The horse’s spine is a collection of irregular bones called vertebrae that fit together in a specific order and articulate with each other, through one or more pairs of facet joints, to allow movement. The spine allows a range of movement such as lowering and raising the head, arching or dipping the back & bending from side to side. Discs are present in between each vertebrae to absorb the shock & concussion produced by movement. The horse’s spine, unlike the human’s or dog’s, is a fairly rigid structure, the majority of movement being in the neck and in the lumbar area just in front of where the spine connects to the pelvis (equivalent to our hips).
The spinal cord runs through the spinal column with nerves that emerge at intervals along its length. As these nerves exit the spine, they divide into various branches and go to the joints, muscles, internal organs and skin. Nerve impulses travel from the brain and spinal cord, out of the spinal nerves to all parts of the body. Similarly nerve impulses travel back to the brain via the peripheral nerves and spinal cord carrying information as to the relative states of all the various areas of the body.
Sometimes a joint between 2 vertebrae may become slightly fixated restricting the normal range of motion and decreasing flexibility. This could be due to a fall, a bad stumble, getting cast or a badly fitting saddle. Although many slight joint fixations resolve themselves through muscle activity, such as rolling, or normal spinal movements such as bending and stretching, some fixations can persist.
When this stage is reached some physical symptoms will probably be seen. This could range from subtle changes in the animal’s performance to muscle spasm and soreness, stiffness, or lack of collection or impulsion or even a degree of inco-ordination. There may be nerve pain in long term cases and, where a nerve is being pinched there could be numbness or pins and needles. It could even show itself as a behavioral problem such as a cold back, bucking, not wanting to “bend” on one rein or refusing fences.
When it gets to this stage then an external influence is required to restore normality.
The chiropractic adjustment consists of a short, sharp thrust to a specific area which releases muscle spasm, alleviates pain and returns the joint to its normal range of motion. This allows the body to restore its own natural balance and harmony.
The treatment will not hurt the animal, in fact most animals thoroughly enjoy it! It is quite common for an animal to become increasingly relaxed as the treatment progresses even to the point of becoming drowsy.
Proper animal chiropractic treatment requires education, training and experience and it is extremely important to carefully consider who is doing any chiropractic care you need for your horse. Always consult with your veterinarian prior to chiropractic care and always check that the practitioner has recognized qualifications otherwise they may not be what they say they are!