Tuesday, July 14, 2015

pins + needles

I knew we were overdue for our 6 month chiro appointment.... but yikes, it's actually been 9 months, as Isabel's last adjustment was in October. Sorry mare - didn't mean to slack off! 

anything stick out at you in this picture? (lol puns)
As mentioned in my last goals post, there was drama with our previous practitioner (revolving around scheduling and deposits) that led me to look for someone new. Dressage trainer C pulled through with a recommendation of a local DVM who does chiro/acupuncture.

eyes are getting softer, still a little worried tho
She started out with a full body assessment of Isabel - revealing intense back soreness :( .... It's really been a persistent issue with this mare, and she's been some degree of back sore since I first met her. Recall this is what prompted all our saddle shopping this past winter too. 

The chiro - let's call her L - went on to say that most back soreness won't resolve itself with just rest. So it's entirely possible that what we're seeing now is still a function of riding in the Wintec for so long (rather than, say, a result of my new Bates which I really really REALLY love and will cry if I need to replace for something else).

before pic. she wasn't standing square tho so it's a little exaggerated here
Most of Isabel's issues revolved around her back and hind end, surprising exactly nobody. L did some poll adjustments, but said Isabel's neck was in quite good condition. That hind end... ugh. I snapped the above photo while waiting for L to arrive. It is maybe easier to see what's going on than the last photos I posted in relation to the hunter bump

L said that bump appears due to over-development of the ligament and tissue around the spine there, rather than an actual spinal deformity. She said that area of the spine has the most action when a horse jumps, and the spinous processes move apart from each other when the horse takes off. She was not particularly concerned about it tho. 

'do i have something on my face?!?' - isabel
Anyway, she went about her business adjusting Isabel - mostly from on top of her block stand thing-y, tho she did some work on the hind legs too. Isabel was pretty good, but really quite sore all through her back area, and actually tried to exit stage left when L got to her withers. Poor pony. L had a nice touch tho - not the snap-crackle-pop type adjusting, just very gentle. 

Then L moved on to phase two: acupuncture. This is included in her fees - every visit is a two-fer, which I loved bc I've been very curious to try acupuncture on the horse for a while.

apparently the 6 in the middle are fairly universal for most horses, and the needles on the sides are specialized for Izzy's needs
Isabel was very good for getting all the needles put into place - she had a whole bunch on her hind end, one in each hind leg (at the '3 mile point'), some at the withers, and two on her face (on the bladder meridians). Tho that one circled in orange? That one HURT apparently. 

You can see it's not even fully inserted in the pic - L had to slowly insert it over THREE phases. Isabel whipped her face around so fast (and with teeth bared) the first time (right past me and directly at L), it was pretty shocking.

L referred to that one as the 'competition point' (or did she say 'compendium'?? anyone know?)- and I think she said it's not an actual meridian point but that it's a pretty versatile location and there might be anywhere from 5-6 reasons to put a needle there. Obviously there was good reason with Isabel, as that single location caused her the most discomfort and took the longest to relax, tho relax it ultimately did.

she did not appreciate my giggling at her
You can sorta see in the above pic that the muscling in Isabel's back is really under developed. Hopefully if we can get her feeling better through her back she'll be less resistant to actually lift and use it when we ride? Rather than faking it?

but honestly she seemed to be feeling pretty good
Once all the needles were inserted we kinda just stood around for ~20min while all the channels opened and the 'chi' started flowing. Isabel mostly stood quietly, with some yawning and soft eyes. Tho randomly at one point she got a little riled and started swishing her tail angrily - but then quieted down again. I guess one of the needles was doing something?

I took advantage of this time with L to discuss what we've been working on, some of our struggles (like bending to the right - which L believes is related to the back pain since Izzy's neck is just fine), and our path forward. 

She recommended Isabel get the day off (which I anticipated) as the acupuncture can continue to work for up to 24 hrs, and then ride the next day for 20 min of long/low walk trot, followed by a little more collection - but not too much! Then day 2 can have increased intensity, and then day 3 (today!) we should be good to go for our planned lesson. 

gratuitous yawning shot
Another recommendation is to do more back lifts with Isabel - particularly when I'm tacking up / getting on. She said I need to encourage Isabel to push her back into the saddle to get it fully in contact. And actually if I have someone on the ground, I should ask them to do a belly lift on Izzy while I'm mounted - again to help Izzy feel that lifting her back isn't a bad thing.

And we'll have a follow up appointment in 4-6 weeks (so the second half of August) to see where things stand and whether Isabel has materially improved or not. And if not... well, I might need to start rethinking saddling options again (ugh kill me). We'll see tho!

Have you tried acupuncture for your horse before? Or for yourself? Or regular chiropractics? Any thoughts on how well it works, or good/bad experiences?

31 comments:

  1. This post is super interesting. I know of people that have used acupuncture on horses before, but I don't really know that much about it! I think Hopeful Jumpers just got her certification in acupuncture, so you may connect with her?

    Keeping my fingers crossed that you don't have to start saddle shopping (again)!

