Mary Young – Equestrian Chiropractor
I’m a chiropractor working with people and horses. I check Indi every month (and Nydia as often as she has time!) to keep her on top form; I’m supporting her performance, so Nydia doesn’t wait for something to be wrong before we check Indi.
Normally therefore there’s no complaint to address, but our meeting was very timely this month; at her event at the weekend, Indi had developed a sudden and strong dislike of being touched at the poll. As seen below, a specific adjustment to the top bone in her neck let her get back into ‘ease’ or ‘neutral’ and the symptoms disappeared. My aim is to deal with any restrictions before they become noticeable problems, but it’s good to be able to help in this acute situation too.
As usual, I checked her from nose to tail, correcting as necessary for any signs that her optimal function was compromised. The fewer tiny compensations she’s having to make for little niggles, the more use she’ll make of her time off over winter when she needs to rest and recover from a hard year on the circuit.
We also discussed some stretches and mobilisations that Nydia can do with Indi over the ‘down’ season when there won’t be schooling or ridden exercise to keep her mobile. This week we looked in detail at the foreleg. Most riders will stretch a leg out to make sure there aren’t folds of skin caught under the girth. But by being more exact, it’s easy to really help your horse move better and feel great.
There are four stages to the foreleg workout:
1) Sternal sway – If the ribcage is stuck, then the horse won’t enjoy moving the foreleg. I showed Nydia how to stroke gently along the horse’s breastbone or sternum (from the tip of the sternum down between the forelegs) and she felt how little pressure it takes for that action to mobilise the withers and let them flow easily.
2) Before stretching the leg out, we picked it up as if to pick out a hoof. Being careful not to put any stress on the knee, moving the horse’s shoulder blade against the ribcage both back/forwards and up/down let the surrounding tissue release. It was also useful to lean a little pressure into the elbow and shoulder, which asks the top of the shoulder blade to move away from the body, giving tight muscle a nice stretch.
3) Again with the leg lifted and folded at the knee, I gently pushed the shoulder back towards the quarters. This is a stretch that can be difficult especially for horses that pull themselves along or are heavy in the mouth, so we go very lightly and repeat the swing several times to gradually opens the spac between the shoulder and the base of the neck.
4) Finally, the foreleg extension – but a little different from the conventional girth stretch! For this, we slowly bring the leg forward, supporting it under the fetlock and keeping the hoof really low to the ground. We never pull beyond what the horse can offer easily. Instead, bring the leg forward to where it naturally stops and wait there. After a few seconds the horse will usually be able to release more, and ends up releasing the whole foreleg and the back muscles. Once this happens, job done!