Monday, May 7, 2012

In which Sunny gets adjusted

My appointment with the equine chiropractor was this afternoon at 3:30.  He was doing a whole string of horses at a local horseman's place, and had agreed to squeeze Sunny in when Dr. J called him. 

I had the trailer hooked up, the horses brushed and fly-sprayed, and was ready to go in plenty of time.  There's very little I hate more than arriving late, so of course I ended up being half an hour early.

Actually, being early wasn't entirely unintentional.  Or due completely to my dislike of being late.  I was kind of hoping I'd get to watch at least one done just to see how R handled himself and the horse.  Even though he came highly recommended by Dr. J, I'm a bit leery of the unknown when it comes to the boys.  Around here, Arabs aren't highly regarded.  They get labeled flighty or spoiled if they're at all reactive, and the stereotype has been known to prompt rougher treatment than I'll put up with. 

R was just starting on the horse before Sunny when I poked my head into the barn.  A tall, lanky sorrel quarter horse wearing a halter that proclaimed him a Blazing Barrels champion was being held by an chatty older gentleman who turned out to be the farm owner.  The barn was otherwise empty, slightly cluttered, and the gusty wind that followed in the weekend storms had doors, windows, gates... pretty much anything that would rattle or bang, rattling or banging.  R was calm and soft-spoken, the gelding was slightly wide-eyed, but as the process went on, relaxed, lowered his head, and licked and chewed and heaved the occasional big sigh. 

I introduced myself, then propped a hip against a handy stall gate to watch.  R started at the gelding's nose, working on his poll and from there gradually backwards, taking his time pressing, probing and occasionally making an adjustment.  He addressed both sides of the horse's neck all the way down to his chest, then his withers and shoulders, and down his front legs.  Then he worked from his shoulders down his back to his haunches where he kneaded and massaged the points of both hips and on down his back legs, stretching and flexing each.  He even stretched and checked the hang of his tail.

R used a pen pressed mid-belly to raise the gelding's back and then did something that made him rock back on his haunches.  Standing square and solid on all four feet when R finished, the gelding was visibly more relaxed and softer-eyed.  Almost sleepy.  He clopped quietly down the aisle and out, and I went to retrieve Sunny.

R followed me up, watching as I unloaded first Thunder, who got tied by the trailer, and then Sunny.  Both of them stepped off politely, Sunny swinging neatly around to wait while I closed the trailer door behind us.

"Just walk him on down to the barn so that I can watch how he moves," R told me.  Sunny walked alertly, lead loose with no spooking or playing, swiveling his ears and snuffling at the horses loafing in their runs.  He tiptoed hesitantly into the barn next to me, eyeballing the empty stalls and quivering slightly at the wind noise.  He was definitely nervous, but not worried about R at all.   

R rubbed his neck and talked to him quietly, and Sunny didn't flinch at his initial exam.  At least, not until R hit a couple of points on back and haunches.  "Definitely sore in the front end," was the quiet statement.  I'd have guessed back end from Sunny's reaction, which shows you what I know!

Sunny wasn't quite so complacent as the previous horse had been - it wasn't familiar territory, and the person groping him wasn't familiar, either.  Watching his expression was interesting, especially when R slid one long finger into his nose to hold him steady while he felt along Sunny's poll.  But other than the occasional encouraging or calming murmur to Sunny, R didn't say much - and he didn't need to.  It was obvious that any momentary discomfort was quickly forgotten in each adjustment's aftermath. Those hands felt good.  If what R'd been doing had hurt, Sunny would not have continued to cooperate so well.

At first, with each new area R started on Sunny would stand very still and tall and roll his eye back to see what R was doing.  As work on the area progressed, Sunny'd relax and start leaning into or away from the pressure to get the most out of it.  And with each section of body that was loose and relaxed when R finished, Sunny reacted less and less to what R's beginning on a new body part. 

When R finished (after about 45 minutes) by applying firm pressure to the same points that had had Sunny ducking his back and cringing away at the outset, Sunny stood quietly, four-square, without any reaction whatsoever.  Even though Sunny never attained quite the completely snoozy look that the quarter horse was wearing when R finished, he was visibly freer through the back and stepping up under himself much better.  And given that it was a strange, very noisy place, and that Thunder was outside, out of sight, and whinnying periodically the entire time, snoozy was probably a lot to ask for!

Back at the trailer, I was happy to discover that Thunder was a) still securely tied, and b) had made no effort to dig a hole to China or to decorate the trailer with cute horsey hoof tatoos.  He was, and from the marks in the dirt, had been, standing quietly.  As it turned out, while we were in the barn another trailer had pulled in.  It was those horses in combination with the resident stud who was pacing his fence line,  that had been making conversation.

When I commented to R that the boys were doing pretty good for crazy Arabs, he just laughed.  He said he works on a lot of them - and doesn't have any more issues with them than he does with any of the other breeds.  Given Sunny's non-reaction, and since R was at that moment shoulder-to-shoulder with Thunder, foot propped on the trailer's running board writing me out a receipt - with no snorting, fussing or other reaction other than some curious snuffling from the normally man-shy pony, I'd tend to believe he just doesn't have too much trouble, period.

So... I'm to turn Sunny out for 3-4 days of pasture rest.  No stalling - lol! And all the water he wants to drink.  After that, I can ride him - when I ask him to take the left lead, I'm not to get after him if he won't take it right away, as he's going to have to figure out that it doesn't hurt.   I think I may try him on the longe line before I ride him so that I can see how he moves, but we'll see how it goes. 


Kellie said...

Interesting, hope it did him some good.

SunnySD said...

Me, too - I've never had a horse worked on before. I did like how Sunny responded, though. And the fact that the guy didn't immediately try to schedule follow-up visits or do anything to convince me to come back. Just said it looked like something Sunny'd been working on for a while, and that I had his number if I had any questions. Nice man.

whirlwinddals said...

I've never had my horse worked on, but I have had three of my dogs. I'm amazed how they responded and how well it worked. You'll know if you need to have it done again.

SunnySD said...

Thanks for stopping by :) I'm definitely open to giving it another shot if/when Sunny starts having issues with his leads again - I can already tell he's much freer in his neck and he's taking both leads loose playing in the pasture, so fingers crossed he'll be as comfortable under saddle! Was the difference apparent right away with your dogs?