Chiropractic, Dr. Taryn Yates, dressage, dressage training, natalie perry dressage, Tina Steward

Skipper Gets a Tune Up

Thirty years ago, at the Circle P Ranch in San Diego, I stopped to watch a horse receive chiropractic treatment. Before I saw the treatment, I thought,  “What a bunch of hooey.”
To my surprise, the horse relaxed and sighed into the work — better yet, he went from being stiff to sound after his adjustment. The difference was striking.

I began having my own horse adjusted after that on kind of an emergency basis — waiting for obvious signs of discomfort before calling in my local expert. I had a tight budget and it was the best I could do at the time.
Since then I still have a tight budget but I manage to make regular chiropractic care for my horse work. It means I don’t get massages for myself, drive a fancy car, or have the latest and greatest in equestrian apparel — but that’s ok. The benefits I’ve seen from regular chiropractic care are worth it.
Taryn Yates of Active Balance has been adjusting Skipper for years on an as-needed basis with his previous owner. Since he became my responsibility, we upped the program to every six weeks with wonderful results.
Skipper came to me after having several months off of work — fat and out of shape. He was weak in the left hind and stiff traveling to the right. I enlisted Taryn to help Skipper’s body adjust from vacation mode to regular riding, easing sore joints and sore muscles, helping to put his hips back into a more correct alignment. I think it helped Skipper maintain a willing attitude about his transition back to work.
Each month I’d gradually feel Skipper’s hips get out of whack, then Taryn would put him back together again. Month by month, Skipper lost weight, built muscle, and moved with more suppleness and swing.
This month, after nine months of regular adjustments, Skipper’s hips ‘held’ through a full seven weeks. I had felt it and Taryn confirmed it. As we move into Second Level work, asking Skipper to carry more weight on his hind end, this is terrific timing.
But we’re not done. Because horses move in diagonal pairs, Skipper’s right front end has been compensating for the left hind all along.
“He has legitimate reasons for finding the work to the right difficult,” Taryn said.
She adjusted his ribs, base of the neck, and base of the head. When the work was done, Skipper sighed with relief. As the hind end stabilizes we can make real progress with the front end.
As I took Skipper out to graze in hand for a bit, I thanked him for giving me his best, despite his physical limits. His unwillingness to bend wasn’t naughtiness … he was trying to avoid discomfort.
My trainer Natalie Perry and clinician Tina Steward, DVM have worked patiently with Skipper and I through all of this, letting Skipper’s muscles develop and our partnership grow. Less knowledgeable (and kind) trainers would have forced the issue.
As we make Skipper more comfortable, it will be easier for him to give me even more of his best self. And that makes my heart sing.

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Back to the Barn
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Micah Comes Back
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Back to the Barn

After the holidays, head cold, freezing temps and seasonal flu, my barn time has been seriously limited for the past two months. Having gone through the 12 stages of grief, I finally had to give up and accept that nothing is going as planned.

Cold temps and lots of snow mean time off for many of the horses in our barn.

Cold temps and lots of snow mean time off for many of the horses in our barn.

Today I made out to the barn for Micah’s chiropractic session, choosing to let Natalie ride Micah during my lesson time rather than risk a relapse of the head cold. Between lesson and chiropractic time, I would have needed to spend nearly four hours in the barn, which I just didn’t feel ready for at 30 degrees. (Granted, 30 degrees is feeling almost balmy compared with this season’s foray into the low teens.)
Despite not riding my horse, it was good to be home. How I’ve missed my horse and barn buddies.
Micah and his pasture mates were hunkering under their shelter, likely complaining about the two feet of snow covering the grass. Micah saw me coming and headed my way, certain that the carrot in my pocket was better than a mouthful of snow.
Horses stay under shelter, hiding out from heavy snowfall

Horses stay under shelter, hiding out from heavy snowfall

Chiropractic went well, with Dr. Taryn Yates giving Micah a thorough adjustment. “His back is doing so much better than when we first started working on him,” she said. “Just some minor sore spots.”
Dr. Taryn has been seeing lots of sore shoulders from horses walking and slipping on ice. So, while Micah hasn’t been getting much work this month, at least we’re not letting minor problems turn into major events.
As my head cold subsides and temperatures rise above 20 degrees, I’m ready to start bringing Micah and myself back to work. While it’s harder to get myself out the door when it’s cold, it’s certainly worth it to spend time with my barn family and my horse.
May your roads be plowed, your pipes thaw, and you and your horse stay healthy through the season.

Related posts
Skipper Gets a Tune Up
March 6, 2020
Micah Comes Back
June 29, 2016
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Notes from the Armchair

Several weeks ago, Micah injured himself. We believe he cast himself in his stall, twisting his spine one way and hips another. He had some chiropractic and acupuncture work, a bit of hand walking, lunging, and now we’re gently starting him back under saddle. Fingers crossed, things seem to be going well. I am much relieved.
In the meantime, Natalie helped me out with some lessons on Commanche. Commanche is an elegant Arabian gelding who is almost an opposite to everything Micah is.

Commanche tries hard to figure me out, while making me look tall

Commanche tries hard to figure me out, while making me look tall

Where Micah is a tall and a big-boned, easy keeper; Commanche is short, narrow, and fine-boned. Commanche looks like a Breyer horse when he stands next to Micah.
I was thrilled to get to ride Commanche but I went in with the preconceived idea that Commanche would be pretty easy to ride. After all, he’s tiny in contrast to Mr. M. and should be easier to influence.
I was both right and wrong.
To gain a sense of perspective, picture this: Micah is like sitting in an armchair — he has a wide back and there’s plenty of room to shuffle about without him reacting.
Micah is like sitting in an armchair ... roomy

Micah is like sitting in an armchair … roomy

Commanche is narrow and more like sitting on a bicycle seat. He feels every movement of the rider and tries to respond, thinking he’s being asked to do something.
In contrast to Micah, Commanche is like sitting on a bicycle seat.  There's only one place to sit!

In contrast to Micah, Commanche is like sitting on a bicycle seat. There’s only one place to sit!

Commanche taught me that I toss my hips about like ships on the high seas. He gamely tried to follow my swaying hips and, as a result, wavered around the arena.
“You want to go left?” he said, swerving aft. “You changed your mind and want to go right?” he asked, moving to the starboard side.
We spent much of the first lesson practicing going on a straight line. It was humbling.
Once I realized what the problem was, I thought of pointing my hip bones like laser beams at the opposite side of the arena. Once I had both my eyes and hips burning laser holes in the far wall we made big improvement.
I also had to learn to ‘do less’ with my hands. Micah likes a lot of contact while Commanche says, “No, thank you.”
Doing less can make you sweat, it is such hard work.
Commanche’s owner was very sweet to let me ride her elegant and kind little horse. He taught me much about my shortcomings.
If ever you need humbling, try riding a new horse. It’s hard on the ego but a terrific learning tool.
Note to self: ride a new horse whenever you get the chance.

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Skipper Gets a Tune Up
March 6, 2020
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