Osteopathy for horses

Last Updated on March 2, 2022 by Allison Price

Osteopathy can be used to treat lameness in horses as well as behavioral problems.

Although Osteopathy has existed for over 100 years, it is still a relatively new field. Surprisingly, not many people are aware of its existence. Osteopathy is similar to chiropractic, in that we work with the muscles and joints. However, Osteopathy also looks at the organs and connections between the skulls and pelvis. Osteopathy must treat all three body systems: visceral (organs), musculoskeletal (organs), and cranial sacral.

The men behind

Andrew Taylor Still was an American doctor who established osteopathy in 1874. This was during the “vitalistic” period of human medicine. According to Vitalistic doctors, the body can heal itself given the right conditions. They believed that strengthening the immune system was better than suppressing it.

Around 20 years ago, three independent European osteopaths – Dominique Giniaux and Pascal Evrard – started developing osteopathy for horses. Unfortunately, Giniaux, Evrard, and Janek Vluggen both died. Janek continued to create an international school, The Vluggen Institute for Equine Osteopathy & Education. Classes are taught in the United States and the Netherlands.


After years of studying holistic methods, I found equine osteopathy satisfying my desire to help animals. After years of studying and practicing classical homeopathy, I was not satisfied with what I could do for my patients. I also tried acupuncture and chiropractic. Janek changed my life three years ago. Janek’s method of traditional European osteopathy was described in an article I read. I knew I had to learn with him. It is a method I can’t imagine my life without.

Getting back to the root

How can osteopathy benefit your horse? In my practice, the most common issues I treat are lameness problems. Most riders are shocked when I explain why their horses have been so lame for so many years. My goal is to find the root cause of lameness and prevent it from happening again. I treat neurological conditions like head tilts, head shaking, in-coordination, and stumbling. I can also help with behavioral issues such as aggression, bucking, and grumpiness in mares.

Alvin’s story

Alvin, a bay quarter horse gelding aged 12 years, jumps in a lesson for high school students. According to the trainer, Alvin is adjusted by a chiropractor approximately once every six weeks. He starts acting grumpy and rebelling towards students when it gets close to adjustment time. Alvin has been receiving regular adjustments for more than two years. She reported that Alvin is stiffer and slower than before, has lost weight, and seems to be growing up too quickly. He needed to be more comfortable and not have to make so many adjustments.

After assessing the horse, I discovered a horse with a poor hair color, patches of reddish fur and different lengths of hair. There was also a mane and tail with hair missing from certain areas. This indicates poor nutrition or a body that is unable to use the nutrition it has been given. Alvin’s current diet was adequate for his age and workload. Alvin also had a loss of muscle mass in his gluteal muscles and had hamstrings that were too large.

My osteopathic evaluation began with my hind end, where I tested the mobility of the sacrum. The sacrum, a triangular bone lying perpendicular to the pelvis and between the wings of the pelvis, is vital. This bone is of paramount importance as the pelvis can’t move properly if it isn’t mobile. The stifles or hocks become overused, which can cause compensation in the neck, shoulders, and back. Many joint injections can be avoided by moving all the bones in the right direction.

Alvin had a sacrum that was only moving on one side. The stifle, hock and both stifle were blocked on the other side. The sacrum was also impeded by scar tissue from his gelding procedure. His spine was immobile and indicated congestion in one of his kidneys. His neck, as well as his shoulders, were also blocked.

My osteopathic treatment involved mobilizing the sacrum, first by releasing scar tissue, then the sacrum itself. Then I simply moved all the other joints. I then gave him a natural remedy to his kidneys and also prevented any soreness. Alvin’s treatment lasted fourteen weeks as I write this. To keep him on his lesson schedule, I plan to see him at least once every four to six month.

Although osteopaths may not be as common as other therapies professionals, they can still be a valuable asset to your horse’s health and wellbeing team. To keep your horse’s partner happy and healthy, the “whole horse” approach is essential.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!