Updated on 09/17/2011 10:37AM

For injured horses, a healing hand

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Chiropractor Dave Hand works on Belmont contender Ten Most Wanted, who was bumped in the Derby and suffered a back injury.

The day after the Kentucky Derby, Ten Most Wanted was in great discomfort, more so than the fans who had made him the third choice and watched him finish ninth.

The previous afternoon, he had been bumped sharply leaving the gate, putting his back out of alignment. "He wouldn't jog," his trainer, Wally Dollase, remembered. "He had displaced his back about a half an inch."

"There was severe pressure on his spinal cord," said Dr. Herb Warren, a veterinarian who worked on Ten Most Wanted. "His back was out of whack. He didn't want to move behind."

He is moving fine now, and Ten Most Wanted is scheduled to run in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. One of the reasons he will be there, according to Dollase, is the long-term care he has received from an equine chiropractor, the appropriately named Dave Hand, who works with Warren.

Hand, 66, is a former trainer who for more than a decade has been sought out by some of the top trainers to work on their horses.

During the week leading up to the Derby, Hand did adjustments on four horses - Atswhatimtalknbout, Scrimshaw, Ten Cents a Shine, and Ten Most Wanted. Hand worked on Touch Gold prior to his victory in the 1997 Belmont Stakes, but his most consistent client has been Dollase, for whom Hand has treated the likes of Grade 1 stakes winners Deputy Commander, Jewel Princess, and Windsharp.

"He's good at what he does," Dollase said. "I call him in if I think a horse needs him. He puts a horse back in place with his own arms. He adjusts the back to where it's normal."

Hand, who lives in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., is based at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park but is frequently asked to go out of town. He stayed in Kentucky another 10 days after the Derby to work on Scrimshaw, who ran then third in the Preakness Stakes.

"Ten Most Wanted and Scrimshaw hit each other leaving the gate," Hand said. "Scrimshaw I worked on for two hours the Monday after the Derby. I worked on Scrimshaw until he shipped out and got on the plane to go to the Preakness."

For the past fortnight, Hand has been back in Southern California. At Hollywood Park, he treated Ten Most Wanted, who left on Tuesday for New York and the 135th Belmont Stakes. Ten Most Wanted has been a repeat client: Hand worked on the colt twice in the two weeks leading up to the Derby, including the day before the race.

"We just play it by ear," Hand said. "If they need work, we do the work. If not, we don't. We only do it when it's necessary."

Warren said he and Hand - who have known each other since high school in Pasadena, Calif. - will evaluate a horse together before starting specific chiropractic treatment. Hand will align a horse's spine, work on deep-tissue massage, and use an ion magnetic induction machine to locate injured muscles and try to bring them back to health.

"David is very thorough," Warren said. "He's a horseman. He does things right."

Each individual treatment costs around $100, said Hand, who said he works on four to five horses per day.

"I'll run my hands down each side of the spine, and they'll show me, by the way they move, where there's a problem," Hand said. "Sometimes they're out to the left, sometimes out to the right. I adjust them, then work on the muscle spasms.

"You've got to work the big, strapping muscles. Sometimes that takes me 30 or 40 minutes. You've got to get the muscle spasms out, or they'll pull their back out again. If they're in pain, when you get it out of them, you can see the pain leave a horse's eye."

Added Warren: "If they could talk, it would make our life easier. But if you're on the spot, and they get relief, they let out a big sigh from the relief. Some of them will get so relaxed they go to sleep."

Warren said that in extreme cases, horses might need injections of a corticosteroid to treat calcium deposits on the vertebrae, torn muscles, or inflamed nerves. "Not all cases are the same," he said. "Sometimes you have to cool things off a little."

"Once you relieve the spasms," Hand said, "then you can put the machine on them to get rid of the stiffness and soreness."

The Papimi magnetic inductor, which was invented by a Harvard physicist, finds injured areas, then "stimulates cells," Hand said.

"The machine shows which cells have low energy. It helps pinpoint which areas you're looking for," Warren said. "When cells are injured, they lose their electrical charge. Normally a cell has a charge of 70 millivolts. An injured muscle cell in a horse is 45 to 50 millivolts. A cancer cell is 15 volts, to give you a comparison.

"As a cell loses energy, it can't produce the necessary enzymes and other agents to keep down inflammation. The cells need to regenerate to become normal. This is restorative, long-term therapy."

Warren said the ion magnetic induction machine can reduce swelling from incisions and wounds. He said he has had "tremendous luck with bleeders, because it helps take the pressure out of their lungs."

"They get a better exchange of oxygen," Warren said. "Of course, this is only an anecdotal theory, but I can say we've had more success than failures."

Now that Ten Most Wanted is back training sharply again, Dollase said he hopes the colt does not get mugged in New York.

"He had a rough trip last time. Hopefully he'll get a good chance this time," Dollase said. "This guy's a good horse. He was just unlucky last time, but that can happen in any race, even at the $10,000 level. Unfortunately for us, it was the Derby."