Dr Deb Sell, DC - AVCA/ IVCA Certified Animal Chiropractor Serving Central California

What is Chiropractic Care for Horses?

Chiropractic Care is a holistic approach to many of the health and performance problems of the horse. It is a Health Care System based on movement and symmetry, but does NOT replace traditional veterinary medicine and surgery. Chiropractic offers and provides an alternative method of care that often complements traditional care. Used concurrently, many of your horse’s musculoskeletal conditions respond dramatically, and rehabilitation can take place quickly and efficiently.

Chiropractic Care focuses on the health and proper movement of all joints in the body, but especially the proper functioning of the spinal column.

How Do I know that my horse is Subluxated?

When used by Chiropractors, the term subluxation is used to describe a very specific condition, or disease, of the spinal column in which one or more of the joints are not moving properly.

Subluxations can cause a variety of symptoms from very mild to very severe. The most common of which is PAIN. Horses in pain will compensate in gait or posture and often refuse to perform certain tasks. The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate pain from the presence of subluxation:

  • Discomfort when saddling.

  • Discomfort when riding.

  • Abnormal posture when standing.

  • Evasion type maneuvers such as dipping head or hollowing back.

  • Wringing tail, pinning ears or bucking.

  • Refusing or unwillingness to go over jumps.

  • Refusal or resistance in performance such as lateral or collected movements.

  • Development of unusual behaviour patterns.

  • Sensitivity to touch.

  • Facial expression of apprehension or pain.





Subluxations can also cause change in muscle coordination and flexibility. These conditions may cause:

  • Lack of coordination in gaits.

  • Improper frame

  • "Lameness" that seems to move from limb to limb.

  • Stiffness coming out of stall.

  • Stiffness in side movement of the body or neck.

  • Muscle atrophy or shrinking.

  • Shortened stride in one or two limbs.

  • Decreased extension in front or rear.

  • Rope walking or plaiting.

  • Inability to lengthen top line.

  • Difficulty flexing at the poll.

  • Rider can not sit centered on horse.

  • On line or pulling on one rein

Dr Deb and Finn

Dr Deb and HotWheels

If Found How Are Subluxations Corrected?

Final diagnosis of subluxations should be made by a trained Veterinary Chiropractor. Once identified, the Doctor will attempt a correction of the misaligned or "stuck" vertebra. This correction is called an ADJUSTMENT. An adjustment is a short, rapid thrust onto a vertebra in a very specific direction that will restore movement into the fixated joint.

Chiropractic is very specific, and adjustments are made on each vertebra directly. Jerking on legs or tails, is NOT an adjustment. A proper examination and evaluation by the Doctor is necessary to determine what needs to be adjusted, and how.

While delivering an adjustment the Doctor uses a controlled force. Large horses don’t necessarily need more force than very small ones. Each joint of the spine is moveable, and if the correct angle is used, the adjustment is relatively easy using low force.


How Many Adjustments are Needed to Correct the Subluxations?

This is the most difficult to answer and most commonly misunderstood question concerning Chiropractic Care. The purpose of the adjustment is to restore function to a joint in the spinal column and to realign or reposition the spine. The horse’s muscles and ligaments of the spinal column must be able to maintain the correct alignment once the Doctor has restored it. The condition of those supporting structures is what determines how many times and how often the horse needs to be treated. Thus, long standing, or chronic conditions tend to take more time and treatment, while minor injuries, corrected immediately, respond most rapidly. Several adjustments over two to four weeks are generally needed for the body to accept and maintain the new corrections. Most horses show significant improvement in one to four treatments. After that, age and conditioning are the major factors as to whether the subluxations may reappear.