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Chiropractic Care

Why do we do it?

A chiropractor can help your horse by identfying and treating skeletal and musclar problems.
Many people who ride horses don’t consider that a horse’s back is not actually designed to carry a load. When a horse carries a rider, they must use their muscles and balance in an unnatural way. Horses are kept under Matthew's watchful eye & are always schooled in a way that strengthens the muscles. Matthew instructs his well educated riders to ride in a way that helps the horse balance. Unfortunately, this isn't always enough as some horses can have their issues regardless of the precautions taken. Additionally, just like us humans, the normal wear and tear of everyday life can cause spinal misalignments and muscle imbalances.

This is significant, because a horse that is poorly balanced and misaligned can experience back pain which in turn causes poor performance. This is often expressed through undesirable/odd behaviour both in the stable & on the track. The list is endless when it comes to the indications that may show back discomfort. They may include:

  • Facial expression of apprehension of pain - a frowning, worried look.
  • Wringing the tail and lying the ears down flat. Swishing of the tail.
  • Sensitivity of parts of the neck or body or back to touch, or being brushed.
  • Refusal or unwillingness to perform.
  • Head tossing or nodding under saddle or even in the paddock.
  • Unpredictable behaviour.
  • Being touchy around the ears. May not be able to touch the poll in bad cases.
  • Running out on corners in races or alternatively running in towards the rail.
  • Frequent yawning or jaw opening.
  • Exaggerated and frequent flicking of the skin over the wither.
  • Dipping the back when pressed over the saddle contact areas.
  • Signs of saddle soreness.
  • Loss of muscle over the saddle area.
  • Going down in the back when being mounted.
  • Stiffness when coming out of the stall.
  • Stiffness in sideways movements of the neck or back.
  • Muscle wastage over the back, rump or neck.
  • Shortened stride in one or two limbs.
  • Inability to engage the rear quarters.
  • Inability to lengthen the top line.
  • Being above the bit or not coming onto the bit.
  • On one line or pulling on one rein.
  • Not using the back ie leg movers.

Even some lamenesses can be attributed to spine and joint dysfunctions. Other things that could be resolved through chiropractic treatment are:

  • Difficulty bending or flexing
  • Obvious back or neck pain
  • Difficulty picking up leads at a canter
  • Signs of resistance such as bucking, rearing, swishing tail
  • Spooking
  • Bolting
  • Head tossing
  • Toe dragging
  • Uneven shoulders or hips
  • Crabby while being groomed
  • Holding the tail to one side
  • Rooting
  • Rearing
  • Becoming under or over-flexed
  • Pulling
  • Jigging
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Lack of impulsion
  • Difficulty maintaining collection
  • Cold-backed or cinchy
  • Nappiness
  • Won’t stand on three legs when hoof cleaning or for the farrier
  • Short strides at the trot or canter
  • Stumbling or knuckling over with front or rear legs
  • While good riding and a properly fitting saddle are instrumental in caring for our horses’ backs, many horses (and riders) benefit from chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractic treatments are part of holistic care. Some chiropractors treat both humans and horses, and this can be helpful in pinpointing how imbalances in the rider affect the horse. Chiropractors focus on the skeletal structure of the horse, and using manual manipulations, bringing these structures back into their proper alignment.

Other treatments, like various types of massage and tissue manipulation, are often used to complement chiropractic treatment.

Some veterinarians are trained in equine chiropractics. People who specialize in chiropractics may complement their practice with other therapies such as infra-red lights, massage, myofascial release, acupuncture or pressure, therapeutic touch or stress-point therapy. The regulation of alternative therapies such as chiropractics is different from place to place, so it may be ideal to do research and find out what qualifications are required in your area. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a good indication that a chiropractor has had good results with other horses.

A consultation with an equine chiropractor should start with a thorough examination of the horse, including looking at its history, care and use. The chiropractor may ask to see the horse move at all gaits and perhaps even ridden. If the chiropractor learns the rider has back or mobility problems, and they are qualified to do so, they may make recommendations or provide treatment for the rider as well. It is not unusual for the horse to react to stiffness in the rider.

The chiropractor will use manual force on certain points on the horse’s body to bring the structures beneath back into normal alignment. Ideally, this will restore the joint to normal function and range of motion. The first consultation and treatment may take an hour or more. Follow-up appointments may be recommended, usually within a week of the initial treatment and then further apart as any specific problems begin to resolve.

There are times when chiropractic treatment is not recommended. If your horse has a lameness or a very specific center of pain, it’s best to check for injury or even fracture before proceeding with chiropractic treatment. Using chiropractic treatment on some problems, especially undiagnosed fractures can cause even greater injury. Always consult with a qualified chiropractor. That way, you can be sure that the practitioner has the proper training and experience.

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