Equine Chiropractic

Why I Wouldn’t Bother with “Equine Chiropractic”

Last Updated on April 7, 2022 by Allison Price

If you are squinting at the title, I want to say that I am happy to see your horse by an “equine chiropractor” and that you feel happy for your horse. I don’t think I have done anything wrong.

Feeding Hay Cubes vs. Hay Flakes
Feeding Hay Cubes vs. Hay Flakes

If you already have your mind set, then you might not want to read the following. People don’t like when facts are presented that contradict their beliefs, opinions, or professional reputations. I have had my own experiences. But I am not sharing my experiences. (FWIW: Mine fall in the “doesn’t do anything” category). I am simply stating facts. If you stop there, I won’t be offended at all.

If you are still reading, you will find many things that are quite unusual about the -field. area? discipline? These are very concerning. These concerns persist after more than 100 years of people claiming that horses can be helped by “chiropractic.”* I think it’s fair to say that almost anyone who claimsthat they are an equine chiropractor will tell you how amazing it is.

Equine Chiropractic

This stuff has fascinated me for over three decades. In fact, I was a regular attendee of Los Angeles College of Chiropractic’s weekly graduate school rounds back in 1990 (when it was still open). I have written quite a bit about it, including with Dr. Joe Keating who was the most respected historian of chiropractic. It’s something I have seen for decades. This all adds up to the reason I don’t think anyone should have their horse see an “equine chiropractor.” Here’s five reasons.

1. It’s not always easy to know who you will get.

You only go to a dentist if you have a degree from a school that offers it. There have been some cases of fraud. A license is required for a dentist to practice, and all the requirements and supervision that go with it.

 There are four options when it comes to “equine chiropractics”.

  1. Chiropractors are people who have taken the time to obtain a degree as a chiropractor (a D.C., for “Doctor of Chiropractic”) from one of the many chiropractic schools in the US.
  2. Veterinarians – folks who have gone to the trouble to get a degree in veterinary medicine, from any one of several veterinary schools around the world, and who may have also attended some sort of a chiropractic training/certification program. However, these programs are usually only a few weeks or even a weekend long – they’re not like human schools.
  3. There are very few people who have done both.
  4. People who have done neither of these (there seems to be many of them).

You can call me fussy but I believe that if you are going to refer to yourself as something, it should be something. You shouldn’t get a head lettuce calling itself a “banana” when you go to the grocery shop to buy one. It is important to know what you can expect. 

It is crucial to know what you are getting, especially when it involves paying for health-related stuff. People who make laws generally believe so. For example, a Canadian man visited patients claiming to be a doctor but was not.

 This is fundamentally a problem with false representation. If you are not a chiropractor, you shouldn’t say so. It takes a lot of hubris to do this, in fact. It is not my belief that you can diagnose and treat animals if your aren’t a veterinarian. Every state law supports me. This effectively eliminates anyone who claims to be a chiropractor or treats horses, with a few exceptions. Despite this, it seems that very few people, including licensed chiropractors, seem to mind when people don’t go to chiropractic school (including many veterinarians), call themselves chiropractors. It drives me crazy.

NOTE While eliminating all horses who practice “equine chiropractic”, might not be a bad idea, it is not my point.

From the perspective of “Who are your going to get?” when calling an equine chiropractor the only thing you can be certain of is that you will get someone. This, to me, is not good enough.

2. There are many unrelated training programs.

 Everyone learns the same things when they go to veterinary school. But, “chiropractic training” is different. There are many courses available. Some can take over 100 hours, while others may only take a few hours of your weekend. There are many methods that can be used to push, pull, twist, or turn the horse’s bodies. You could also use a gun with a plunger inside it to shoot the horse. This can be done by veterinarians or chiropractors but it is also possible to open the gun to everyone.

All of the programs share two things at the end:

  1. Most trainees receive a piece paper at the end of their training. It can be printed or embossed with various patterns and ink colors. This “certifies” that the person did everything necessary to obtain the piece.
  2. In the type of scientific studies used to prove that something works on horses, none of the different things have been proven to be effective.

3. It’s difficult to know what someone is doing

It’s possible that we both know what I mean when I say I am treating a horse’s hoof. All agree that horses have a hock. It is located on the back leg of horses. It also has an exterior appearance (X-rays, etc.). If you would like me to take a picture of the hock, both inside and out, I am happy to. However, this is not true for the many and varied things that are diagnosed and treated under “equine chiropractic.”

