Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Chiro Doubts

Last night was chiro appointment #2.

After a second appointment and a longer chat with Dr. A, I'm now torn on the process.
(Kachina was better at standing this time, but my hands were still too full for photos, sorry)

The Good:

- Dr. A has a lot of training and experience, and watching her work I am pretty confident that she is not doing any harm
- Apparently Kachina had slightly different issues this time around than appointment #1 which means the original issues are being improved, it just is a bit of a process to have the issues change and then go away
- There still is a chance that the chiro work will make her weird mouth gaping thing go away
- Even if it doesn't make the mouth thing go away, I will know I tried the vet/vet/dentist/chiro routine and can chalk it up to a behavioral thing rather than a physical issue
- Chiro may help Kachina to be more balanced and help prevent arthritis and other degeneration
- She and my vet have a good working relationship
- I like Dr. A, and she has the same opinions as I do about science vs. quacks (she once dumped a client who did an exorcism on their horse to try and cure it, true story!). Some chiropractors seem to have the attitude that conventional medicine is bad and chiro/alternative medicine can cure everything, whereas Dr. A feels that chiro works hand in hand with doctors and vets and she is only focused on the musculoskeletal system.

The Bad:

- A big part of my earlier skepticism about human chiro has been that it seems like some chiropractors will tell you that you need repeat appointments all the time and you can never stop. I had hopes that I was wrong about this chiro dependency, but it sounds like Dr. A recommends continuing chiro appointments at least every month or two after these initial adjustments, indefinitely. That would be one thing if Kachina had a major issue or was in regular pain, but that seems way overkill for a horse who is generally in great shape, is not in pain, and has excellent range of movement. My view of all medical things is that while regular treatment for some chronic conditions may be required, many conditions should be able to be "fixed" whereby you don't need the doctor/dentist/chiro/vet/therapist/... again until a new problem arises

Does this look like a horse who has trouble lifting her back and engaging her hind end?
I didn't think so

- Dr. A has room for a limited number of horse clients and so she only likes to work with people who will bring their horses regularly. It sounds like if I only want to come occasionally, that's not going to work.
- It's $90 a session, which I was fine with for the initial three sessions which I thought might help fix an issue, but $90/month forever is a bit different.
- I was asking more questions this time (why she was doing something differently than last time, what was she feeling, what would cause these things, etc), and her answers weren't totally satisfactory. It seemed like this might have just been because she was more focused on Kachina than on my questions, but I like to understand.
- She has zero understanding of what I do with my horse. I understand that dressage is not the best known of horse disciplines, especially in this area; however, it sounds like she was shown one video of a high level dressage test where the horse was angrily flicking its tail and someone explained to her that dressage movements caused a pain response in horses and that the sport was about making them do unnatural things. That Is So Not What Dressage Is!!  I did explain to her that goals like relaxation, harmony, having the horse balanced, etc. are fundamental to the sport of dressage. I told her that the test she saw may have been a bad one, but that is not the norm or the goal of dressage. I'm not sure I explained it in the best way but I think she now gets that dressage isn't full out evil. However, it would be nice if I had a chiropractor who understood how I expect Kachina to move her body, and clearly that isn't the case.

What Now?

When I initially signed up for chiro, I essentially committed to three appointments. My current plan is to continue with that and go to #3 next week. After that, I will take at least a couple weeks to ride and assess whether I notice any clear changes or improvements with Kachina. If I do see a clear improvement, and then it subsequently goes away, I will consider going back for a re-adjustment. E.g. if her weird mouth thing fully goes away for a few weeks, and then starts again. Otherwise, I will consider this to have been an interesting experiment that I will not continue further.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please feel free to share because I'm not sure what to think at this point.


  1. I am a chiro skeptic; I think I'm the only one at my barn! A couple of years ago, I agreed to have both horses adjusted by the chiropractor my barn uses. He informed me that Gina was completely out of alignment and absolutely required regular adjustments. I didn't think it was as dire as all that, but I could believe that a 17 year old horse mighthave some issues. I was REALLY surprised when he informed me that Moe was basically in perfect shape; I had a hard time believing that a 19 year old horse with sketchy conformation who's spent most of his life doing a high-impact sport was totally without problems. Maybe I should have been glad that one of my horses was fine?

    At any rate, I didn't notice any difference in the horses' way of going or behavior after their adjustments. I haven't had them adjusted again, and I don't feel like they're missing anything.

    If you don't think it's making a different, don't continue it. Ninety bucks a month is a lot!

    1. I am generally a huge skeptic over pretty much anything. I wouldn't even have tried chiro if Kachina didn't have that weird open mouth/tip poll thing that the vet couldn't do anything about. I've tried to be open about chiro for this experience and not immediately dismiss it, but I'm turning back into a skeptic now.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Gina and Moe. I will stop it if I don't see any improvement, I'm just going to give it a few rides to see if I do notice any change.

  2. Your first bullet point under The Bad is what I felt about Chiro for people and horses as well. I was lucky enough to find a Chiro who was not like that which is why I recommend him to people. Did my horse need some adjustments yes, but my horse was not a candidate for regular appointments forever. Maybe find a different professional?

    1. Exactly! I was hoping Dr. A wasn't going to be like that, but it seems I was wrong.

      Unfortunately, Dr. A is the only actual animal chiropractor who does any work even close to this area. It's either Dr. A, or the "horse psychic/chiropractor" with no formal training that a guy told me could read a horse's energy patterns from 100km away. I think I'm better off dropping the idea of chiro altogether and sticking with my vet.

  3. That first bad point has always rubbed me the wrong way and why I prefer physical therapy to chiro for me. I feel like if you are "fixing" something it shouldn't require constant adjustment. Either way I feel like the initial experiment will give you the answer about the jaw issue.

    1. Agreed. I'm interested to see if the jaw thing will be resolved or not, but either way I think I'll be able to stop worrying about it.

  4. I have mixed views on Chiro. I really do believe it can help (especially because I find it super useful for myself). But I hate it when they want you to continue to have regular treatments forever. I use one who thinks that most regular issues should be resolved within a couple treatments, and after that it is time to pursue other avenues.

    I'm not a huge stickler for formal training and accreditation (as long as there are no drugs being administered)because as you discovered with dentists it doesn't always actually mean anything.