I'm Vav Simon, a chiropractor living and working on the Isle of Wight. Some fifteen years ago, I got the opportunity to build my practice, so I started with a lot of explaining to do around the horse yards and dog associations. Things took off and now my week is divided into days where I am doing quite different things, usually around the Isle of Wight, but also around the South Coast on what we call 'the mainland'.
I got the chance to set up the Natural Therapy Centre for Animals in a farm on the
outskirts of Ryde (which was apparently the inspiration for the Beatles song 'Ticket
to Ride'). The idea was to provide a range of complementary therapies from one practice.
I provide the chiropractic and massage work, with occasional muscle-
My day begins early with breakfast followed quickly by a trip outside to let my chickens
out and then listen to the answer-
Mondays are horse days, visiting around the Island. Working with animals in their
homes, chiropractic is a travelling profession. We are always on the move, with perhaps
My first visit is to Ellie, a lovely little Welsh Section D mare who had been kicked in the vagina by another horse in the field. The injury had required internal stitches, and when that had healed, she was still moving with difficulty, clearly uncomfortable and unhappy.
When I treated her, I found misalignments in pelvis and lumbar vertebrae – not surprisingly. The way they were misaligned made me think that the kick had affected her pelvis and her stilted way of walking as a result had then pushed her lumbars out of alignment over the following months. Within a couple of days, she began to move more freely and her owner Sarah brought her back into work.
At the follow-
Five horses later, I get to my last horseyard. Everyone has offered me coffee, but
rarely a toilet. In a horse yard, I can have a quick wee in the stables or in a quiet
corner somewhere out of sight. Once I'd just got settled behind the stables when
Wilfred was a rescued cat – not injured as far as we know, but unwanted in his first
home. As a youngster, he had had a head tremor for a short time. He settled in his
new home with Jill, and managed hunting around the garden and over the fences well.
But one day nine months later, she heard a great clattering as he fell off a six-
Jill took him to the vet, and together they thought of trying chiropractic – she had previously brought dogs to me for treatment. I found two extremely severe misalignments, one at the top of his neck (the atlas) and the other at the eighth thoracic vertebra. This explained a lot – the atlas would give him vertigo and headache, and T8 would contribute to the head tremor and weakness at the front through the trapezius muscle attachment.
After treatment, Wilfred had a fairly severe reaction, scratching and shaking his
head even more. But within five minutes, he was running around the room without hesitation,
and jumping on and off the furniture. The tremor and scratching stopped and since
then has been completely normal and settled. Jill said, “We had been preparing for
the worst -
I do my two-
It's my chance to work indoors, which is great when there is a storm blowing over the Needles. For once I get the chance to wear perfume to work – I don’t usually because animals can react badly to strong artificial smells.
Thursdays is my dog clinic day. For my assessment, I usually start with a visual check, analysing their gait. But sometimes I can't get that information – for instance, with a hairy Old English Sheepdog or a dog so lame it can't walk.
Palpation is an intuitive skill – human senses can pick up more than machines. This is just as well because animals can't tell us where it hurts. Every patient is different, regardless of species: the causes are different, the results are different, so the treatment has to be 'tuned' to every individual.
With animals, chiropractic treatment is done entirely by hand, just as it is with
humans. But we need to be willing stretch over a horses back or work with tiny movements
for a guinea-
Today I saw Robbie, a 10 year-
I adjusted his pelvis (and everything else that needed doing) and he seemed OK immediately
after. This visit, I asked “was he stiff and sore after the treatment?” -
The day always ends with me having the cleanest ears on the Island, after every dog has licked them as a thank you!
Friday is a very mixed bunch, with several horses, a dog and a couple of sheep. It's a shame, but most farm animals are worth such a small margin that it becomes uneconomic to pursue health treatments very far. Much of the Isle of Wight is quite rural and there are many farmers quietly interested in complementary healthcare methods. Some are very caring and use these therapies – especially for their more valuable animals – bulls, best mothers, a favourite sheepdog, and so on. I treated a baby alpaca who couldn't stand – they are valuable for their specialist wool – successfully, which has lead on to treating others in the herd. I don't often treat sheep, which are difficult because my hands can disappear into the woollen coat.
Sometimes the problem has a cause that can be eliminated easily – such as a horse's saddle fitting badly, a dog's harness pulling sideways, or a pet's bed positioned so the draught goes up one side of their back. In these cases, when I visit the animal's home, I can often spot these sorts of causes, and that allows owners to take action to prevent recurrence.
Near Newport is Carisbrooke Castle, where King Charles the First was imprisoned for a while. The castle has its own well, and in the days before electric pumps, they had a donkey walking in a huge wooden wheel to pull up the water bucket. These days they still have several donkeys for tourist demonstrations, and they were concerned when one fell badly in the wheel. I worked through the treatment OK, but I was quite puzzled at how his problems came about so I didn't know what advice to give. Then I was told the detail that made the difference: these donkeys spend their working lives walking uphill, inside the wheel – a very artificial environment. So I suggested that time off should include turnout in a flat field to counteract this where possible.
Chiropractic can help with a much wider range of problems than most people expect.
Horses who are lame, rearing, bucking, refusing fences, dogs who are banana-
But working with animals is not very glamorous – up to my hocks in mud, up to my bum in nettles, up to my ears in dog saliva... But they do remember when they next see me, and they don't get bashful or coy – they give me a lot of instant love as a thank you. They are so straightforward emotionally that it warms my heart and makes me look forward to my next encounter in the mud!