Equine Chiropractic: Adjustments for performance

Published September 9th, 2014 in Blog | No Comments ยป

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Equine Veterinary Chiropractic assessment

Dr. Erika assesses cervical vertebrae

Cold back? Let’s make an adjustment….

I can do chiropractic adjustments on just about all of my patients, but the ones that are generally the most fun and rewarding are the equine patients. Horses have a uniquely stabilized spine and also tend to take a lot more ground force up through their backs than other species I work with. Add to that the fact that we usually expect them to perform at some level of physical fitness while wearing a saddle and bridle and carrying a rider and you have a recipe for potential “subluxations”.

In chiropractic medicine a subluxation refers to a joint that is not moving as it should. These joints have restricted range of motion compared to the ideal. While you may be able to live with a subluxation, the discomfort it causes can lead to decreased performance and possibly even unexplained bad behavior. I’ve seen equine patients who will toss their heads, refuse to stand for mounting, buck, or even rear simply because of a few subluxations. Sometimes these horses will be so tender that if you apply pressure to their spinal muscles they will twitch and show obvious signs of discomfort.

Equine withers adjustment

Dr. Erika adjusts a vertebra in the withers

Equine chiropractic issues can arise from many sources. Athletes performing in high impact sports will often develop subluxations from the kinds of stresses placed on their back. Think about the stress on the back of a reining horse, a jumper, or a cutting horse. Even a dressage or trail horse performs high impact exercises whose force must be dispersed by the spine. Another common source is poor saddle fit. If your horse’s saddle has a tree that is too small, the pinching across the withers can be a source of chiropractic issues. Often these issues will appear in the withers, but there will sometimes be compensatory changes in other places along the spine as well.

Equine Cervical Chiropractic

Dr. Erika adjusts the atlas, the second vertebra in the neck.





If your horse likes to stick its neck through the fence to graze, he or she could be predisposed to developing subluxations in their neck. This can cause discomfort during bending exercises, or when you ask your horse to give to the pressure of the bit. Neck subluxations are a major source of neck discomfort that can lead to performance related head tossing.

These are just a few of the ways that your equine partner can end up with a chiropractic issue. The solution is to improve spinal health! Dr. Erika can come out to your horse’s location and perform chiropractic adjustments as well as saddle fitting assessments. Horses usually love their chiropractic care and equine athletes appreciate bodywork just like human athletes do. Just make sure that your equine chiropractor has appropriate training. The professional should be a veterinarian or a doctor of chiropractics and have attended specialized training in veterinary chiropractics. Human chiropractors can do an excellent job, however equine spines are very different from human ones and you need to know that your chiropractor has learned about these differences.

Fit equine athletes often do not require multiple adjustments to fix a single chiropractic problem. Because of how their spines are built, one adjustment is often sufficient. Of course, if their work predisposes them to force related problems, a subluxation can recur and poor saddle fit will continue to create problems until it is remedied. If your horse has a high impact career or you are experiencing performance issues, call today for more information and to make an appointment!