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We Are Flying Solo

March 29, 2012

In Which Robin Is Just As Awesome As Batman

Right before the final jump on the Southern Pines XC course, I felt Encore crossfire as he did a 90 degree turn while I tried to convince him to balance.  I felt something tweak beneath me.  It wasn't quite a pop, it wasn't a stumble, but something changed.  He cantered on unchanged and showed no signs of distress, so I let him jump the jump and we stopped.

I hopped off, felt tendons, joints, checked shoes, feet, all were intact and perfectly normal.  I continued to watch them over the next few days, but to my great relief everything remained at baseline levels.

Then I saw it:  a wayward vertebrae sticking up in Encore's SI area, jutting up like a mini K2 along his spine.  There seemed to be no pain around it, but I felt certain that was what I felt on that turn.  I made an appointment with my vet and kept riding.

Encore slowly began to develop pain in his loin on the right side and his hip on the left side.  I, of course, freaked out, having not had the best history with back sore horses.  But I held my breath and tried to contain my panic.

Dr. Bob is always very busy and only does farm calls on certain days, so his sidekick, Dr. Brian, came out to fix my broken unicorn.  I showed him the hip and loin pain, and showed him the vertebrae I had found (as if he couldn't find it himself) and told him about the weird step on course.  I then said Encore had to be perfect by April 21st and he was in charge of making him fixed or else he owed me $350 of a missed event, ha!

He nodded and assured me that all made sense -- when the front end is doing one thing and the back end is doing the opposite, it basically jams the spine in the middle together and then you get things popping out.  Ow.

Then he promptly went to Encore's head and started feeling around his neck.  I watched, puzzled.  His neck didn't hurt, his back hurt.

But I have already witnessed that Dr. Brian knows A LOT about feet and is very thorough with his bodywork, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"Do you have a hard time flexing him right?" he asked.


"Is it hard for him to bend right and he falls in?"

Yep.  I just figured his muscles were a bit tight or I just wasn't training him well enough.

"Nope," the Boy Wonder said, "the right side of his poll is all jammed up and he cannot flex it to the right at all."

Well, I'll be gee-whilikers.  I never even thought about that.  I bow before my new guru of bodywork.

Dr. Brian spent a fair amount of time loosening up his poll, then put his spine back where it belonged and told me to assess over the next 4-5 days.  I was to ride him lightly and stretchily the next day and then resume work.  If, after 5 days, he was still tight in the poll, he can work on it some more and do some acupuncture.


So I rode him last night as instructed.  His back felt great -- he was steady in the bridle and stretched and rounded his little heart out, it was lovely.  He did have improved motion in his poll to the right but was still a bit tight.  Some may be muscle habit, so I'll continue coaxing it over the next few days and then see where we stand.

Encore's body has changed a LOT in the seven (??!!) months I have had him -- the way he moves, his musculature, it's all different, so there is bound to be some adjustment needed.  I am so grateful that I have Batman and Robin on my team to make sure my little buddy stays healthy when I miss a detail!


  1. you are very lucky to have such talented people on your team. Glad to hear the unicorn is on his way yo pure unicorn awesomeness again. You scared me there for a second.

  2. I love to watch Dr.s work on horses. It is so much fun. Watching them work on bones and flexing and such is even better. Glad he just had a minor booboo and hope he continues to loosen up.

  3. Whew! An experienced superhero is awesome!!
    7 months? Wow that was fast. Glad he's okay!

  4. Good grief. I started reading this post and was like, oh NO! He can't have hurt himself. :( I am very relieved to hear it seems to have been minor!

  5. Fabulous! I was with Promise on this one! Then I sighed... all is good in the world!

  6. Believe me, there are no words for my panic when he became backsore! Thank goodness, KAPOW, BAM!, Robin saved us!

  7. Crisis averted! So glad it was fixable.

  8. Super glad to hear the young prodigy is okay!!! Also I'm giggling because my nickname is Batman.

  9. WOW that is fantastic that you have such an awesome Batman and Robin team. Don't ever let them go!!!!

  10. HAHAHA, squeak.

    And I will certainly use any and all bribes necessarily to keep these guys on my side!

  11. Okay, I am VERY glad you posted this for a couple reasons:
    1) I'm glad Encore is going to be okay and that you also learned about his "poll jam." (Good name for a band?)

    2) I didn't know one of your vets was also a chiropractor, though I see you refer to him as a "bodyworker" and not as such. Very handy!

    3) My darling doggie has been suffering from back pain for the past few months. We have been to the chiro (who also works on humans and horses, he's not a vet) four times and it DEFINITELY helps her. However, he's never offered any kind of explanation as to how Sunny's back keeps "going out" and my family and I have not been able to pinpoint any specific thing/moment. The only thing I know is she's done it when running quickly outdoors. NOW - thanks to your post here, I think I have a clue! I'd bet anything that it's a case of front going one way, back going the other. (She also has some arthritis in her spine which doesn't help) Unfortunately, I would hate to restrict the poor thing to on-leash walks for the rest of her life so I'm not sure how this information is going to be useful. :-(

  12. Hey, RW -- he is just so thorough, he is so much more than "just" a chiropractor. Maybe I should call him a chiropractic vet+?

    I'm sorry to hear about doggie!! I'm not sure what suggestions I can offer. A canine back brace? Teach her to stay on her correct canter leads? Perhaps if something is loose and keeps popping, there is something you can do to strengthen the muscles around it? Hey, it worked for my back.

  13. That's not a bad idea! Too bad nobody's mentioned it. I'll tell you, I find it extremely frustrating that doctors of both humans and animals act like THEIR specialty/solution is the ONLY thing available, and it's left up to us patients to figure out what other treatment/therapy might be helpful.

    Case in point: Hubby's back was agonizingly painful. He could barely function. What did Dr. do? Oh, here, enjoy these loop-de-looping painkillers and muscle relaxants. Did that FIX anything? Of course not. I had to convince to try the chiropractor. It took six months, but now he says the latter gave him his life back! (We're lifelong fans now)

    Same thing with the dog, alas. As much as I love my vet she certainly never mentioned trying chiropractic until I brought it up. Then she was happy to recommend someone. But when I called the office to find out if she knew of anyone, the tech who answered was clueless and even said, "We don't get too many people asking about that." ARGH! They SHOULD! But if the doctor doesn't say it, most folks just don't know any better! Burns me up. I have learned the hard way to only trust doctors to a certain extent. It's up to YOU to make sure you get the best possible care for yourself and loved ones. I have plenty more examples in my quiver, too...

    ANYWAY, I'll see if I can get Sundog's chiro to recommend any strengthening exercises. Thanks for the suggestion!