Chiropractic Care for Horses
By Alissa Grover, DC, CAC
Whether you are a competitive horse rider or just enjoy having
pasture horses to go on an occasional trail ride, it is important to know the options of healthcare that are available for your horse. As complementary holistic healthcare (such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, and energy healing) is becoming more researched and accepted in mainstream human health care, so it is in animal health care as well. Be aware that in the state of Utah, nonveterinary practitioners performing these procedures are typically required to be certified and obtain a veterinary referral. For your animal’s protection, make sure they are qualified and following the laws for their field.
As an animal chiropractor, I often get looks of surprise and
interesting questions regarding my profession. The most common question I receive when people find out that I adjust horses is “How do you fit them on an adjusting table?” Thankfully, when we adjust quadrupeds (animals that rest their weight on four legs) they have enough stabilization in standing position that we do not have to use any special tables. The next question I usually get is “Do you have the horse sedated while you work on it?” This is an emphatic “No!” Chiropractic works by assessing and adjusting the dynamic properties of a joint, and those properties would become altered under the influence of sedation.
Things to look for include: • Uneven gait • Not extending properly in either the front or hind end • Not wanting to take a certain lead • Shaking their head frequently • Resisting bridling or saddling • Not tucking the head • Being unable to bend their head around to their flank • Bucking the rider Often we find that chiropractic problems in a horse are mirrored in
their rider, or vice-versa; it could be that you need an adjustment as well!
Sometimes, chiropractic can help with more unusual problems.
One of my most rewarding experiences was working with a pony that couldn’t open her mouth to eat for several days. I found misalignments of the TMJ (jaw) joint, the occiput (back of the skull), and the atlas (first cervical vertebra). After correcting these, the pony immediately licked and chewed, shook her head, and yawned very deeply. When we put her back in the stall, she tore into her hay bail with much enthusiasm!
Most horses love being adjusted. They are smart creatures and figure
out pretty quickly that you are helping them feel better. Chiropractic adjustments can help them to be less painful, move better, have increased energy, and prevent injuries. If you have never considered chiropractic or other holistic options for your horse, I encourage you to do so. Your horse will thank you!
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So, how do I go about adjusting a horse? First, I get a health history
How do you know if your horse needs a chiropractic adjustment?
on the horse and do a gait and posture analysis. If warranted, a neurological exam may be done (such as reflexes, sensory exams, and proprioception tests). Next, I do a head-to-tail evaluation of the spine, feeling for areas where the vertebrae are fixated out of alignment. I use a stepladder to get above the horse’s back and palpate the spinal motion with my hands. From the ground, I can evaluate the cervical (neck) vertebrae, cranial bones, ribs, sternum, and the front and back legs. I perform any necessary adjustments by applying a specific thrust with my hands in the direction needed for the correction.
Dr. Alissa Grover is a chiropractic physician certified in animal chiropractic by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. She has a animal chiropractic practice at the Animal Care Center in West Bountiful, UT and travels throughout Utah to adjust horses.