Wednesday, January 4, 2017

the chicken or the egg: a body work story

Days go on and I continue to slowly but surely tick items off the "List Of Things I Want To Do For Charlie" (we're obvi very official around here). The List has generally been prioritized by need, with as much of a logical hierarchy as can be applied to pampering horses.

In Charlie's case, formulating a comprehensive hoof care plan, handling dental work, treating for ulcers, evaluating his dietary needs, and a few other veterinary odds and ends came earlier on The List than body work.

You know how it goes. And everyone's list is probably ordered a little differently, based on each horse's pressing needs.

that face tho
And actually it was my vet's recommendation that Charlie start with general massage before getting any chiropractic work done. She sees his case as predominantly revolving around musculature needs, and expects treating the muscles first will yield excellent benefits for him.

I don't disagree in the slightest, and have been a little hesitant about doing chiropractic work on a potentially body sore horse. My thought process being: if he's got other issues going on, other sorenesses, foot problems, or compensatory issues... he's not likely going to be able to hold any adjustments anyway. And they could potentially make him more sore in the near term.

god this angle makes him look so skinny :( red circle intended to simultaneously distract from that, and also point out the array of needles around his SI joint
But. Well. I don't have any first hand experience with any professional massage folks, but I pretty much adore the chiro who used to work on Isabel. She's a former DVM and not at all the snap-crackle-pop style chiro. Plus every session ends with acupuncture, something Isabel always really enjoyed and something I really wanted to do for Charlie. So we went for it.

needles errywhere!! he also got a couple down his hind legs, but i didn't get pics
It's kinda funny introducing Charlie to professionals - esp those who knew me with Isabel. When they find out how newly off the track he is, and that he wasn't restarted and that I didn't ride him before buying him... well. They give me a look. You can probably imagine what look I'm talking about haha. I'm not saying these people all think I'm a total idiot.... but maybe they wonder sometimes.

But then they spend a little time with Charlie, realize that he's a pretty easy and laid back dude, and ultimately settle on "Yea this seems like a good horse, you guys will probably be fine."

a particularly ouchy spot. while we did discuss saddle fit and corrections thereof, she didn't find any indications of a major problem. phew! that's..... way farther down The List haha
Anyway. As for actually treating Charlie, she didn't really find anything out of the ordinary. No big "Aha" moments, no major adjustments. He's got some stuff that's been there for a long time: old pulls and strains and the like in his hind end. Hallmarks of a lengthy career on the track; of moving in the same way and doing the same physical actions for years and years.

She thinks he'll develop well tho. Estimated that he needs another 300lbs (dear god, poor skinny horse) and that I'll have my work cut out in helping him build muscle and strength under saddle, as we're starting from a place of fairly distinct unevenness.... But all in all actually seemed to quite like him.

i can't promise that this line overlays his spine 100%.... but it's close enough to see the lateral unevenness
For me, personally, the most interesting finding was how uneven Charlie's shoulders are. She had me stand up on her foam block thingy to take a look (and the above picture) myself. It's.... fairly dramatic. One side is definitely higher than the other too.

She reminded me that a horse's shoulders are attached to the body by muscle, not by bone. And that you can't do much about the lower part of the shoulder, but you can help develop the muscles in how the shoulder ties into the body. For instance, she said that when people say their horses get taller with good, correct dressage work, they're actually not wrong - as the muscles holding the shoulders grow. 

So Charlie needs a lot a lot a lot of work in building up those muscles, and in helping him become more even from side to side. This perhaps explains a lot of what he feels like to ride - his shoulders are fairly stuck and he's not very balanced laterally. 

It also made me think about how Charlie holds himself in regular, day to day life:

if charlie is grazing, he is grazing in this stance. always.
Charlie always stands the same way. I noticed it pretty early on, and attributed his tendency to be underrun in his RF heel to this constant style of holding his forelegs. But now I suspect that this stance is directly related to his shoulder muscle development.

And am curious about what happened first: The tendency to stand like this (and underrun that one heel) led to the dramatic difference from one shoulder to the other? Or did his shoulders become uneven one way or another and over time he gradually compensated by standing like this until it has become his habit?