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    1. i'm hoping that Jess will write a post about her thoughts, both as a professional and otherwise :D

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  2. Verrrrry interesting! My good friend worked for a small animal vet who did a lot of acupuncture and she has told me about some amazing results from it. I'm very curious to see how you feel Isabel goes under saddle post-treatment!

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    1. i've heard a lot of success stories too - for both ppl and animals. but i've also heard otherwise. we'll see. so far isabel is feeling better - but the flip side is that i've sort of had to come to terms with the fact that there IS a real problem going on (rather than deluding myself that she's probably fine) so i'm entering this strange realm of paranoia haha. we'll see tho. i've been starting each ride with long lining to really help her stretch that back - hopefully and increased focus on that will only help her get better faster?

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  3. I tried acupuncture on Fiction and noticed no difference. However, he does get regular chiropractic work, from which I do notice a difference!

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    1. isabel's had regular chiropractic (well, semi-regular since i was way overdue for this session) and the same issues crop up each and every single time. i'm not sure if that's just a function of isabel's confo or what :(

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  4. A friend of mine uses acupuncture to treat her horse's back spasms (caused by EPM) with great success. He went from unrideable bronco to winning Training level dressage classes at USDF shows. So awesome.

    I don't believe in chiro work and haven't used acupuncture. For the most part, I think you can solve a lot of those problems with massage and a careful approach to training. It works for some who like extra eyes on their horse and want the extra feedback on their horse's muscular development. Whatever works for you, right? Pig gets crappy neck massages from me on his tight spots, and a little massage work on his stifles and over his back.

    I wonder if Izzy has chronic back issues due to her longish back and her slightly weak tie in at the hip? There's nothing seriously wrong with her conformation (don't get me wrong!) but horses with that build all seem to have similar issues. Your vet seems to be on to something with the muscle development thing. I bet all that extra dressage work you've been doing has been making her a little sore, but will go a long way in helping her develop the muscles she needs to support her weak bits. (Sort of like how I have crazy abs to help me support my weak hip flexors...)

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    1. i think you're onto something with the "people who like extra eyes on the ground and getting extra feedback." that's pretty much me to a T lol. isabel might very well have chronic issues (looking at her from behind reveals a pretty unpleasant picture re: unevenness etc), esp since this has been such a persistent issue.

      i think the extra dressage work IS helping - but not as much as i might think. meaning it's not the dressage that's failing, but rather the fact that i struggle to distinguish when she's really using her abs/back vs. faking it. and the constant 'faking it' only exacerbates the problem. so i'm planning to be much more diligent and focused in my efforts... we'll see if it works!

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  5. This is totally fascinating! I'm a strong believer in equine chiropractors (never been adjusted myself but I'm curious...) but I haven't used acupuncture. I really want to get Nibbles done. Pinching pennies after our move so I can pay to have her looked at. You take such amazing care of Izzy<3

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    1. yea the costs are definitely problematic... but luckily it worked out since we have no shows this month, that budget can be applied to body work. i'd also like to check out acupuncture for myself too. for some reason i'm more hesitant about chiro for myself... since i kinda suspect quacks are more prevalent in the ppl world (even tho most horse ppl are certifiably nuts haha)

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  6. Yay for pincushion pony! I'm curous to see how she feels afterwards.

    I had one horse years ago who had a very strange reaction to acupuncture. He started steaming and then humped the air like 10 times. After that he felt amazing to ride. I had acupuncture done to myself a few times and it does really help! :)

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    1. interesting! i imagine that it can feel kind of strange for them when they suddenly get increased circulation in an area that's been lacking for a while.

      so far she does actually feel better, but i'm struggling a little mentally with the confirmation that YES she's got problems going on, and NO my work to date hasn't really been helping. i've just gotta get over that tho, i guess, and keep trying!

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  7. Interesting! I'd love to try it on myself or my horse (but moneys grr). I have done chiro with Ries and haven't noticed a difference. His massage therapist lady does wonders though! I've used her before too. Omg it was amazing. Shes very snap crackle pop but hey it works!

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    1. interesting! our last practitioner did the snap crackle pop too, and i don't really have anything against it - mostly i think the horse will tell you what works and what doesn't. and yea i'd love to do acupuncture too on my neck

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  8. Super interested in this! I don't have much desire to try it on myself, I'd rather spend my money on my horse.... I've used a chiro with Digby before but never used those needles! I'm squirreling my money and taking on some side jobs to afford a few Digby things and chiro is one of them!

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    1. haha i'd rather spend on the horse too, obvi, but am pretty curious to also try it... the needles are a first for us but so far i'm pleased. good luck getting someone out for Digby!

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  9. Fascinating! I'm definitely curious to see how she goes and and if you think it helped. I've never had acupuncture done on my horse, but she had had chiro twice now. The first time it was vet reccomended because she was off off behind and the vet though there was something going on back there and dang, wouldn't you know it worked! Like magic actually. Not gonna lie it was weird. This particular chiropractor also did "energy work" too - in fact the appointment was mostly energy work plus that weird thing that goes 'POP!' that most chiros apparently have. This lady also went right to the spot that the vet told me was probably to problem without me telling her. Creepy I'm telling you.

