Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my horse need to be adjusted?

There are several reasons why our domestic horses may benefit from chiropractic care, many being related to the fact that they are kept very differently from our wild horses.  Wild horses do not need much chiropractic care, if any at all, because they are free, and their teeth and feet wear naturally.

Even horses kept with less constriction in the domestic environment (large pastures, lots of turnout, or bigger stalls when or if in) will often require less care than their stalled counterparts, and the reasons why are many.  Horses that are confined are more stressed, often acquire stress related habits such as cribbing, weaving, and constant circling in stalls. They get cast in stalls, even if they have righted themselves before anyone sees them, often have pulled back violently or at least at one time or the other when they were young on cross ties, trailer ties and straight ties, have gotten tangled in fences or jumps, and are subjected to the surges of energy created by temporary confinement then racing out into their pasture for their few hours without much thought as to their own safety. They get into lots of trouble in little ways (or not so little) that we are all familiar with. They often seem fine, which is defined as not bleeding to death, or not having too much swelling or lameness, but the issues that make them stiff often are overlooked and left untreated. These include but are not limited to minor sprain/strains, pains that cause weight bearing shifts and overuse of other areas of the body, some of which become patterned and chronic compensations, and joint fixations that do not result in overt lameness.

Our domestic horses can have such a better quality of life with chiropractic care, by addressing these issues as they occur across the lifetime of the horse.  It saddens me when people say after their appointment that they wish they knew about chiropractic because they would have done it a lot sooner. That is why I want to make this information easily available, so you can get good care for your horse before years of wear and tear are added on to the fact that your horse “fell off that bridge on the trail” or just about anything else,  several years ago but seemed “fine”.  It is very similar to people who get into car accident and seem fine, but then deal with constant aches and pains until they reach a point they can’t tolerate it any more.  It is at this point a horse goes lame.

What causes subluxation or fixation?

Major mechanical trauma, microtrauma, repetitive action, overuse injuries, physical and mental stresses, toxins in environment and feeds causing biochemical imbalance, accidents, whether in the pasture, trailer or riding accidents such as stumbles, falls, flipping over, crashing jumps, etc.

How do I know if my horse needs to be adjusted?

Here are some things to look for and some common reasons I am called:

  • Horse is not bending
  • Lack of engagement
  • Refusing jumps
  • Difficulty picking up hind or front feet for farrier
  • Not quite right
  • Undiagnosed lameness
  • Gait abnormalities of any kind (hitches, shortened stride, overreaching, not tracking correctly, asymmetric stride)
  • Switching leads behind, not catching appropriate lead, cross cantering
  • Behavioral changes
  • Horse having trouble doing something that was once easy and routine
  • Dragging one or both hind feet
  • Back seems sore, hates to be brushed, back collapses when brushed
  • Goes with head to high up in the air or going with head down skimming the ground, neck stuck in place completely
  • Tripping, front or rear, falling down
  • Girthy, panics when saddle is placed on back, collapses back when rider gets on
  • Ataxic, wobbling, stumbling
  • After an accident (any kind- riding, trailer, fence, etc.)
  • Best reason, just want to get him/her checked. Often performing sub-par without anyone noticing. Can make good better! Strive for the best each horse can be.

What will the visit be like?

Dr. Edwards will ask you some questions about the history of your horse. It is common for people to want to withhold information because they would like to see if you will “find” their horses issues. Although I love and accept the challenge, this may not always be the best strategy for your horse as there may be something about your horse’s health that may change how chiropractic care will be performed on your horse. Your horse’s issues will be found and presented to you at the time of the visit, and then a care plan discussed.

Often issues you are not aware of are found and presented to you as well. Dr. Edwards typically will adjust every horse, as there is rarely a horse, although occasionally one is found, that does not need an adjustment, for a variety of reasons.

Chiropractic is a very powerful tool, and should be performed in all cases where indicated and necessary. With 20+ years experience, the chiropractic adjustment is usually a very easy procedure accepted well and enjoyed by most every horse. Chiropractic results are immediate. Occasionally some horses receive acupuncture only. And about half of the horses seen receive both. Chiropractic and acupuncture are very complementary to each other, and the two together often result in longer lasting and more effective results.

Dr. Edwards will advise as to which modality is indicated and why, and consideration will be given to owners and horses who have various phobias of needles and adjustments. Education is a big part of my practice and I believe you will be comfortable with the modalities once explained thoroughly as to why and when they will be used based on your individual horse’s case. I encourage owner input and questions.  Issues related to saddle fit, dental problems, shoeing or barefoot horses, will be evaluated if indicated, and addressed as necessary. Chinese herbs and homeopathy used only as necessary in a small amount of cases.

Are Chiropractic and Acupuncture safe?

Yes, both modalities are considered very safe when performed by properly trained and licensed individuals. These techniques should only be performed by doctors who have acquired specialized training in addition to their basic doctorate degree. These professions take years to master and learn.

Is Chiropractic the same as massage?