It doesn't much matter what came first.... bc I'm working from the hoof up AND the shoulder down... It's just verrrrry interesting to me. Like I still don't know the answer to the riddle, but the pieces are clicking together.

So. Anyway. Charlie had his first chiro/acupuncture session. And did well with it! I'd like to keep him on a fairly regular schedule, tho will likely explore regular massage too. All budget dependent and whatnot, obvi haha.

But body work like this always proved with Isabel to be effective in checking up on where she was physically, and what the implications were for her training and health/nutrition needs. So I'm hoping it will serve equally well in Charlie's physical transition too!

36 comments:

  1. Hmm, that is really interesting about there maybe being a correlation between the hoof and the shoulder standing in that stance! I never would have thought of that!

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    1. I've been mildly obsessing over that hoof since I got the horse haha... But it took me a minute to connect the dots with the shoulders too - in fact it wasn't until much later so I didn't get to talk to the chiro about it. Next time!!

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  2. When we first got Vallu, when he was grazing/eating hay from the floor he did it the EXACT same way as Charlie. This has improved dramatically over the years with good saddles, good riding (=lots of lessons to improve me!) and a ton of money being spent of different physios, chiropractors and equine sports massage therapists. And a really good farrier to improve his feet!

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    1. That's honestly SUPER reassuring haha. I mean, not the fact that it takes paying myriad professionals to help fix the issues.... But that the issues ARE fixable. If Charlie ends up looking like half the horse Vallu is I will be one VERY HAPPY camper lol

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  3. Fiction used to be uneven in his muscles when I got him, but like the vet mentioned, good, correct Dressage work does amazing things for muscle development and body unevenness. I hope the chiropractic work helps Charlie out!

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    1. Thanks I'm pretty optimistic!! It's just going to take time time time. Le sigh.

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  4. It's going to be so fun seeing Charlie go from straight off the track to sport horse! I'm trying to figure out the right combo of body work, chiro, and acupuncture for Stinker.

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    1. I can't wait to see the transformation (hopefully) unfold too haha. And honestly I don't necessarily think there's a *wrong* combo of types of body work for horses. Like yes I would love to optimize by scheduling things exactly in the right order for my horse... But sometimes I optimize by my own budget and the schedules of the professionals involved.... And just hope that it all is adding to the greater good anyway. Maybe. Lol

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  5. I love me some bodywork, and happy to hear that Charlie does, too! I'd love to witness an acupuncture session one day. I admit I'm a bit skeptical about it as a therapy, but also very curious about how the horses react to it.

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    1. The acupuncture is FASCINATING to watch. Seriously. Like get Dino a session just for that alone. Once all the needles go in, the horse kinda chills for a while. Except the needles are DEFINITELY doing things. Like you can absolutely tell when a needle becomes "active" or whatever, when it's increasing circulation or bringing sensitivity to an area. Both Isabel and Charlie would be basically zonking out, then suddenly slightly agitated, pointing to the needle that feels funny, maybe swishing their tail or shaking their head. But we ask them to stand and let the needle do its thing... And then the feeling passes and the horse goes back to being zonked. It's pretty wild actually haha

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  6. Fascinating stuff! I love how closely you document these things so I bet you'll have some fun before/after stuff down the road once he's farther along in training with some more treatments under his belt!

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    1. Ha I'm slightly insane about the level of documentation.... But I'm also kinda learning as I go so taking all these pics and notes really helps me. Hopefully we've got some gorgeous hunk of horse to show for it in another six months!!

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  7. How very cool. Mae is skinny skinny skinny so we've got a lot of work ahead of us as well. Keep posting on your progress!

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    1. Yea they just need so much time. Can't wait to read more about your new girl tho!!

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  8. Wow, that's interesting to see how uneven the muscling is in his shoulders! Good to know though, now you can work on it.

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    1. Yea I mean.... Every horse is sorta uneven, and Isabel definitely was too. But I think we can hopefully make a bit of a difference here. And it's definitely something I'll talk through with the various trainers and professionals involved in Charlie's care!

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  9. I've had these thoughts! Archie had a dip in his right front wall and he always stands with that hoof back. Did standing like that help create the dip or does he stand like that because it feels better on the dip? Who knows. But we're getting rid of the damn dip.