    The second chiro appointment was with a different person, our regular vet actually, and there wasn't actually anything wrong with maggie at the time and no soreness was noted so it makes sense that I didn't notice any difference afterward!

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    1. interesting about that first time - and it is pretty cool/creepy how they can suss out the exact spot that we always worry over (like the spot where the needle circled in orange is on Isabel, i am CONSTANTLY fretting about that area lol).

      about noticing a difference, that's the tricky part for me bc my borderline hypochondriac tendencies feel vindicated so now im' trying to back away slowly from the cliff that says "oh my god i'm killllllling the horrsssssse - muurrrrrrderr" lol... or something like that?

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  10. I love acupuncture for horses! I shadowed a vet who did it for racehorses, and it is the coolest thing to watch a horse loosen/settle. Candy used to have acupuncture+chiro work every 6 weeks (and may have to start up again). I've always wanted to try it on myself but it might be a little too mumbo-jumbo for me.

    Speaking of mumbo jumbo/voodoo magic, something that helped Sawyer & Candy with back pain was a Back On Track saddle pad. It's a little pricey, but still cheaper than a new saddle (booo) and something I'm sure you could find used.

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    1. oh man i would LOVE to get her treatment every 6 weeks, especially right now while she's got so many things going on. at least try to get her back to normal, right? and the fact that they use this stuff at racetracks and top notch show barns is part of what makes it feel more legit to me, even tho it could very well be all voodoo lol.

      and re: the BoT pads, i already have and use them (in a couple colors, natch)

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  11. I definitely notice a difference in Tillie after the visit with her and Izzy...It will be really interesting for you two after this next one. I bet it will be much more obvious.

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    1. glad to hear Tillie is feeling better - she looks grea! Isabel really is feeling better too... it just still somehow feels like a step back to know she's been so sore and uncomfortable, even tho theoretically she should feel better now than she did even at our best performances yet this year

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  12. Yikes at those needles near her eyes!! I've had chiro and Hemie got chiro + acupuncture/pressure. For both of us, it seemed to make an immediate difference at the time of the session, but not any lasting difference.

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    1. haha the chiro double checked to make sure i wasn't squeamish before putting those in... and yea i've heard similar things about lasting differences. my general thoughts (for now at least) are that it didn't take a day for these issues to crop up, so it'll probably take more than a day for them to be remedied. we'll see tho!

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  13. I would have a heart attack if I ever tried acupuncture, which I think would miss the whole point of getting it. I just can't do needles, so if my horse was getting it, I'd have to look away. I'm fortunate that one of my barn mates does equine massage, so she will occasionally touch Music to see if she's sore. It's definitely something to think about for the future in regards to the old Hippo's upkeep.

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    1. awww poor old hippo!! nice that you have a friend who knows how to check for those things!! one of these days i'd actually like to learn a little more about massage... maybe haha

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  14. I've found that chiro and acupuncture can be very effective when you find people that really know what they're doing. It can also be completely useless if you don't. It sounds like your vet has a very firm grasp of what she is doing. The most important thing I've found with chiro is what people do afterwards with their horses. I'm glad that she gave you homework because I definitely see you as the type to put hard work into maintaining the results, using them to help Izzy keep getting better. What I've noticed is that a lot of times the horses are moving so well afterwards that riders tend to over do it and then the horse becomes sore again. Sometimes they become sore just from using Muscles they hadn't been even if the rider doesn't push too hard. It's kind of something that needs to be expected to a point after the work is done. They'll feel great then start experience some muscle soreness. That's a lot of the reason that people don't think chiro works. There's a lot you can do to help prevent/decrease soreness from happening after the adjustment, like the exercises she gave you, stretching, massaging, therapeutic blankets, and even a couple of days of bute if you absolutely has to. The hardest part is keeping them feeling as comfortable as possible as they begin to use themselves differently. The fact that you already set up a follow up appointment is a good thing. One time typically isn't enough to last very long. While they will probably stay better than they were before the adjustment, they will also most likely need some more tweaks here and there to be able to perform at their full potential. I don't know how much my opinion is with, but that's been my experience so far and we've had a hell of a lot of chiro done on our horses. Anyway, you sound like you're on the right track :)

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    1. thanks for that insights - that's been sort of my general operating opinion so far (despite my own limited experience). i don't think a single session can magically fix years of soreness, and definitely am motivated to do my homework post-session in order to make the investment worthwhile. it's still daunting tho. if i haven't been able to work the horse correctly enough to avoid some of the issues, why should i expect to be able to properly manage her post-adjustment?

      and realistically, my mare still had residual soreness even immediately after the adjustment, it was just diminished. i'm going to try to be diligent about our stretches and long/low work (actually long lining to achieve this) and hopefully things will look a little rosier at our next adjustment. i definitely want to at least give it an honest chance at working!

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    2. Sounds like a good plan :)

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  15. Both Suzie and I have been pin-cushions in the past, haha. It's good that Iz is feeling better!

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    1. i agree. and i also really want to try being a pin-cushion now too!!!

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