No, there is no similarity. I am asked this question a lot. Massage therapists are not doctors and do not have access to this training, and are not licensed individuals in this state. Chiropractic is a four year post graduate doctorate degree with a separate state licensing board and national board requirements. The manual methods used are completely different. Chiropractic works with the whole integrated system: nervous system, joints, bone, vascular system, muscle and connective tissue, not just on the muscle level. I will use spot massage after my chiropractic and acupuncture if it is indicated and necessary. Often, if an area in the muscle requires extra work, I will show owners how to work on it themselves and set up a program for them follow to help prevent recurrence. This is often well received and works with very good result as an adjunct to chiropractic care.

Is Chiropractic just one technique?

No, chiropractic is a quite extensive manual modality, with approximately 200 named techniques, that began in 1895 at Palmer College, which is considered the “fountainhead of chiropractic”. These were developed over the years to address the wide variety of conditions seen and the large range in the state of health of the individuals being treated. They range dramatically in scope and force, from no force to higher force, to various different changes to the hand application techniques that greatly improves the acceptance and outcome of each technique on any given individual. It takes a lifetime to master and learning takes complete dedication of one’s professional career. The AVCA 4 weekend course covers a portion of the most common technique, diversified. Four years of chiropractic school teaches the 3 most common techniques in full, plus 3 elective techniques. And the rest are acquired through years of continuing education courses and various clubs in school. VOM “Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation” is NOT A Chiropractic technique.

Will my horse enjoy being adjusted?

YES! Most horses find chiropractic to be wonderful. These smart animals figure out very quickly you are there to help and allow you to do your job quite nicely!

Is all acupuncture the same?

There are many forms of acupuncture due to the several thousand year history of development in several eastern European and Asian countries, but the 2 most common forms used in veterinary medicine today are “TCVM” or traditional Chinese veterinary medicine based on the ancient arts and follows modern scientific research and “medical acupuncture” which is pain management based as is modern veterinary medicine and is a recent movement in this country. Although modern recent scientific evidence of pain regulation and the effects of acupuncture are a fabulous addition to the understanding of how acupuncture works and what its effects are, in my opinion cannot replace the 5,000 year history of acupuncture success stories using the long established traditional Chinese medicine system. So I choose to incorporate into my practice the traditional Chinese veterinary medicine principles and diagnostic systems that have been handed down over the centuries combined with the more recent scientific acupuncture pain models and research findings which apply to all forms of acupuncture. It is beyond the scope here to go over other forms of acupuncture and types of methodology and application. I would be more than willing to discuss more in person as I love to educate!

Does my horse need to be in pain in order to be seen?

No. This is a very unique and useful benefit of the chiropractic care. It does not depend on pain findings. It can locate problem areas in the absence or the presence of pain, and in the absence of overt illness or lameness. So it offers help when nothing is turning up in traditional tests and lameness exams. This is a common reason I am called, when the issue the owner has been having with the horse has not been able to be located. And when problems are diagnosed by lameness and standard tests, chiropractic and acupuncture care is also very useful in the management of those conditions in most cases.

Is diagnosis by superficial pain accurate?

Signs of soreness in the muscle and superficial pain are very unreliable diagnostic indicators. Diagnosis by pain is often inaccurate because this pain is often not emanating from the source condition. This is especially true in chronic conditions. It can be referred from another area, over or under expressed by the body, phantom type pain, lingering after injuries have healed, or compensatory due to other issues. Pain sensation can also be altered by injury and some diseases processes, further confusing the issues. This is why it is so important to use a doctor of chiropractic with a lot of experience in the evaluation of these more difficult cases. And it is best to uses several methods of diagnosis that chiropractic offers beyond just evaluating overt soreness and lameness.

How many visits are required?

There are no visit requirements. All cases are individually considered. Most horses will improve significantly after the first visit. Some require a follow-up in about 6 weeks to 2 months to clean up compensations or chronic issues. After these visits, maintenance is often recommended with the most common follow-up periods being 2-6 months. Horses with chronic issues or in heavy work and training may benefit from a 6 week schedule, and some horses with few issues and in light work are fine to be seen in 1-2 years. But the time frames are very variable depending on the circumstances and the conformation of the horses, and well as by what may happen to the horse in the course of his normal day. By this I mean a horse that has fallen on the ice or crashed a jump will require a follow-up soon after that event and may shorten his “normal” time frame. With this said every owner has the choice to be an a recall or call at will. And I will give you my recommendation as to what I think is the best course of care for your horse. We try to keep our scheduling flexible to accommodate the needs of the horse.

How long have you been adjusting animals?

About 20 years. I took my animal certification courses through the AVCA in 1991-1992 while I was a student in the clinic at Palmer College of Chiropractic. I was in one of the first classes to ever pass through this program since it was started by Sharon Willoughby, DC, DVM. I hold a current certification with this organization that offers a 4 weekend course in addition to my DC and DVM degrees.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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