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Chiropractic: An Integrative Approach

While out riding your horse you notice that they aren't performing as usual, maybe they are even crow-hopping or bucking when asked to move forward. You call your veterinarian out to find out what's wrong, and they recommend chiropractic care in addition to other therapies. Just how does chiropractic help your horse? Here's how...

Chiropractic care works by helping the body heal itself. It focuses on the relationship between the vertebral column (spine) and the nervous system, and how that relationship affects the body’s ability to maintain a state of health and well-being. Reduced mobility between two vertebral segments can cause altered nerve function, leading to pain, abnormal posture and/or abnormal movement, which can manifest in undesirable behavior such as bucking or stiffness under saddle. Other signs can include:

  • Muscle tension or stiffness (e.g. back pain)

  • Reduced performance (e.g. difficulty collecting or turning in a certain direction)

  • Abnormal posture

  • Acute lameness

  • Behavior changes such as ear pinning or biting when being saddled

A veterinary chiropractor will start by collecting a medical history, including asking about performance and behavioral issues. During their exam, they will observe the horse's posture, stance, and attitude as well as perform a gait analysis. They then perform an extensive hands-on exam of the horse, identifying any areas that require adjustment through motion palpation.

Chiropractic adjustments are done manually (i.e. without the use of any tools) and use very specific high velocity, low amplitude thrusts at specific anatomic locations to restore and maintain a properly functioning musculoskeletal system. Many horses enjoy the exam and treatment, and will become more relaxed and comfortable as the treatment progresses. In some cases, additional follow-up appointments may be needed to continue correcting any issues that are identified during the exam, or as maintenance.

Chiropractic treatment can be used in conjunction with traditional veterinary medicine for diagnosis and management of elusive musculoskeletal problems, performance issues and even some internal medicine disorders. We recommend that new health issues, such as lamenesses and behavioral changes, be looked at by your primary veterinarian first in order to make sure that there isn't an underlying medical condition or injury that needs to be addressed. In some cases, such as at our practice, your veterinarian may also be a veterinary chiropractor, so you can have your horse medically examined and chiropractically adjusted all in one visit! (On a side note: the legal regulation of alternative therapies such as chiropractics can vary from state-to-state, so it is always a good idea to find out who is legally able to provide this therapy where your horse is located.)

Chiropractic can also be incredibly beneficial as a method of preventative care, especially for hard-working athletes! It can help to maintain soundness in older animals and also be helpful to horses with chronic lamenesses such as hock arthritis or navicular syndrome.

Remember: When the body is biomechanically sound, the nervous system can function and communicate more effectively, leading to a happier, more comfortable horse!


Dr. Ashley Galen & Dr. Christina Howard are IVCA-certified animal chiropractors.

They completed the Postgraduate Essentials in Animal Chiropractic Course at Options for Animals College of Animal Chiropractic.

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