The Back Quack

I`m sure I`m not the only one who has become aware in recent years of the increase in equine chiropractors, physiotherapist, osteopaths, etc.

I would do my usual spiel about “when we were young”, but I`m sure you`re already bored of it, from hearing your parents and elders repeat the same phrase. They were probably talking about the stone age though. I, however, reflect on the 1990s and 2000s.

I went to an osteopath as a teenager quite regularly (the aftermath of sitting to a bucking pony. I was so proud of myself for staying on the bucking bronco, only to find I had whiplash through my back and pelvis 😦 ) and whilst waiting for my appointment I remember reading a cartoon about a horse being treated by a chiropractor. My osteopath was also qualified to treat canines and equines. It didn`t mean very much to me for a few years, it was just stored at the back of my mind. After all, no one mentioned bad backs or kissing spines.
When I was 19 my pony started doing massive bucks after jumps. The first time in October I was a bit concerned, but the next few days he was fine. Going into winter I didn`t do much jumping, and it was just before Christmas that I next jumped him. He bucked again. Not the fun playful bucks he sometimes did, but a head between the knees headstand. Comments were made that he was feeling fresh from living in. I mentioned it to Mum and suggested we got his back checked. Reluctantly she agreed, and in early January my osteopath came to the yard. Everyone talked about it. I was weird.
Anyway, she prodded my pony and gave him a little massage, and found that one spinal process was slightly out. It was just under the saddle so she gave him a good tweak, told me to ride in walk the next day and then back to normal. To this day he has never had a problem since. I completely believe that there was a small problem and, by knowing my pony, I managed to get it sorted before it exacerbated.
Once I started my apprenticeship it became apparent that most horses received back treatment of some description. Why? I don`t know. I can understand if there was a problem, or previous problem, but why did so many need routine care? Was it the owners being over cautious, or the fact the horses were being pushed beyond their abilities due to competitive pressures, or because we were keeping old crocks going when in the olden days they`d be retired to the field or as a hack horse? Is it the after effects of the “hand to leg” way of riding, which has had a negative effect on the horse`s physiology over the last two decades?

The centre manager at my training yard was a big fan of McTimoney, and asked me once if I wanted my horse checked over. I agreed, in two minds. I was convinced he was fine, but at the same time didn`t want anything underlying to cause a problem in the future. He was given a clean bill of health by the lady; her only comment was that he stands weirdly. Then she looked at me and said “like horse like owner”. We were both standing with our legs plaited! So know I take the approach that if there`s a problem with my horse I know him well enough that I will spot it fairly quickly and then act upon it.
So what about those people who get their horse`s backs checked regularly. Do they need it done? Are we just wrapping them up in cotton wool? Or prolonging their working life because we still haven`t reached the pinnacle of our chosen discipline? Having said that, we recently had two of our riding school mares checked. Once was very locked, the other less so, but both have improved dramatically. The only problem is that the chiropractor we use is fully booked up a fortnight in advance. Is this right? He`s an excellent chiro, but if my horse has an injury I want it fixed ASAP. This leads to people booking in check ups, two or three months in advance, and then cancelling if they don`t feel it`s necessary, or it becomes an expensive routine. I’m sure modern advances in technology and science means that we know much more about how the horse works, and this means we can do our best to improve their athletic ability and keep them comfortable and happy.

A cynical thought crosses my mind; as a chiropractor do you feel under pressure to find a problem with a horse when a concerned owner has you out to look at their precious horse. If you don’t find a problem then you aren’t a good chiropractor, and if you don’t request a followup visit you are losing some valuable income. Or do all animals, like athletes, have small imbalances and injuries to their bodies? That’s just my cynical side though.

What are everyone else`s thoughts? I think the phrase I am looking for to conclude my opinion is “Don`t treat what isn`t broken”.


3 thoughts on “The Back Quack

  1. horsesfortrail December 17, 2013 / 2:12 am

    If it’s not broke, don’t fix it! Grew up riding horses and watchin’ cowboys and never heard of an equine chiropractor. That’s not to say a horse can’t have a minor problem that one could correct. We aren’t necessarily opposed to them and have used one a couple of times when there is a horse that is really stiff. A horse requiring “regular” manipulation would make me wonder just a little. If there was an objective means to measure it, the data would likely show the horse doesn’t need a routine massage nearly as often as the owner just needs a little drama.

    • therubbercurrycomb December 19, 2013 / 7:29 pm

      Just to illustrate, a lady at the yard today had her 4 year old miniature shetland, who is her field companion seen by the chiropractor. The chiropractor didn’t know why when I asked him, but if she was willing to pay, he had to oblige.
      Mental. If she’s got that much money I know someone who would appreciate it! 😛

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