I’ve been meaning to write about why I’m a big fan of chiropractic treatment for horses and for humans for awhile, and last week gave me a good excuse. that’s because I was very much overdue to see my human chiropractor before I went last Monday, and then the next day the equine chiropractor visited Phoenix Farm to work on five horses. Ideally, I like to see my own chiropractor every four to eight weeks, but we make appointments to have our equine chiropractor visit us every four to six weeks, as we currently have 10 horses who are in the care of Suzanne Guyton. Our horses have been her patients for about three years. Yes, I know that many medical people are skeptical of, and even opposed to, chiropractic care. My father was an orthopedic surgeon, and every time I go to the chiropractor I imagine him rolling over in his grave. But chiropractic medicine has come a long way since my father panned it more than 30 years ago. I truly believe, based on my observations of my own body and those of well more than a dozen horses, that using chiropractic treatment is an example of how traditional and non-traditional medicine (including chiropractic) should be complementary. Every horse Suzanne has worked on has felt better and, thus, performed better, and I can think of four horses with whom it’s caused tremendous improvement. Here are two examples from my own body: The reason that Heather convinced me to go to a chiropractor, almost nine years ago, was my neck. I’ve fallen off dozens and dozens of times over the last 45 years, and many of those falls (and hundreds of other rides too!) have wrenched my neck. The only thing Western medicine has to offer is a wide range of inflammation-reducing and pain-relieving drugs. Again, from experience, I know that those drugs certainly do have their uses, but I don’t really care to live on them. But a visit to my chiropractor never fails to relieve the pain in my neck?and it’s my neck that’s the reason why I’m going again this afternoon. Similarly, last year, when I broke four ribs and my occipital bone when I got flung in May, no chiropractor could possibly have helped me initially. I was life-flighted straight to intensive care, where I stayed for 48 hours. But after about two weeks, when the pain in my ribs was beginning to subside, I began to realize how badly my right shoulder was hurt. I could even see in the mirror that it was noticeably lower than my left shoulder, the one I’d separated eight months earlier. Back I went for more X-rays, which showed no facture, but the treatment was basically more pain pills and rest. The doctor suggested physical therapy, but wanted me to wait 30 days before making an appointment. When I did call, the first available appointment was almost 60 days away! So, about five weeks after my crash, I went to my chiropractor, who carefully began to manipulate my lowered and stretched-out shoulder back into place, along with my wrenched back and neck. I never went to physical therapy, because between my chiropractor?s work and my own yoga therapy, there was no need. Now the only reason I even remember that shoulder injury is that one of the broken ribs was the first one on the right side, and it didn’t heal in perfect alignment with my clavicle. Enough about me. What about the horses’ Well, I’ll give you two examples. The first is a Quarter Horse mare named Matilda. Heather and I found her in a field in Central California in March 2008, and we had to bring her home. When I started to ride her, she was clearly uncomfortable and angry, and we suspected there was something wrong with her back. Suzanne quickly determined that sometime in her life she?d broken her withers and that, either then or at another time, her right hip was rotated and sunken and her ribs moved horribly out of line. We must have had Suzanne work on her half a dozen times then, with remarkable and noticeable improvement each time, before we sold Matilda in December to a then 11-year-old girl. The girl and Matilda came back to us, just a year ago this week, in part because Matilda was going unhappily again and no one seemed able to help. I could tell Matilda felt like she had when we found her, and Suzanne confirmed that her sacrum and ribs were once again out of alignment. Another two or three sessions had Matilda going like herself again, and now she gets a check-up on every other visit. My second example is the horse who caused me to write this. His name is Bill, and He’s a 2-year-old warmblood gelding. He arrived here last fall, as a nearly feral yearling, to grow up in our big field with our other young geldings. Bill started in our three-month pre-school program in June, and when I curried the right side of his neck the first time, he flew backwards and broke out of the crossties. I thought that suggested pain in his neck, which wasn?t a surprise since he always flew back like that whenever something surprised him. (Who knows if he reared backwards because his neck hurt or if rearing backwards had caused the neck pain?the chicken or the egg’) After this scene had been repeated several times, and I’d observed that he moved stiffly and tentatively on the longe line, we easily convinced his owner to let us have Suzanne look at him. Suzanne immediately diagnosed severe trauma in his first two cervical vertebrae?she said he probably felt like he had a migraine every day?and went to work. Bill?s initial reaction was certainly guarded, but everything she did clearly made him more comfortable, and he became visibly more relaxed as she worked. When I worked him on the longe line a couple of days later, for the first time he was moving his head up and down at the walk and wasn?t desperately afraid of the whip. And We’ve been able to see the muscles in his previously pencil-thin neck grow now that the pain has subsided. Bill?s now had two treatments, and?I swear?He’s almost like a different horse. He’s far more relaxed and confident (he hasn?t reared back on the crossties since his first treatment) and He’s now longeing, in tack, at all three gaits. THere’s no way to know how Matilda and Bill initially injured themselves, but they’re certainly more comfortable now. Unquestionably, chiropractic treatment has brought long-lasting relief that, as was the case with my injuries, traditional veterinary medicine could not, at least not without a long list of potential drug side effects. My intention here is not at all to dismiss veterinary medicine. Suzanne, like any other honest equine chiropractor, will readily admit that she can do nothing for injuries like bowed tendons or strained suspensory ligaments, for trauma like colic or gaping wounds, or for infections or diseases. Only a veterinarian?s arsenal of treatments can deal with those problems. that’s why I believe that chiropractic care (or other body work) and traditional veterinary medicine should each be a part of our horses? care.