Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beyond hooves

(Bud, about to sneeze)

This is quite possibly the hardest topic to discuss with a non-horse person.

"I don't understand why they had to put *insert racehorse name here* down; he had three other good legs left."
"Well, a horse can't survive on only three legs -- even for just six to eight weeks."
"What do you mean? Dogs can do it. Why not horses?"
"The amount of weight on the remaining three legs is too much for them and problems will crop up like founder."

And even then, the person might still not understand.

Yesterday, the chiropractor came out to do a follow-up visit on Buttercup. Although Bud's been doing good back in work since mid January, I noticed some problems with her gait. She also has been sore from her farrier visit last week and usually sore after every trim for a few days. (This is being discussed with my current farrier right now and I want to get her on a more frequent cycle so that she doesn't have to be completely re-done every six weeks.)

I was actually surprised that Bud had to have nearly the same adjustment she had back in November. Several cervical vertebra were out. Right pelvis stuck. Lots and lots of sticky ribs.

And the chiro found indications of hock soreness on her.

This shouldn't be surprising on a horse that has spent the last two years in and out of chronic or acute hoof pain. As one front hoof hurts, the horse compensates by shifting more weight to the rear opposite hoof and the other corresponding hoof. As the other front hoof starts to hurt from the extra weight, the horse begins to compensate with the rear opposite hoof.

But it doesn't end with the hooves. Think about having a rock in your shoe that you can't remove. To prevent walking on it, you're going to change your gait, twist your hips, twist your spine and twist your shoulders. Pretty soon your lower back will hurt, in addition to your other leg hurting from compensating.

So Buttercup's hocks hurt from her trying to rock back off her front hooves. Her neck is stiff from trying to hold herself off the ouchie hooves. Her pelvis is sticky from trying to hold herself also.

Chiropractic adjustments aren't a panacea, either. Once the root of the problem is fixed (in Bud's case, her hooves), a chiropractic adjustment can get everything back in place, but then there is muscle memory to overcome. Those muscles will just pull those bones right back into place. You can try acupuncture (there was no way after all the pops yesterday that Bud was going to allow herself to be stuck with pins) or muscle massages or correct work. But the odds are you may need a follow-up adjustment.

I was hoping for this to be our last hoof-related adjustment. But I think I'm wrong. I think she'll need at least one more and then we can go to more of a maintenance routine of once a year or only when needed.

At a Jean Luc Cornille clinic a few weeks back, Jean Luc told the audience that if your horse needs a lot of adjustments, start looking at the rider. I agree with this (not surprisingly, I'm really into his research right now; www.scienceofmotion.com) up to a point. Horses that have actual mechanical reasons, like hooves recovering or a terrible fall, may need more than just one adjustment to help bring them back to normal.

Of course, when Buttercup is comfortable again – she's comfortable in her boots but that's not good enough for work – I will make sure that my back is completely vertical and only moving as much as her back moves so that we can "dance the same dance."

In the meantime, I'll be stretching and massaging Bud this week after some handwalking. Hopefully we won't lose too many days of her being sore.

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