McTimoney Chiropractor Julia Smith-Pearse is based in Stetchworth near Newmarket. With a varied clientele of horses, humans and dogs, she is kept very busy and tells EQ Life about a typical day doing this fascinating job
At 6.30am I’m up and out for a run with Mimi, my black Labrador. On returning I grab a quick shower and some breakfast and more importantly feed Mimi – well that’s her take on it anyway!
I run my practice from home, so it is an easy transition from kitchen to office with a peppermint tea, where I get out my diary, sort out my notes for my patients and clients for the day, check my emails and answer a couple of telephone calls.
I start my day by 8.45am, by treating human patients. I tend to work with people in the morning and animals in the afternoon – some people are allergic to horses or dogs which are the two main animal species I treat, and other people prefer me not to smell of horses when they are being treated. If I mixed them up I would spend my day jumping in and out the shower! I do also treat rabbits, cats and the odd cow or sheep, but it is mainly humans, horses and dogs. Humans and dogs are treated at my practice in Stetchworth, near Newmarket and I go out to treat the horses.
It is so useful to be able to treat both horse and rider. Each will influence the other – sometimes if I am treating several horses ridden by one person, they will all have the same problem so I ask if I can assess the rider, and I can do this on the yard. Then I can determine if the rider is creating this same problem in each of these horses. And the opposite is also true – if a rider comes in repeatedly with the same issue that does not resolve, I need to try to figure out where this so coming from, and sometimes it is from their horse.
What I am trying to do is to release restrictions within the body to allow it to function with symmetry and balance. I tend to work mostly with the skeletal system, and each joint within the body will have an optimal normal range of movement. Where there is a restriction of an individual joint, the tissue in that area will become inflamed locally and this will affect the nerve function. Then this can affect the whole body. Muscles may start to contract and be unable to relax; at its worst this will become a muscle spasm which can be excruciating, but to a lesser degree will prevent a muscle from being lengthened as it should, so the individual will lose their elasticity and flexibility. A knock on effect may then be a predisposition to injury and pain – both of which I am working to prevent.
I release these restrictions using the McTimoney chiropractic technique – fast, precise and gentle adjustments to allow the body to function optimally again. I am also trying to identify and correct a restriction before the cascade of events becomes a problem.
Humans coming in today include a plumber whom I treat regularly as he gets back pain crawling around in small spaces and carrying heavy weights as part of his work. Today I am also treating an older lady who lives locally. She is now in her 80s and comes to me to ensure she can keep pain free and also keep up her gardening and walking which she still enjoys.
Finally I have a new patient to arrive who had a problem with her left shoulder for about six months. I take quite a bit more time with a new person as I need to take a full history, explain the nature of the McTimoney chiropractic and do a thorough assessment before undertaking any treatment. New patients may need several treatments in a short space of time to get on top of the problem; after that some people come for regular wellness or preventive care, whilst others prefer to come in only if there is an obvious problem to resolve. I am happy to work with people in a way that suits them.
After a quick lunch I head to Newmarket Sports Horses, run by Naomi Maxted-Massey and based at Keeble Cottage Equestrian Centre, Oakington, about 20 minutes away. Today ‘Delphi Tango’ and ‘Timmy’ are booked in – no major issues, just routine ‘performance care’ planned in advance, to maintain and enhance their symmetry and elasticity. Naomi likes to integrate chiropractic wellness care into her horses’ training programmes. She has horses at a variety of levels, ranging from young horses just learning their trade to Delphi Tango, her international CCI 3* event horse. I also have another horse to see there today: Utzon. Utzon is in his 20s now, and used to compete to a high level in dressage – the regular exercise and chiropractic seem to keep him very comfortable, but Naomi thinks he has just been a little stiff recently so sounds like he is due a treatment too.
For each horse in turn, I will ask Naomi what they have been doing and to find out about any issues she may have noted whilst riding them. Legally I am required to obtain veterinary approval before I am allowed to treat, and this is already in place for these three. I then follow this up with a report back to the veterinary surgeon – so we can work as a team in the best interests of the horse.
I try to get home each day by 5pm, but this is not always possible. First thing I do when I am back is have a cup of tea then I need to spend an hour catching up with my admin. So my first call is to a local racehorse trainer to confirm that I will drop by tomorrow to see a horse that has raced recently and come back a little sore.
Next I make a start emailing the vets with reports on horses I saw today at Newmarket Sports Horses.
By 7pm I can collapse in a heap with some supper! Of course Mimi gets hers as well!
So life as a McTimoney chiropractor is never dull; I am always meeting lovely people. And though it may sound corny, I am so lucky to have such an amazing way of life – I find it difficult to call it a job. I love my work, it is so rewarding to see a life, be it human, or horse or dog changed, and it is always a privilege to have been a small part of that transformation.
Back in 1982, I had a lovely little homebred five-year-old who slipped up on the lunge and who was definitely not right afterwards. He was very ‘locked up’ through his back. I took him to see the legendary Ronnie Longford, who had trained with John McTimoney himself. Well, what a change – my horse went well before, but he was amazing afterwards and was very soft throughout his body. What was fascinating was that Ronnie, who had arthritic hands and fingers, treated with the aid of a tennis ball and a hammer!
Years later, in 1997, one of my dogs had a crashing fall and was in a lot of pain. Again, I sought out a McTimoney Chiropractor who sorted him out perfectly again and then, a few weeks later, it was my turn. Knowing it had helped my dog and my horse, I turned to a McTimoney Chiropractor for myself too. I could barely put my left foot to the floor – I had lower back pain and shooting pain down the back of my left leg and I had to lean on the wall to make my way to the consulting room. I felt very little of the treatment, to the point that I almost refused to get up from the treatment bench – “until she did something”. But when I got up, I walked away unaided. Knowing now how powerful it was and how gentle it was to receive, I resolved to become a McTimoney Chiropractor and when I got home rang the McTimoney College of Chiropractic and shortly afterwards enrolled.
All chiropractors are qualified to treat humans and will be registered with the General Chiropractic Council, www.gcc-uk.org. In addition, chiropractors with an animal qualification will be members of either the McTimoney Chiropractic Association’s Animal Group, www.mctimoneychiropractic.org and/or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association, www.ivca.de – you can check these registers on line to confirm any chiropractor’s credentials.