Chiropractic treatment

When a chiropractor or veterinarian, professionally trained in chiropractic, identifies a subluxations, we aim to correct the misalignment of the spine and restore mobility to the facet joints. Realignment is made via a quick, short thrust along the plane of the joint. This is called an adjustment. The adjustment is a very specific, high-speed, low-force maneuver that moves the affected joint within its normal physiological articular range of movement, without exceeding the boundaries of anatomical integrity. It is done by placing the hands directly on the vertebrae (previously identified in the examination). Only subluxated vertebrae are adjusted.

Even though horses have a very large, thick muscle mass over the spine, the vertebral joints are flexible and relatively easy to manipulate with minimal force. If the correct technique is used the ligaments are not adversely affected.

‘Straigthening’ the spine by pulling on the legs or tail is ‘non-specific’ as it affects a number of joints before reaching the vertebrae (i.e. when using the leg as a lever the fetlock, hock stifle and hip joints will all be affected). Non-specific techniques, if not done properly, can damage the ligaments and joints, so it is important to avoid unspecific procedures in favour of safe methods of treatment. A complete chiropractic treatment also includes the examination (and if necessary) of limb joints and the temporo-mandibular joint.

One question often asked of us is “How many treatments will the horse require?” This question must be answered on an individual basis for each patient. In most cases, a single treatment is not enough to eliminate the problem. The goal of chiropractic treatment is to address neurological dysfunction in the spine and restore mobility. It is then the task of muscles and ligaments to support the spine and maintain this new re-aligned position.

This process and the role of the chiropractor is similar to that of an orthodontist. The orthodontist applies braces to the teeth and over a period of time makes regular adjustments and corrections to realign teeth, so that in time they will maintain their correct position. A chiropractor adjusts the spine to restore normal motion in the joint. This may need to be done a number of times, until the body accepts this as normal position and the muscles and ligaments support and maintain that motion.

Most horses show significant improvement after one to four treatments. Chronic problems usually take longer to resolve requiring more chiropractic treatment, whereas horses with acute problems will often respond more quickly.

Recognising back problems

Qualified chiropractors are trained to recognise and treat vertebral subluxation complexes. However, riders, trainers and horse owners can monitor whether or not their horses have spinal problems. Inspecting the spine before purchasing a horse is just as important as inspecting the legs. Your own observations: consider your horses recent performance and demeanour:

Examining mobility: the horse should be able to move freely in all directions without tension, with or without rider:

Prevention of spinal problems

The proper functioning of the back and neck is an important basis for maintaining the horse’s performance. For this reason, health care should be high on the agenda of any horse owner.