Firn's Blog post # 17

Aligning the Bones


I cannot stand to be touched. In crowded areas, I contrive to duck and dodge madly whilst keeping my arms pinned tightly to my body and my breath held, lest I brush against the nasty, corrosive skin of another human being. My poor family calls me "doringdraadrol", which means, "roll of barbed wire", because I'm just as touchable.


When my dad suggested I go see the chiropractor, you can imagine my reaction. A stranger? Putting his hands on /me/? And then I put my back out so badly that the muscles around my ribs pulled tight and made it hard to breathe, so I reluctantly agreed, mostly because it is hard to ride when you can't breathe.

Suffice it to say, now my family are deeply unimpressed with our chiro because not only do I happily go along with his touching, I volunteer for it, reporting every two months for a routine session. I've just come back from my third regular session and I feel glorious. All those sore muscles and misaligned bones acquired from a sport where falling hard at speed is commonplace, and being yanked all over by an animal ten times your size is routine, are now happily in their places.

My chiro has gotten into the habit of greeting me with a steady glare and "What did you do now?" My sheepish replies elicit his usual good-natured self and then he puts me back together. When I ask, "So, what should I look out for?" he answers, "Don't ride for two days, but since you won't do that, two hours will do. And stop falling off." Only for me to return eight weeks later with one leg half an inch longer than the other and mild whiplash.

It's not just for pain relief and relaxing massages that I go to my chiro, though. The difference in my riding after a chiro session is phenomenal. Obviously there is no miracle fix for any position flaw, but having a body that works optimally definitely helps to level the playing field.

One of the most notable things was how the very first chiro session affected my straightness. Before the session, I had no idea that I was crooked at all. Afterwards, when I got back onto my most-used saddle, I realised that my right stirrup leather had been stretched about two inches longer than the left. My right boot's sole was also worn out almost completely, while the left was almost new. Obviously somebody had been putting considerably more weight in one stirrup than the other. Being more aware, I now realise that as the two months between sessions continues, my right seat bone starts to ache at the end of the last ride of the day. It's a nice little reminder to straighten myself out, since I can hardly expect the poor horses to go straight when I am evidently sitting like a banana.

Before my second session, I'd also been struggling badly to actually sit down on my horses. I could balance just fine, but for some reason it had suddenly become extremely hard to keep my seat bones moving with the horse. I had no idea what the problem was, figuring that I was probably just being a newb again, but after chiro I could magically sit even the most choppy horses again. I remember that my lower back had been spasming badly that last week, so I can only assume that the muscles were having a lot of trouble relaxing enough to move with the horse.

Having thoroughly tested chiropractic on myself, I was content to try it on the horses themselves. After selling a kidney, I called the chiro and watched with some apprehension as she started to poke around on my animals.

Arwen was pretty much fine. She had one vertebra slightly out and one knee bone not quite in place, but the chiro put them straight back in with no fuss. Then she nearly gave me heart failure as she was poking about near Arwen's bottom and said, "I'm feeling a fracture."

My heart hit my boots. I just clung to Arwen's head and blurted, "Oh, Arwen, please don't be broken."

The chiro rushed to reassure me that the fracture in a little bone at the top of Arwen's pelvis had healed perfectly and must have happened when she was only a few weeks old, since her bottom had muscled up evenly on both sides and she was evidently not in any pain at all. "Whatever you've been doing, keep doing it. It's working." I suggested that perhaps the bone had been fractured when Arwen had her first (accidental, due to wind pollination) foal at the age of two. Interestingly the chiro explained that that may actually have been Arwen's salvation; the hormone relaxin, causing her pelvis to relax, may have taken the strain off that bone sufficiently that it could heal to such an extent.

As expected, Magic was a mess. He had bones out of place in his back, shoulder, knee, hip, neck and ribs, as well as his atlas axis, where the head joins onto the next. Amusingly, mine was also rather badly out, although in my case it was from somersaulting off a large galloping warmblood and landing first on my hat brim and then on the back of my head. Magic did nothing of the sort, so I assume his problem was caused by being Magic. However, to my huge relief (I often fear that Magic is too wonderful to be real and might turn out to be chronically unsound at any moment), he had nothing majorly wrong with him.

Since Arwen had nothing much wrong with her, I was unsurprised when she felt pretty much the same next time I rode her. The change in Magic, however, is interesting. I haven't been back on him due to circumstances, but I have free lunged him a few times and amazingly when I had him walk off he actually volunteered to stretch down despite the fact that he wasn't wearing any gadgets. He just popped his head down and took a few beautiful big stretchy strides, which I've never seen him do before. He also disunited a few times in right canter, which is uncharacteristic for Magic, but he put himself back quite quickly so I'm hoping it's no biggie.

I'm fascinated to get back on him and see how different he feels in his body. Maybe chiro is the answer to his nonexistent stretchy trot circles, after all.


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