Larry "Thumper" Jones

Larry "Thumper" Jones

Skip Dickstein

Equine Chiropractor Asset to O'Neill Team

Joint specialist plays important role in Doug O'Neill's stable operation.

Larry Jones has been a looming presence on the backside of Pimlico Race Course during the week leading up to the 137th Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 19.

A largely built man wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt with his nickname “Thumper” emblazoned on the front and cowboy boots with “Thumper” stitched up the back, Jones cruises the barn area in a red golf cart, watching horses come and go.

Jones (not related to the trainer of the same name) has a specialty niche within the horse industry. He provides chiropractic services to help horses with back issues, which he says is a large number of the equine population.

Among his clients is trainer Doug O’Neill, who is sending out Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another  in the Preakness. Jones is justifiably proud of his role within the success of the Derby winner, but also is ready to provide his services to any horse that he deems is suffering unnecessarily.

Jones, who along with his wife, Laurie, operates a rehabilitation ranch in Texas, believes a lot of the physical problems, especially those relating to the back, are treated incorrectly with medications rather than using his methods.

“They (veterinarians) want to inject the hocks and stifles; they want to put a band-aid on it,” says Jones, who is in his early 50s. “I don’t care about anything except these horses. My heart is with these horses.”

“Thumper is incredible,” says O’Neill. “He’s an amazing horseman. He is one with the horse. He just loves people. He is a wonderful asset for me. He is just great guy.”

As his practice has evolved, Jones has also begun mentoring others in the field of equine chiropractic. One of his first pupils was Reo King, who is now based in Southern California and handles most of O’Neill’s horses. Jones mainly works with Quarter Horses now but is called in by clients such as O’Neill for big events. He was with I’ll Have Another throughout Derby week and has also been there throughout Preakness week.

Spending time with Jones on the backside provides a quick lesson in equine physiology. He explains how working on the horse’s back helps ease tension and other problems within their extremities, even demonstrating the limberness of Lava Man, the 11-year-old gelding who earned more than $5 million and is now a specimen of fitness as he serves as a track pony for O’Neill.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he could put his front leg behind his head,” Jones jokes of Lava Man’s flexibility.

Raised within the rough and tumble horse country of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Jones was a professional hockey player before an accident ended that career and launched a new one.

Jones said his spine was a mess after he fell on a broken hockey stick and he underwent back surgery. He was still in pain and efforts to treat it were unsuccessful until he began receiving treatments from chiropractor Dr. D. K. Ladell in Calgary.

“I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t do anything,” Jones recalls. “I ended up walking into this guy’s office. My spine was dislocated all over. I walked out 12 days later smiling.”

Jones believed that the same treatments used on him could be used on horses, and he became a practitioner, starting with horses trained by Calgary-based George Cummings.

While his practice has met with skepticism, particularly from within the veterinary community, Jones said his techniques are more beneficial and successful than drugs to treat back pain.

“I get results,” said Jones, who has plied his trade in 13 different countries and treated Quarter Horses, hunters and jumpers, Calgary Stampede “chuckwagon” horses, and Thoroughbreds. “If you don’t get results, you aren’t going to last doing anything.”

Jones said the bottom line with allowing back issues in horses to remain unchecked or treated incorrectly is that it has an effect on the success of the animal.

“A horse that is in pain is not going to perform well,” he said. “If you take care of the pain, you have a happy horse.”