Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Chiropractor Comes To Visit

Here on the farm, time has a funny way of slowing down, speeding up, and occasionally looping back in upon itself. Days sometimes seem to melt into each other, blurred by the business of life: the nurturing of a marriage, the care of four children, running the family business, caring for a multitude of animals and a hobby farm that always seem to be falling apart. In between, the the house must be kept clean, groceries purchased, violin lessons driven to. The girls stay busy with pony club and dreams of local horse shows. The boys divide their time between Shakespeare performances and an obsession with remote-controlled airplanes.

We are blessed with a rich and sacred life that sometimes overshadows the quiet experiences that make it so poignant. The turning of events, the way people and creatures come into our lives and shape them forever, fascinates me. I think back to that fateful phone call last December from a vet I had never met, asking for help with Argus, and wonder: Was this all for a reason?

Once, more than four years ago, I went to the animal shelter to adopt some rats for our son, Drew. At the back of the shelter, in the heartbreaking "never for adoption" section, lay an ancient black and white dog, surrendered by his owners. I stood sadly in front of his kennel, where he never lifted his head to look at me. He had given up. His name was Snoopy. I brought him home that day, thinking we would give him a dignified death away from the pound.

$500 later, the vet said "this is a young dog! Only 8 years old. He has low thyroid and a messed up back from years of chewing at flea bites." We watched Snoopy age in reverse, from what looked like 16, and at death's door, to a dog with energy to rival a puppy. Thyroid medication and chiropractic care were the key to a second life.

So imagine my pleasure when Snoopy's chiropractor of the last 4 1/2 years, Dr. Suzanne Guyton, told me during one of Snoopy's monthly visits that she would like to work on Argus on a volunteer basis. I was thrilled! Dr. Guyton is a human Doctor of Chiropractic whose busy practice is devoted exclusively to horses, dogs and cats.

I had never seen Dr. Guyton work on a horse, but she did just that last Thursday, when she came to Watermark Farm to evaluate Argus.

Argus is sweet and loving, but can be shy with strangers. He has a hard time with men (I think because he has almost never been handled by a man) and people who try to "do things to him." If you take your time, and show him you are not going to hurt or force him, he is willing and cooperative. I knew that gentle Dr. Guyton, with her unobtrusive ways, would be a good match for him.

We were both curious as to what she would find. After all, chronically confined horses are not exactly growing on trees. Dr. Miller, Argus' vet, who has veterinary chiropractic training, had already adjusted Argus' atlas area (that's the area of the neck just behind the ears), and noted the various abnormalities in Argus' body. I was curious as to what Dr. Guyton could do. I prepared myself for nothing more than a thorough evaluation, not knowing if Argus could handle the intrusion of adjustments. Previous neck adjustments had been undertaken with sedation.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was Dr. Guyton able to throughly assess Argus, but she also performed adjustments from one end of his body to the other. He was WONDERFUL! I was proud of him! Of course, I fed him about 5 pounds of cookies in the process, but he got it! He understood that Dr. Guyton was here to help him, and he cooperated as if he was an old show horse getting his regular care. At times, he would take huge, deep breaths of relief. By the end, Argus was sleepy. Dr. Guyton said that the result of endorphin release.

So here's the scoop, here's the "train wreck" that Argus is:

Argus' 1st, 2nd and 3rd cervical vertebrae are a mess. These are the vertebrae at the top of neck, behind his head, the big chunky 1st cervical vertebra being called "The Atlas" because it's huge and it sits below the skull, kind of like the mythical Atlas who held up the earth. With Argus, you can see how the Atlas is pushed out to one side. When he first arrived, this area was exquisitely painful.

In addition, Argus' had painful fixation in the thoracic region (the area under the saddle; T9-11 for those who want to know) and the lumbar region (the horse's low back). It was the low back I was most interested in, because when you look at Argus, you are acutely aware that the back end of his body is not fully "alive."

Argus' entire pelvis is badly rotated, much worse than any other horse I've seen. Dr. Guyton commented that what she saw in him was often the result of an accident where the horse's hind end went out from under it. This is plausible, since Argus was kept in his pen all the time, but a few times over the years, he was said to have been let out into a small paddock, where he would "run like crazy" for a little bit before his owner put him back in. The damage done was massive. Argus' entire hind end is a mess.

Most likely, much of the damage in Argus' body stems from total confinement, and from the violent, neurotic weaving style he adopted in order to release energy and keep his sanity. Nature, with its magnificent adaptive ways, remodeled Argus' body in ways that shored him up to withstand the side-to-side motion of weaving. (Weaving is a vice most common in stabled horses where the horse stands and sways from side-to-side. It wreaks havoc on the body.)

Here, you can see the unlevel sacrum:
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Still, Dr. Guyton let out a joyful cry when she discovered that his hind end had "movement," meaning she could adjust it. Craggy arthritis hasn't yet dug its claws in.

Dr. Guyton also pointed out something interesting, something I had wondered about. She noted that Argus' left hip, specifically the region of his ileum (part of the pelvis), was a strange shape. I have since researched the ileum a bit, and now wonder if Argus' has an old, healed fracture of the ileum? This is a common place to have a non-displaced pelvic fracture, and it can heal with time ---- and confinement ----- which Argus had plenty of. Injuries of the ileum can occur with a fall or running through a narrow gate.

I took some pictures, so you can see what it looks like. If there is anyone out there who knows about old injuries like this, please post a comment. I would appreciate your input.

This is the left hip. See the indentation?