According to a Google search, “subluxation” is the most common “problem.” However, there’s no accepted definition. It could be called a bone out of place (which is the nice acronym “BOOP”) or a spinal joint problem.

 No matter what you call it, no one can prove that subluxations – or any other term you wish – exist in horses or humans. Although I can show you the location of a horse’s hoof, it is not a fact that I can. It can’t be proven that “chiropractic” is the root cause of all problems. Even chiropractors can’t agree on what they do when studied. When asked to examine the spines and sacroiliac joint of patients, chiropractors are not able to agree on their findings. 

I’ve not even mentioned other new diagnoses such as leg length differences and TMJ dysfunction, polls out-of-place, ribs out-of place… none can be proven by reliable, repeatable methods. Don’t let me get into the hype about chiropractic maintenance. That’s marketing.

 ASIDE: One time, I was conducting a pre-purchase exam and heard an “equine chiropractor” talking. He said something along these lines: “Now many people will say that this is absurd, but your horse’s ribs are out of place.” I didn’t think it appropriate to interrupt my exam, even though he was right. Anyone with any knowledge of horse anatomy would find this absurd.

I have a problem all creative diagnosis. Someone who claims that a horse’s problem can’t be solved by any other means than trusting the person looking, is either a medical genius or something else. I lean more towards this latter.

A OTHER ASIDE:In the early 1990’s I was working at a dressage barn. All of a sudden, the horses were being shod in diagonal pads to “correct” leg length differences. The barn became very frustrated by this practice. The problem disappeared in six months. This coincided with the hiring of a new shoer. Since then, I haven’t seen the “problem” again, but given how these things work, it’s likely time to recycle.

 4. Some of the things they claim to be doing cannot be done.

Chiropractors claim that they apply “specific force” to certain areas in order to correct the problem. That’s all fine and dandy, but it is not possible.

The problem is that when you push on a horse’s head, the forces are taken up by allof tissues. Not just the ones you want to treat ( Click HERE). It’s almost like trying to push your fist into water. The force wouldn’t travel where you want it to. moreof forces should be taken up by tissues in horses. This makes it impossible to apply a “specific force” to something as deep covered by muscle and as horse’s spine.

 A ONE MORE THING: One of my first encounters with a great man from Alabama was when I was doing weekly rounds at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic in the 1990’s. He had just received his D.C. and was currently working towards a Master’s degree in some chiropractic discipline. After hearing about people trying to do chiropractic work on horses, he asked me, “Dave,” what in the world is a person supposed to do to manipulate horse’s vertebrae? I didn’t know how to respond. Still don’t.

It boils down to this: If “equine chiropractic”, were to have any effect, nobody knows why. It’s okay, things can have an impact without knowing why. This brings us to another problem. This is…

5. After 100 years, nobody has proven that “chiropractic”, whatever it may be, does anything for horses.

Let’s begin by showing you a list of conditions in which “chiropractic”, for horses, has proven to be beneficial. 

 It’s irresponsible to make all these wonderful claims about “equine chiropractic” and no one seems to bother to test them. When people have studied chiropractic, at least a little, chiropractic care has not been proven to be any better than any other type of care. This includes fake chiropractic care. 

It seems a huge leap of faith to believe that it would work well in horses, when it hasn’t been tested in humans. Although there are some references to horses in the scientific literature, none of them can define the condition or treat it under controlled conditions. It is possible to do something based on the research that exists. The outcomes of clinical cases, that is, long-term follow-up of horses after being treated by a chiropractor, are not discussed in any of the studies. This is surprising considering no one seems to have been able to prove what is being done anyway. Here are some examples.

 The absence of evidence has not done anything to stop the claims being made. It’s frustrating from the perspective of someone who has been following this closely for some time. If there was good evidence, I would recommend it to my clients. However, I don’t want to spend my clients’ money.

CONCLUSIONS

There you have it. As I mentioned, if your horse chiropractor is an “equine chiropractic” or you are an equine chiropractic, I apologize if I take offense at facts. It’s possible to do the right thing but it’s not proven even after more than 100 years.

As someone who takes responsibility for making horse treatment recommendations very seriously (and for other reasons which would make the article even more long), I don’t feel comfortable suggesting that anyoneuse an “equine chiropractic” doctor. But, if you do try and your horse is happy, I’m happier than anyone.

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