In Barn Aisle Chats we meet equestrians from all walks of life and disciplines. Today, we chat with Dr. Arianna Aaron, DC about her love for horses and equine integrative medicine.
Dr. Aaron has over two decades worth of experience as a rider, trainer, stable manager, and healthcare professional. After graduating from Northeast College of Health Sciences in New York with her Doctorate in Chiropractic, Dr. Aaron pursued further education in animal chiropractic care through the Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic where she was awarded a post-doctoral certification in Essentials of Animal Chiropractic.
She is certified to practice animal chiropractic by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA) and has spoken internationally at the Dubai International Horse Fair on Equine Integrative Medicine on the benefits of chiropractic care for optimizing performance in the sport horse population.
Amanda: Your passion for horses began as a child competing in hunter/jumper competitions, and you later went on to compete as an event rider. Tell us a little about that.
Dr. Aaron: At the age of 12 I got my first horse, Mr. Chips. I used to take the bus after school directly to the farm with my best friend. The farm was tucked away in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia and there were not a lot of places to ride outside of the arena and cross-country field. My friend and I used to tack up and disappear onto a short trail for hours. We thought we were so slick and that no one would realize that we were out exploring on the neighbor’s property (which we were not allowed to be on). We made zero attempts to hide what we were doing; we would race through the neighbors’ fields in plain view of their house and drag sticks across trails to make jumps! If we were spotted, we would stay perfectly still pretending that our horses were deer as deer can have a similar coat pattern to a grey and a blanket appaloosa. This horse was a saint, he would tolerate my shenanigans and then ignore me and do his job.
One day we were showing, and I was letting him graze before I got on, we were out by the trailer and there was a small creek with delicious green grass on the other side. He saw the grass and went right across the creek dragging me with him! I eventually got him back over to my trainer and had to explain why my horse and I were covered in mud right before we were supposed to show. He was also the horse that I did my first event on… it didn’t go as well as the hunter ring. We made it about halfway through the cross-country phase and we were at the top of a hill. He turned right and he cantered us straight to the trailer and said he was done. This little horse had a skill for completely ignoring me but getting his job done and fueling my love for the sport!
After Chips I got the horse that I credit for teaching me how to ride. A quirky Thoroughbred that gave me a run for my money. I made it my goal to become the best rider I could for him. This later evolved into understanding the role biomechanics play for both horse and rider and helped me develop my current practice style. At 29 years young I joke that he is the most educated horse out there. He was by my side through high school, undergraduate, and he graduated alongside me with his doctorate in chiropractic. He taught me the meaning of a heart horse. He was my first patient, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t cry while I treated him. To see a lifetime of passion finally come together and his reaction to his first treatment was worth all the years. The pieces finally came together, and I saw what a difference I could make in the lives of these incredible animals!
A: And you also have experience managing upper-level eventing and reining horses?
Dr. Aaron: Yes, it was a great experience and if I could give anyone in the industry some advice it would be to look outside of your discipline. We all have so much to learn from each other, and sometimes learning a different way of doing things or seeing the alternatives can change your viewpoint.
The time that I spent at these barns was an invaluable experience. Understanding the training and care that went into keeping these horses successfully competing at their peak changed the way I viewed horse care. Even though they were all horses, learning the physical requirements of different disciplines helped make me a more well-rounded doctor and has led me to expand my treatment methods.
My experience working with horses in different disciplines has helped shape my practice style. Each horse needs an individualized treatment plan for their needs and without these experiences I would not be able to provide these services to my patients.
A: What led you to equine chiropractic?
Dr. Aaron: My path to becoming an equine chiropractor was far from linear. I dabbled in architecture, veterinary studies, podiatry, stable management, and bartending before I found chiropractic.
As a child I grew up in a medical household; my father is a medical doctor, so healthcare was always in the back of my mind. I have always had a love for animals, so Veterinarian seemed like the most obvious choice. While I was obtaining my Bachelors of Science in Animal and Veterinary Science from Clemson University, I realized that it was not for me. Like Medical Doctors, Veterinarians get their patients when they are sick or when they are getting their yearly check-ups. They do not often have the pleasure of working with a patient on a daily basis. While this is an extremely important job, it is the fun side of working with animals that I enjoy.
It was during this time that I considered equine chiropractic. Chiropractors have a high job satisfaction rate and while they do see their patients when they are in pain, they are also responsible for getting them out of pain, they are also responsible for getting and keeping them out of pain. As a chiropractor you see your patients on a more regular basis and you are responsible for helping people feel better and for maintaining that progress. The best patients are the ones who come in regularly before there is an issue!
When you combine chiropractic with horses you get my dream job. I get to work with horses all day long. 24/7 horses… isn’t that what we all want?
I am the one who helps them feel better and I get to help them stay feeling their best. Who doesn’t love visiting their chiropractor for an adjustment? To me this was the best of both worlds, having a job that I truly love to do was important for me and with equine chiropractic I found it!
A: What is the best thing about your job?
Dr. Aaron: The best part about my job is that I get to go to work every day and be a Doctor of Chiropractic that stays true to my morals and treatment philosophies. I am a neuromusculoskeletal expert and I specialize in pain relief and improved performance.
Horses are some of the most rewarding animals to work on because they are so expressive when you help them. They demonstrate obvious signs of tension release, and they truly look forward to seeing you. It is also rewarding to see the improvement before and after treatment let alone to see the difference in a horse that has had regular care for months.
As an equine chiropractor I get to see the difference that I make in these animals day in and day out and that is by far the best part!
A: What advice would you give to a horse owner looking to hire an equine chiropractor?
Dr. Aaron: Do your research! Make sure your equine chiropractor is either a Doctor of Chiropractic or a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and that they are certified with the IVCA or AVCA. There are a few things that I would personally look for in an equine chiropractor. The first is an evidence-based practitioner. A doctor who practices in an evidence-based manner is someone who incorporates the latest science and technology into their practice style. I also look for a provider that incorporates manual therapy and exercise into their treatment protocols. The evidence behind chiropractic demonstrates the best results when chiropractic manipulation is combined with manual therapy and exercise. Lastly, you want a doctor that has prior experience in an equine field who understands the requirements of the sport. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your provider and the type of care they provide!
A: Now for the fast questions… Coffee, tea, or soda?
Dr. Aaron: Definitely coffee. 1-2 cups in the morning!
A: Sunrise or sunset?
Dr. Aaron: Sunset. I am not a morning person, hence all the coffee.
A: Summer or winter?
Dr. Aaron: Summer. I hate frozen water buckets.
A: Dogs or cats?
Dr. Aaron: Cats. I have 3 who also get adjusted regularly. 😀
A: Black Beauty or Black Stallion?
Dr. Aaron: Black Beauty all the way!
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @uechironan.