Eventers are diligent about keeping their horses feeling great by providing them with top quality nutrition, custom fitted tack and regular visits from a chiropractor or massage specialist. Yet, we don’t always remember to take care of our own bodies, despite putting ourselves through the ringer daily pushing full wheelbarrows, lifting heavy buckets, feed bags and hay bales, and generally getting pulled around by or falling off of horses, regularly.
Dr. Charlette Fletcher is a licensed chiropractor and a vendor here at Plantation Field International Horse Trials. She began studying to be a chiropractor to help her mother find relief from scleroderma symptoms and ultimately made a career of it, opening her own practice, 1st Choice Chiropractic in Wilmington, Delaware’s Trolley Square, about seven years ago.
EN reader and client of Dr. Fletcher’s, Stephanie Lee, initially told us that Dr. Fletcher would be at Plantation Field this week. “As a physician, I have always appreciated the importance of chiropractic care and have seen chiropractors for my own acute injuries and back pain over the years. What I didn’t fully appreciate was how important basic posture and position can be for the health of our horses.”
Stephanie became a believer when Dr. Fletcher showed her how compensating for an old shoulder injury was affecting how her horse performed under saddle. “Even though I wasn’t having any back pain, my pelvis was rotated and my entire right side was contracted as a result of me favoring and elevating my right shoulder. This meant that while my right leg was stronger, my left pelvis was digging into Henry’s back and my left leg was weak against his side,” Stephanie explained.
“After a series of adjustments and deep tissue work, I had my next lesson with my trainer and the results were astonishing! Henry pushed evenly and powerfully from behind. We were able to do some lateral movements that had been plaguing us recently. My trainer’s immediate response was ‘I need the name and number for your chiropractor!’ Hence, Dr. Fletcher now has a cult following of equestrians from my barn.”
It’s been two years since Stephanie started seeing Dr. Fletcher and while her horse is moving better than ever, she has begun to look critically at her own posture whenever her OTTB King Henry starts to feel uneven or evades the contact.
I stopped to see Dr. Fletcher yesterday myself, as I had gotten off the plane in Philadelphia limping pitifully, and was very glad she was open for business already. Pelvis problems are common in equestrians, Dr. Fletcher told me while she adjusted my uneven hips, as they have a tendency to lock up in a “transition area” in the back. And that’s not the only way reason may be inadvertently inhibiting your horse. Any crookedness or tenseness in the body may be affecting your horse’s way of going.
While not a rider herself, Dr. Fletcher is often able to see where a rider may be uneven or tight just by watching them ride. “If you’re training your horse and doing everything you need and your horse is where it needs to be and you get on your horse to ride and try to say do this or that but are pushing into their back on one side, it’s kind of unfair,” Dr. Fletcher said. “If you’re going to take on the time to work with the horse you have to appreciate what they’re doing, so you have to appreciate your body so you can appreciate them.”
Of course, as riders we hope we’re improving all the time, learning to give our horse better aids and to sit more correctly, but it is almost more important to listen to our own bodies the longer we remain in the sport.
“Sports people in general, especially once you start to excel, think they’re fine,” said Dr. Fletcher, who is an avid runner. “Your body is compensating now, but as you get older, the difference from people that are able to excel and stay in their sport for years and people that after high school or a couple of years are done because their body is done, is keeping correction so you can stay in your sport longer.”
Dr. Fletcher’s tent is set up ringside at Plantation Field. She’s been doing good business so far with riders, volunteers and spectators stopping by for advice or an adjustment and massage. I did, and I feel so much better for it.