chiropractic care

Did you know that the best time to do chiropractic on a foal is as least nine months before conception? This provides him with the best environment to grow in, and gives the mare optimal strength for foaling.

Some people think we are being wise-crackers when they ask us how soon a foal should receive chiropractic care after he is born. We always tell them, “About nine months before he was conceived.” The truth of the matter is that the health of the mare’s nervous system is important to the development of the foal’s nervous system. This determines many outcomes for the baby, including nutrition, immune function, the ability to move gracefully, the speed at which he gets up and nurses, his ability to nurse well, the mare’s milk production, and the foal’s temperament/behavior.

The importance of proper hormone output

Don’t take this the wrong way. Chiropractic doesn’t fix any of these things directly. However, the mare’s nervous system, which is what chiropractic care helps to function more normally, determines all those things. The mare’s hormone output on a daily basis will determine how quickly and easily she will conceive.

Her daily hormone output will also determine how well she absorbs nutrients from her food sources, and how she will share them with the fetus. A mare that is stressed because of imbalances in her nervous system due to subluxations in her spine, will share fewer groceries with her foal because she is using those nutrients to worry, fret, and protect herself. Any painful situation in the mare will cause an increase in stress hormones, which might even make it harder for her to conceive.

Muscle function and foaling

Not only do mares need better hormone development, they also need top muscle function in order to foal quickly and efficiently. This avoids many foal losses from birth trauma and complications. Strong abdominal muscles support the topline, which in turn allows normal nerve flow to the abdominal organs and muscles. Strong abdominal muscles need normal nerve flow, which is improved with routine chiropractic care. The spine has to be able to move freely in order for the signals from the brain and spinal cord to reach the muscles and organ tissues.

A case for pre-natal chiropractic care

A horse owner for whom we do routine chiropractic care one day mentioned she had a mare who didn’t take on the first breeding even though the reproductive vet had done all the right things, including flushing the uterus, giving her hormones, and all the usual reproductive treatments that usually work. She wondered if we could take a look at the mare.

We could see the mare was not moving correctly, although to her owner’s naked eye she didn’t look off. She had a shorter stride in the front end because of lower neck issues, which in turn caused a shorter stride in the hind end to compensate (everyone knows that the back end of a horse can’t move faster than the front end). The lower neck issue also was causing problems in the lumbar region. This is the area just behind the saddle on the horse’s back. The nerves affecting the reproductive organs exit the spine in that area. We adjusted the mare, and without any further treatment, she became pregnant on her next heat cycle.

While this particular owner has routine chiropractic care done on her farm, she doesn’t always have every horse seen each time we visit, so we didn’t give the mare another adjustment before the birth of her foal. When the baby the owner had worked so hard for finally came, she decided, “I don’t think I’m going to keep this filly. She has a bad temper.”

Once again, we were asked to examine the mare, and while doing so we also took a look at her baby. The filly, though not terribly nasty, was a bit cranky. We also noted that she only nursed from the left side of the mare, and that the right udder was larger. The mare had been uncomfortable and the owner assumed it was because of birthing complications.

We adjusted the mare, but we also adjusted the filly because the reason she was nursing only on the left side was not because the mare wouldn’t let her on the right. It was because she couldn’t turn her head to the right to get under the mare on the right side.

Three days later the owner called to tell us, “I think I am going to keep this filly. Ever since you adjusted her she has been the sweetest foal I have ever had.”

This is just one typical example of how chiropractic can help the mare and foal experience better health and nutrition, and to get along better with one another. The mare was uncomfortable because the filly hadn’t been nursing equally on both sides. She had a few common subluxations associated with movement and birth, but her biggest issue was that she might have developed mastitis because the right bag wasn’t being emptied. Adjusting the foal fixed both issues. Conventional medicine might have focused on milking the mare, or giving her anti-inflammatories to reduce the “inflamed” right side. This in turn would have created the issue of ulcers in the foal, making the baby even crankier and less likable.

Keeping both mare and foal moving properly, and allowing their nervous systems to function better, helps the owner as well as the horses. Choosing an animal chiropractor who is AVCA certified is important, because these doctors undergo training and continuing education that teaches them to look for the whole picture when adjusting breeding animals. You can find your nearest AVCA certified doctor at


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Dr. William Ormston graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. He received certification from the AVCA and began using chiropractic to treat his animal patients. Jubilee Animal Health is a mobile practice in the Dallas Metroplex area where Dr. Ormston cares for animals using mostly alternative methods.
Amy Hayek is a veterinarian and writer for many equine health magazines. She practices in Meridian, TX with her husband, Dr. Bill Ormston and shares her education and experience with doctors through teaching at the premier online school for Animal Chiropractic, Animal Chiropractic Education Source. Find an AVCA certified doctor in your area and learn more about how your horse can be healthy at and the website for her clinic. Join her on Facebook at @animalchiroaces.