If you currently own a horse or run a stable, you've undoubtedly come across a horse with stiff hamstrings or an unevenness when striding. What you may not know, however, is that there are special chiropractors trained to treat these problems, allowing your horse to continue pain-free and with a full range of mobility. For those who may be unfamiliar with this practice, below are four commonly asked questions regarding equine chiropractors:
What Exactly Does a Chiropractor Do?
While many people know that a chiropractor is a specialist who deals with back pain, there is some confusion about what a chiropractor actually does.
In short, a chiropractor is someone who relieves spinal problems by manual manipulation. Typically, this involves treating "subluxations" – areas of the spine where the vertebrae are misaligned. This misalignment causes the central nervous system to become blocked, which is a major cause of back discomfort. By adjusting these areas, the spine is returned to its natural shape and full body functionality is restored.
Additionally, chiropractors make use of different equipment in order to treat back problems. These can range from ice treatments to cool the surroundings muscles to adjusting tools that help force the vertebrae in a particular direction. In any case, chiropractors are fully equipped to treat the most difficult of back troubles, including both chronic pain due to spasm and structural problems with the vertebrae themselves.
Can Chiropractic Help My Horse?
Another common misconception regarding chiropractors is that they are only able to treat humans. While humans do indeed form the majority of their client base, chiropractors are also able to treat spinal conditions in a number of animals, including horses.
While the physical structure of animals may be significantly different from humans, the underlying problems are comparable. Horses, as with any other animal, can suffer degeneration of the spine and a range of other conditions relating to the back area. As such, many chiropractors specialize in the treatment of animals in order to offer them the same relief that humans can achieve.
How Do I Know My Horse Has Back Problems?
Without knowing much about chiropractic assessment of animals, it's understandably difficult for you to know that your horse is suffering from back pain. However, there are a few common signs that you should look out for:
- Asymmetry – leaning to one side or a feeling of stiffness on one rein.
- Localized cold areas along the length of the spine.
- A recurring sense of fatigue shown by the horse.
- Unexplained changes in behavior, such as bucking and refusing fences.
- Unevenness in stride or limping.
- Deterioration in performance.
While the above signs can indeed be indicative of back problems, it's important that you have a fully qualified equine chiropractor assess the animal. This will give them the opportunity to carry out the necessary diagnostics before reaching a concrete conclusion.
What Treatment Will a Chiropractor Offer?
The range of treatments offered by an equine chiropractor isn't dissimilar to those offered by a regular chiropractor. Typically, the course of treatment will involve regular manipulations in order to ensure the horse's spine remains in good condition. The difference, however, comes in how the chiropractor will physically adjust your horse's spine. The huge rear-end of a horse makes normal adjustments difficult, so they have to focus on exerting enough force on the horse's "pressure points" to ensure their spine stays in shape.
Typically, chiropractors manipulate the horse's spine by accessing the sacroiliac joint which sits as a platform for the horse's pelvis. This is because the horse's pelvis and rear legs are wholly responsible for its power while running. Over time, repeated strain on this area can cause the horse's muscles to become tight, causing painful hamstrings and a difficulty when moving.
To adjust this area, the chiropractor will look for any lop-sided movement which will indicate which side of the pelvis is causing problems. This will allow them to determine their "line of drive" – the line through which they will use as their angle of approach when adjusting the horse's spine. They will also look at the orientation of the horse's pelvis from above, allowing them to account for any cases of anterior or posterior (upper or lower) pelvic tilt.
While this is a fairly widespread approach used to treat a common problem, each chiropractor will have slightly different techniques to treat your horse's problems. As such, you should contact your local equine chiropractor to schedule a check-up for your horse, allowing you to gauge the techniques used by the practitioner in adjusting your horse's spine.