a big adjustment like she had needs some early maintenance.

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