Horse Chiropractic Explained

March 22, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

I received a question about horse chiropractic. Leah did not understand what her horse chiropractor was saying to her, so I attempted to help her understand a little about chiropractic –

If the femur was truly out either in the hip joint or the joint of the tibia and the femur in the hind leg, then wouldn’t the horse be unable to use the leg?  Is it possible for these joints to be out of place?  And if so is it possible to realign them with a chiropractic adjustment?
Thank you very much for the information.

My explanation –


Now you are talking the difference between a medical luxation and a chiropractic subluxation. When a chiropractor or someone talking about chiropractic says that a joint is “out” they do not mean that the joint is totally displaced. If it were totally displaced or luxated, yes the horse would be unable to walk initially and it would be very very painful. You would know and would be calling your vet right away if you saw this problem. It would be like if the leg was broken.

However when a chiropractor using the lay term the joint is “out” it is a very simplistic and often misinterpreted way to describe a subluxation. A subluxation in chiropractic terms is a joint that is not moving effectively or efficiently. When a joint does not move correctly then it affects the tissue surrounding the joint as well, reducing blood flow and nerve conduction around the joint. This is what causes the symptoms or possible long term chronic sometimes subclinical  (meaning you can not tell there is a specific problem at the moment)  issues. A chiropractic adjustment is an attempt to reset the joint, to correct the movement and thus correct the nerve conduction and blood flow around the joint. I am also giving you a simplistic description – one that is easier to understand but more descriptive than the joint is out. There are books devoted to trying to explain what occurs with a chiropractic adjustment.

The resetting of the movement of a joint does involve chiropractic adjustments and sometimes even muscle massage to help the joint return to normal function. It may take several adjustments to have the joint return to normal function. Also there are times due to stresses on the joint such as biomechanical changes from conformation or activity of the horse (jumping, dressage, barrel racing, etc) or even vices such as weaving, cribbing, circling that can affect the success of an adjustment. Other problems such as bad teeth alignment, bad hoof balance, poor saddle fit or even an unbalanced rider that can have an affect on the animal and the success of a chiropractic adjustment. Lastly physical problems or pathologic problems such as strained ligaments, torn muscles, arthritis, or even synovitis which is inflammation in the joint can affect the success of an adjustment. In my practice I use chiropractic as a tool to help discover these underlying issues. I do the adjustments but also look at the animal as a whole and help the owner/rider/trainer understand why the horse is not moving correctly and we fix the problems we can and those we can not we help by continuing to do chiropractic adjustments to correct the biomechanics as best as we can to help the horse move the best we can help it move.

I hope this answers your questions.

I hope it helps others understand what I do as an animal chiropractor. Here is a video of me doing an adjustment on a horse.

About Dr Daniel Beatty
An Infopreneur with a Veterinary Medicine degree.