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Belmont Stakes 2012: Chiropractor plays big role in keeping I'll Have Another straight
Horses and hockey. Those were the two loves of Larry Jones when he was a growing up in tiny Stettler in Alberta, Canada. Jones longed to win the Stanley Cup, but a back injury short-circuited those dreams and led to a career change that has instead put him front and center with I’ll Have Another, who will try to win the Triple Crown in the 144th Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park.
Jones, 53, works as an equine chiropractor, and Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, said Jones has been instrumental in the success of a horse whose back problems have been so severe that he has required shock-wave therapy in the past.
“He’s a great horseman,” O’Neill said. “He’s a huge asset. He’s taken another member of my staff, Tyler Cerin, under his wing. He’s a great mentor.”
Jones – easily recognized with his signature outfit of shorts and cowboy boots on a frame that is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds – has been with I’ll Have Another throughout the Triple Crown, but started working on him in January. He said the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner has come a long ways since he first treated him Jan. 15.
“Back then, the best analogy I can give you is squeeze a quarter between the cheeks of your butt, drop your neck into your shoulders, and then go for a run,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “He was short-stepping, choppy, very uncomfortable. There’s a day-and-night difference now. He’s so flexible, so comfortable. His neck is like rubber. He can rate in his races. He’s not running from pain.”
The goal with I’ll Have Another, Jones said, was to “open him up,” a phrase he uses to describe having maximum movement and efficiency.
“You work on their backs, legs, shoulders, knees, ankles, trying to get a horse balanced, get him full range of motion,” Jones said. “This horse is so good right now. Now, it’s just maintenance – a lot of massage, a lot of stretching. Now, most of what we’re dealing with is minor stuff. It’s like checking the oil. You don’t want anything to stick around. We want to keep him at a high level of efficiency.
“The durability of this horse is incredible,” Jones said. “There ain’t a pimple on him. He eats good. He lays down every night and snores like a big dog. He’s totally satisfied.”
Though he was around horses in Stettler (2011 Census population of 5,748), Jones, like any Canadian youth, played hockey. He was talented enough to play the 1977-78 season on the Western Hockey League’s New Westminster Bruins, who won the Memorial Cup, the premier championship for junior players. Jones, a left wing, played in 25 regular season games and had 1 assist and 36 penalty minutes on a team that included future National Hockey League stars John Ogrodnick and Stan Smyl. In two seasons in the WHL, over 83 games, Jones had 4 goals, 7 assists – and 212 penalty minutes. He’s obviously always led with his hands.
“I was a big old strong farm boy,” he said.
But a severe back injury that required surgery forever changed his life. Hockey was out, horses were in. And Jones said he took the lessons of his medical odyssey to his approach with horses. Fortuitously, he often played in Vancouver at the Pacific Coliseum, which was adjacent to Exhibition Park, now known as Hastings. He didn’t have to travel far to launch his new career.
“They misdiagnosed me at first,” he said. “If they could do that with me, these horses didn’t have a chance. After my surgery, when I started working with horses, I’d use a massage machine that made so much noise it was called the Thumper.”
And that is how Jones got his nickname. Everybody calls him Thumper.
“Any grown man who calls himself Thumper, who wears shorts and cowboy boots, how can you not love him?” O’Neill said. “He has such a presence. He’s funnier than hell. He’s a real character. He has a great personality.”
Jones said the mix of shorts and cowboy boots are practical, not meant to draw attention.
“I had horses stepping on my toes all the time, so after a couple of broken toes, I started wearing cowboy boots,” he said. “And I need freedom of movement, so that’s why I wear shorts. It’s physical work.”
His back still gets to him, so Jones said he will hang upside down “a couple of times a week.”
Jones is in demand. He and his wife Laurie – she has two daughters from a previous marriage – are based out of Morgan Mill, Texas, approximately 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. They have a rehabilitation facility there for all types of horses, including the barrel racers on whom Laurie competes.
His work, though, takes Jones everywhere.
“I’ve done 41,000 treatments in 13 countries with all different kinds of performance horses – show jumpers, polo horses, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, dressage, cutting. The common denominator is that the injuries are all the same.”
But not until now has Jones worked with a Kentucky Derby winner, let alone a horse going for the Triple Crown.