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This is the right hip, for comparison.
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This shot shows the indentation in the left hip even better:

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This shot shows Argus' rump, and its asymmetry:
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For comparison, here are Ridge (right) and Argus side-by-side, in nearly the same position. Although they are different horses, with different conformation, you can see how wasted Argus' hind end tends to be when you compare it with Ridge's:

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I asked Dr. Guyton to pose for a photo with her two patients. See how sleepy Argus is? This was taken after the adjustments (Dr. Guyton was able to make headway in every area, by the way).

That's Snoopy, our dog. He LOVES Dr. Guyton. Snoopy has only seen Dr. Guyton at her office, so he was pleasantly surprised and excited when she drove into the farm the other day. He gave her a hearty greeting. When I went to take this photo, Dr. Guyton said "I think Snoopy would like to be in the picture." Look at these two pictures and the way Snoopy is smiling as he snuggles against Dr. Guyton, his friend:

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Argus spent the rest of the day snoozing in his paddock. Later on, when I walked through the barn, he stood in the stall, watching me. I heard the tiniest muffled sound, confirmed by the brief flutter of his nostrils. He was nickering at me. Only the second time ever.


Anonymous said...

Well.........I certainly know how much better I feel after an adjustment! :o) Blessings to Dr. Guyton for wanting to work with Argus and be able to give him some relief. She's certainly horse 7 dog's best friends..and it's clear they know it!


Anonymous said...

I have only discovered this blog today, and I would like to give you some MAJOR kudos on your taking on Argus! He sounds like such a sweet boy, and he's come such a long way! I can't imagine the pain that boy went through, being so out of whack...but I'm glad that he's now in your loving care, Katie.
<3 Katie from PA

Anonymous said...

Holistic health care is wonderful, especially when your "western" Dr. likes to "partner" with it! I am so smiling today! Hope he heals as fast as the USA is falling in love with him!!!
Patti C. Connecticut

StableBabe said...

It's amazing the emotions we feel when a horse we're caring for nickers to us for the first (or second or third) time. It was a very happy day for me when my youngest OTTB finally did it. I'm sure you feel the same. :-)

Yay for chiropractic adjustments! My mares love it as well and I always love hearing what the chiropractor has to say. You can really learn a lot from them.

excaliber said...

Wow, what wonderful news! Katie you are spoiling us with all of these frequent posts! I will never tire of reading about Argus, Snoopy, and all @ Watermark Farm.

God Bless

spotteddrafter said...

I'm so glad that his body (and mind!) were so responsive to Dr. Guyton. I recently had my mare worked on for the first time ever, and the end-results were amazing!

barbara said...

Bravo Argus to accept even MORE good touch and healing. Snoopy just took my heart, smiling and leaning against the doctor. I am sure you'll get the right info on Arugs's hip; the doctor will get great learnings from Argus to pass on to other horses too. Thank you for the post and pictures. What a great horse.

SOSHorses said...

OMG, I am so happy for Argus, maybe before long he will be fit and really feeling like a horse should. I wish Argus was closer to me as even though I wouldn't know what to do with a TB I sure would spoil him rotten.

God Bless you and the others who have helped save Argus. There is a special place in heaven for people like you.

SOS Horses
SOS Leatherworks

PaintedPromise said...

oh those first few nickers (or brays as the case may be - that's what touched my heart this last week, from our new rescue donkeys!)

sounds like another milestone!

Susan said...

What a great looking bunch you've got! Snoopy is too sweet. I wish I had some advice for you with that hip but I really can't say, definitely something funky going on there (is that a medical term-funky?). Thank you for another update.

kahara said...

That's wonderful news! I'm so glad that there's hope for Argus to be fixed (for the most part), too!

Anonymous said...

I just found and read your entire blog. A box of tissues later -- I just want to say thank you -- to every human (and animal) who has rallied around this horse. The tears were shed in saddness (for his former life) and happiness in all the progress that has been made. Argus has found heaven on earth at Watermark and made angels of you all.

jewelee from CT

hope4more said...

I found your blog on the VLC blog (same writer as FHOTD)and yesturday started reading it from the beginning. What a truely amazing story. I smile, and I cry at the same time. What you are doing is truly wonderful, kudos to you and all your horses. Not to mention the wonderful lessons you are teaching your children. I wish every person could have this kind of compassion inside them.

Has anything happend with the other horses in "hell", Argus's sister? Did anyone ever rescue them?

Kim said...

Katie - I can't even describe the effect your story of Argus' journey has had on me. I, too, found you through FHOTD and VLC and read your entire blog. You've inspired me to DO SOMETHING about those things that are important to me.....not just have good intentions.

CutiePie9546 said...

Katie, your blog gives me chills. I come by weekly hoping for an Argus update. I was pleasantly surprised this week to find several from the past 2 weeks. It makes me happy to hear about his progress, but also I still wonder about his old prison mates...any news? Anything we can do?

Anonymous said...

Katie, I like so many others have read the story of Argus from beginning to present and have emptied a box of kleenex with tears of sadness and joy. You are a wonderful writer and you help us all be right there with you. I loved the part about Argus nickering to you. It brought joy and sadness to me. I have had horses for over 40 years and in January had to put my last horse down. We loved him for his 27 years. He had colic and when I ran out to help him he got up and nickered to me as if to say "mom help me". I could not help him except to stop his suffering. I will always remember his last nicker to me. I miss him so much. Argus has helped me stay connected with one of the things I love in life: Horses. Argus you keep getting better. You are loved by more people than you can imagine. Thank you Katie for what you are doing. You are truly an angel.
Shirley Hugo, MN

Anonymous said...

i read about argus in horsewyse and now he looks so white and much more healthy! theres still a bit to go but he is on his way! i adore his little courage and send many blessings to him and his helpers.
lots of love

Anonymous said...

oh man. nickering.

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