Today, Guinness visited our regional veterinary teaching hospital for the first time. Fortunately it was a non-emergency! We were there to be seen by Dr. Funk, an equine chiropractor.
The trouble with a "thinking horse" is that they sometimes take things into their own hooves. About 3 weeks ago, Guinness was locked in the paddock for the night, so as not to trouble our new boarder, Zoe. Guinness apparently grew tired of the situation and decided to jump/climb the 4 ft. gate into the pasture. Apparently he didn't quite make it since he had dings on both hind legs and bent the top of the gate. Fortunately, he didn't appear to be lame, just perhaps a bit stiff as the moved about.
About a week later, I took him on a 12.4 mile trail ride on the NR Trail. It was long and flat and he had plenty of time to loosen up. Along the way, I offered to allow him to trot and canter, but he wasn't his normal enthusiastic self. Instead, he wanted to GAIT of all things. (Normally I have trouble encouraging to hold a medium-speed four-beated gait.) Very odd. At the walk he seemed to be moving fine.
The following week, I took him horse camping at a different spot along the NR Trail. Although he would take up a canter when requested, it felt very flat and strung out. Not at all his usual rocking-horse self. Again, he was fine gaiting and walking.
Last weekend, I attended a Gaited Dressage clinic where a couple of ladies mentioned that they had recently had Dr. Funk of the VMCRM come out to work on a horse and that they had been very pleased with her. My awesome vet of the past 9 years has just retired and I've been intending to renew my relationship with the VMRCVM as an "equine field services" client, so I decided I needed to have Guinness adjusted!
I decided to haul him to the vet school, rather than have her come out to my barn for two reasons:
1. A bit less expensive
2. A great opportunity to desensitize him (and me) to the clinic environment
Dr. Funk was very personable and did a handy job working with Guinness. He was a bit right-brained (head up & staring intently into my eyes), but didn't move his feet much. He was the most distressed over a drain cover in the center of the large grey-toned exam room floor and kept snorting at it. I clicked him for getting near it which seemed to help. I also clicked him for touching the big foam block that she climbed up on.
She waggled and twisted him around and he seemed ok with it, but kept expecting her to mount! She showed me how to effectively get him to hump his back to strengthen his abs, which I've never been too successful with, and encouraged me to start to stretch him a bit. Apparently, his neck is very flexible while his back and pelvis were pretty stiff. She said that usually a horse's neck and pelvis are roughly the same in flexibility, so I'm thinking that this may have been a consequence of the gate-climbing episode.
The entire appointment took about 1/2 hour which was enough time to him to lower his head a bit and quit bugging his eyes at me. (I had to remind myself to breathe!) However, he had a big shake in the parking lot while waiting to load onto the trailer, so apparently he was still pretty wound up while inside the building.
All and all, this was a very valuable learning experience for both horse and human. We have a better idea of what to expect if, God forbid, we ever need to come here in an emergency with him in pain. Dr. Funk advised me to ride Guinness tomorrow to see if his will to canter comes back. If not, she recommended a return visit in 2 weeks.