Chiropractic care for equine health and performance


chiropractic care

Chiropractic care helps keep your horse’s nervous system functioning smoothly — and that’s important for all aspects of his well-being and ability to perform.

The nervous system is the communication network of the body. It relays messages to coordinate movement and physiological processes throughout your horse’s body. Any interference to spinal function can impede the nervous system from functioning at its best. In this article we’ll explore how chiropractic care can help maintain your horse’s nervous system function, and in turn, his health and performance.

Restoring mobility

When one area of your horse’s body can’t move, he must make compensations in other areas. This abnormal motion leads to altered function of the limb. If left uncorrected, this altered motion can lead to tendon and ligament injuries and chronic joint changes. Evidence-based medicine shows that chiropractic care helps restore a more normal movement in the horse, which may help prevent career-ending problems. This means a horse just removed from stall rest after an injury is at greater risk of re-injury if his nervous system is not restored by a chiropractic adjustment; your horse’s altered motion is neurologic.

Chiropractic care helps the body resume normal motion. To the joints in your horse’s body, movement is life. Lack of movement results in changes in the structure of the joint within 72 hours. If your horse has a lameness issue and is not moving well in one joint, the other joints will not be able move properly either. It’s like a cog in a wheel — if one cog is broken the whole machine shuts down. Some muscles have to work harder to compensate for the problem limb.  Some muscles move less to allow your horse to move in a straight line. Either way an examination by the equine chiropractor will help identify these joints, and help restore normal motion to the horse’s joints.

Pelvic subluxations in mares

Mares with subluxations in the pelvis tend to lose muscle around both the rectum and vulva.  This allows manure and urine to pool inside the vulva and enter the uterus. Because the uterus is also a muscle, it is usually compromised as well and can’t contract enough to move the material out. This leads to chronic uterine inflammation, which means conception is not possible. This entire loss of muscle is not limited to the hind end in these mares, and leads to a decline in their ability to appropriately respond to minor irritations. The nasty attitude displayed by these mares is neurologic.

Immune function

The nervous system balances the immune system, and an efficiently-functioning immune system protects your horse from all sorts of bacterial and viral challenges. Studies have shown that chiropractic care may influence T and B lymphocytes, natural killer cell numbers, antibody levels, phagocytic activity and plasma beta-endorphin levels. The nervous system regulates all function throughout the body, and the production of immune cells is no exception.

Giving medication to resolve an issue created by nervous system interference will do nothing more than manage the symptoms, unfortunately giving a false sense of health. Until the cause (nervous system interference) is addressed, health will continue to dwindle, leading to more symptoms and more medications.

Chiropractic care does not “cure” a horse’s disease; it restores normal communication between your horse’s brain and every part of his body. Restoring this communication allows the brain to resume appropriate control and guide the organs to function at optimal levels.

Power and performance

One aspect of health is performance, and this is the primary focus of all top athletes. When you look at athletes like Usain Bolt, who has used chiropractic for years, and where the margins for winning are fractions of a second, you see why even the smallest impedance to function could make the difference between gold and no medal at all. In your horse’s work, one subluxation can mean a half second slower. What would an extra half second mean to you and your horse?

Chiropractic is about power, not pain and lameness. The power that turned two cells into the amazing mass of cells that is now your horse is the power that controls every reaction occuring in his body. A horse with a subluxation will experience improper nerve flow to and from his muscles and organs. Without this power, cellular dysfunction begins to occur.

The chiropractic adjustment is about restoring the power that made the body. Equine chiropractors focus on restoring life, not eliminating symptoms or curing disease. The reason is simple — only the power that made the body can heal the body. With life restored via the chiropractic adjustment, the body is free to work as intended, curing disease and eliminating symptoms on its own.

As far as you will be able to tell, your horse appears to have a functioning nervous system.  However, to the trained eye of an Animal Chiropractor, who is an expert on how the nervous system coordinates health in the body, there may be flaws in your horse’s health. Any interference to spinal function can impede the nervous system from functioning at its absolute best.

To have your horse’s functional neurological system checked, contact an AVCA certified doctor in your area. When you are deciding whether to continue with chiropractic care for your horses, or are deciding which ones to get adjusted, it is critical to remember that everything about the life your horses enjoy with you is accomplished thanks to their nervous systems.


Bill Ormston received a BS in animal science in 1982 and a veterinary degree in 1988, both from Iowa State University. Since graduation Dr. Ormston has worked in or owned mixed animal practices. In 1998 he attended Options For Animals and became certified in animal chiropractic care by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Assoc. In 2004 he completed his degree in Veterinary Homeopathy from the British Institute of Homeopathy. His current practice is in the area surrounding the Dallas metroplex where he uses only complementary therapies to treat both large and small animals.

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