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    1. ughhhh dip be gone!!

      these horses are so funny - i would always ask isabel's farrier (who i loved) about various riding things i was doing and how it affected her feet. and he'd basically say that it mattered WAY more what the horse was doing with it's feet the other 23 hours in its day, out in the field or in the stall or whatever.

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  10. I have the exact opposite on Mia, her right shoulder is way over developed and she stands with her right leg under her while eating. My farrier told me she stood with her right leg back while eating just by seeing her shoulder, and he was right, they are obviously related!

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    1. it's so bizarre!!! but i'm oddly reassured that charlie isn't the only one haha

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  11. I think it's really great that you're doing all this stuff to sort him out so early on. it's going to make it easier in the long run and he'll be sounder and happier for longer!!

    (as an aside: dont worry about him being scrawny. I can't wait until another couple months pass and he emerges from his winter hair cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. I had trouble believing it my first winter too but it does happen!!)

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    1. that is all my sincerest hopes!!! sound happy and FATTER horse plz!!!!

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  12. I know 'the look'. I've gotten it several times since I purchased Valeria.

    I love chiro/acupuncture/massage. I can't say that they work for every horse 100% of the time but I have seen differences in movement after a chiro appointment. Plus I think it's only fair to give a new horse that had a tough career as a baby/younger horse a little bit of extra TLC to make sure they can perform into their senior years.
    I'm sure he'll pick up weight once you've got him all sorted out. :)

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    1. lol basically whenever a horse person asks me if i'm actually crazy, i kinda just shrug my shoulders and say 'obviously, aren't we all?'

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  13. One of my friends' horses stands like that to graze too! He had the same thing- less heel on the front foot and uneven shoulders. The farrier actually put an aluminum shoe on the low foot and a regular shoe on the other foot to even out the feet, which really changed the way he moved and stood. I dunno if that's common practice but it worked for that one horse at least. And of course time and a good program, which it sounds like you've got!

    I'm going down the chiro/acupuncture road with my body sore green horse too, fingers crossed it makes them both feel better, ughhhh horses.

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    1. huh that's bizarre but very interesting about the different shoes on each of the front feet. food for thought! and wishing you good luck getting your guy feeling better too. sometimes i wish they would just use their words.....

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  14. Horses are so interesting. Always new things to learn or just think about.

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    1. i know, right? like.... obvi i will never think i know close to everything... but it's kinda astounding how much there still is to learn lol

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  15. Interesting about the shoulder development, look forward to seeing how that gets untangled and restacked in the future. I've always been curious about accupuncture for horses (and a bit about for myself too)

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    1. my jump trainer swears by acupuncture for both horses and humans. i have one friend who does it for her migraines. but i also have another friend who didn't feel like it helped her. i liked the results i got with isabel so we'll see i guess!

      and yea i'm super curious about the shoulder thing too, and am cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to move the needle at least a little bit over coming months...

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  16. I was hoping to hold out for the chiro until the spring, but I'm thinking Miles needs to be seen sooner...

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    1. hrm yea i know that feeling... hopefully there's nothing very serious going on with him!

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  17. High/low hoof syndrome definitely needs to be adressed through bodywork & gymnastic exercises which promote synmetry for the exact reason you've spotted. Uneven horses grow uneven feet. I've heard of some studs who only let foals graze on tall grasses so they don't develop high/low from that asymmetrical grazing stance. Feeding from high positions to replicate the tree foraging that wild horses do can also help with a horse's lateral balance and musculature. It's such interesting stuff!

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    1. Oops I meant to add 'as well as hoofcare' to that first sentence!
      Also Dr Kerry Ridgeway wrote some good articles on high/low :)

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  18. Murray's shoulders look just like this!! His right shoulder is also lower, and in his case that is the more upright foot. His left shoulder is higher and the whole foot is flatter. I suspect that in Murray's case his entire right limb is a bit shorter than his left limb, causing both hoof and postural oddities. I also feel it when we ride, which is an unfortunate pain in the butt -- but I continue to hope that lots of correct work will help fix this!

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  19. When we were horse shopping, we looked a mare that grazed like that (always on the one leg) and she had club foot. Obviously not the same as Charlie, but I had the same chicken/egg thought: which caused which?

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