Chiropractic Care

What is Chiropractic Care?

  • Chiropractic care for your horse is a manual method of treatment which can be used for many health and performance problems.  Chiropractic focuses on the bio-mechanical dysfunction of the spine and the effects these restrictions have on the nervous system and your horse’s entire body.  The goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to maximize mobility and optimize nervous system function to allow unrestricted exchange of information between the brain and all the body’s organs.  Restricted mobility (vertebral subluxation complex) between two vertebrae can adversely effect and/or irritate the nerves that exit the horse’s spine.  Chiropractic treatment does not replace traditional veterinary medicine; however, it does enhance and complement traditional medical treatments for your horse.
  • A horse’s spine is a very complex structure consisting of bones, ligaments, muscles, and nerves.  Numerous muscles are attached to the vertebrae enabling the spine to move.  Even though individual vertebral joints move very little, the back and neck as a whole is very flexible.  Without this flexibility, a horse can not move fluently, jump obstacles, or perform optimally.  The spinal cord runs through the vertebral canal with nerves branching off from the cord.  These nerves leave the spinal canal through intervertebral foramen and are responsible for the transmission of information between the brain, spinal cord, muscles, organs, and other parts of the body.  The transmission of information at this level must flow freely to allow proper function.

How do you adjust an animal the size of a horse?

  • To answer this, it is important to remember that Dr. McKnight is not adjusting the entire horse, but rather a specific joint in the spine.
  • Initially, a complete chiropractic examination is performed.  This typically includes a case history, including any previous veterinary work performed, posture analysis, gait analysis, static and motion palpation of the spine and its joints, muscle palpation, and checking for any changes in temperature over the spine.  Once the initial examination has been completed, Dr. McKnight will perform an adjustment on the area of the spine affected, so as to return the joints to normal motion, and to alleviate any muscle spasms and pain.  A chiropractic adjustment is a very specific, high velocity, low force, controlled thrust by a hand, which is directed in a specific direction on a specific joint.  Dr. McKnight does not use vibrating machines or osteopathy, but only certified veterinary chiropractic techniques.

How do I know if my horse needs Chiropractic care?

  • There are a number of signs or conditions which may signify that your horse would benefit from a chiropractic exam and adjustments.  Horses that are showing a decrease in performance, short striding, cross-cantering, loss of collection, or refusing to pick-up the lead may have some degree of bio-mechanical dysfunction or restriction of the spine.  Horses that are recovering from tendon/ligament injuries, muscle injuries, trailering accidents, or have more chronic disease such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) or conformation problems, generally have compensation issues resulting in restrictions of the spine.
  • It is important to remember that these are only a few of the many indications that your horse may benefit from chiropractic care.  If you suspect your horse may benefit from chiropractic care, or if you have questions about chiropractic care, please call as I am always happy discuss your horses case.

Different equestrian disciplines can cause specific vertebral subluxation complexes (VSC’s).

  • Dressage Horses with VSC’s in the lumbar spine have difficulty correctly executing lateral movements.  They may have poor engagement of the hindlimbs, and a lack of suppleness.
  • Show jumpers with VSC’s in the lower thoracic and lumbar vertebrae have difficulties rounding their backs.  They can often land in cross canter and have difficulty changing leads.
  • Western horses with a restriction in the lumbar vertebrae and sacroiliac joints have difficulty in bending laterally and show single sided problems in turns and spins.