“Winning the Kentucky Derby, I never thought that would happen,” Jones said. “I was in la-la land. To be associated with this animal is mind-boggling. I hope the lucky stars are aligned for him to come through in one more race.”
To All on this board. I have treated I'll Have Another on and off for almost a year using acupuncture. I have been doing so for over 36 years. The use of alternative therapies in horses is relatively new but you seem to think it is the therapy (or therapist) that is making the horse do great things when nothing can be farther from the truth. IHA is a great horse because of his innate ability, not because of a therapy. Sure it can help as a physical therapy if the horse is injured or in pain but it can't replace natural born talent. It doesn't make a horse run faster, it simiply allows the horse to perform up to it's potential more easily.
Great story! Question, Is "thumper" a DC? Is there a degree from somewhere?
This guy offers no scientific explanations of the so-called injuries he treats. Its called quackery. Most trainers have problems with horse metabolisms than anything else. Every horse uses a diuretic on race day. The resutant dehydration has its effects along woith the legal threshold of Clenbuterol which is a steroid-based bronchodilator. If any trainers are using EPO or the newer version of it from Roche Labs, then the blood thickening is a factor as well. Horses need to recuperate today from the plethora of drugs that affect its system. If a horse has a bad back, then the exercise boy should notice it. Perhaps the muscles along the spine have grown with excessive use of Clenbuterol? Please don't bring in the clowns before the show begins.
Hey Thumper, Any chance you can adjust Irwin, Brackpool, and a few of the other negative people associated with racing?
Fans of I'll Have Another have known about the shock-wave therapy for IHA's back for awhile now - it is very helpful, it's no wonder Mr. Jones is in much demand right now. Thanks to him for making IHA's health much better. Mr. Jones is an interesting man with an interesting background and I wish himand his wife much good luck and prosperity in their lives.
welcome to a day in the life of most good barns.. wake up around 3 a.m. (unless you have amsomnia in which case you may just stay up and pound espresso). go to the barn around 4 and begin checking feed tubs taken from stall by night watchman... commense temperature checks on all horses... greet the grooms as they arrive to remove stall bandages on horses and clean off any linaments or other meds from horses legs... feed a light breakfast... unless horse is scheduled for a workout... wait for vet for said horse for any LEGAL MEDS USED FOR THE BREEZE...... just as precaution.... exercise riders arrive and sets are readied for training..... after horses have trained they are bathed, cooled out and returned to stall and given their hay, this process continues until training is done with little training aides such magnetic blankets used prior to training to help circulation and to relax tight muscles and backs.. grooms attend to their horses individual needs and when all is done horses are all fed at the same time....during afternoon any other LEGAL needs such as chiropractic,veterinary,shoeing,and such is done on a scheduled basis for each horse...... these practices are done daily to ensure the health and happiness of these horses by most credible barns..... THERE'S NOTHING SPECIAL GOING ON HERE FOLKS HE'S JUST A GOOD HORSE........have a nice day.
I am also glad to see Chiropractic being used on this horse and all over the backstretch. Thank you for the positive article. It is also nice to see drug- free treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture and even shock wave treatments being used.
Anonymous....Team Valor does not own Discreet Dancer. He is owned by Paul Robsham and trained by Pletcher. That horse won't go longer than a mile. Howe Great is going to be a turf horse from here on I'd think. Eye on Jacob? A horse who is is 2 for 8 and took 7 tries to beat winners. Hasn't won at more than a mile. You think it is too bad he isn't in this race? lol
By the way, I think this is the opposite of Bob Baffert's training ways. The Japanese could find enough reason to a malpractice suit against Baffert for exploiting War Emblem's insecurities. By breaking his spirit, it was so traumatizing to his confidence that it caused him to lose sexual interest in other mares.
This just in: the NYRA will put in place super stringent measures one week before The Belmont to guarantee the integrity of the race. All horses will be in ONE Barn. Said barn will be patrolled 24/7. No one but authorized personnel will be allowed in said Barn. Vets, Chiropractors and any other quacks will have to put in writing what they intend to do and get approval in advance to do what they intend to do. FOLKS, I AM NOT making this up. Research it yourself! Given these most extraordinary measures my gambling buddy "the chinaman" has told me it's kamakatzi time. He is sending in 3X the monthly rent money against what he calls the Chiropractically Enhanced Nasal Wonderhorse. He says this will be the most huge bet of his lifetime!