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Alternative Therapies For The Horse

Dec 8, 2007
It is not uncommon that trends in veterinary medicine to mirror trends in human medicine. To that end, it's not surprising that alternative medicine is being used more frequently on sick and injured horses. Instead of prescribing the latest wonder drug, some veterinarians are instead prescribing a little hands-on healing in the hopes that less invasive techniques will bring about a return to health. In this article, we'll examine two alternative healing practices that are becoming very popular in the horse world: chiropractic and massage.


Equine chiropractors traditionally deal with "subluxations" of the vertebrae. Defined, subluxations are incomplete or partial dislocations of the vertebrae; in other words, vertebrae that are out of alignment. These misalignments can not only cause the horse pain in his back, but can also cause soft tissue damage around the area of the spine. And since the spine is said to be the conduit to the central nervous system, subluxations may possibly change neurological function of the spinal cord, the spinal nerve roots, and portions of the nervous system. The equine chiropractor adjusts these subluxations--in plain speaking he put the spine back into alignment--and returns the horse to optimal health.

What conditions does chiropractic treat?

Chiropractic is used to treat back and neck pain in the horse, as well as nerve damage. It can also be used to diagnose and come up with a treatment plan for certain lamenesses. Some people even use chiropractic during prepurchase exams to determine whether the horse has any neck or back injuries.

How is chiropractic administered, and how much does it cost?

Like a vet exam, the chiropractic exam begins with a case history. Posture analysis, gait analysis, static palpation, motion palpation, orthopedic exam, and a neurological exam follow. Based upon his or her findings, the vertebra is then manipulated during the adjustment by the practitioner.

How much does a chiropractic treatment cost?

A chiropractic exam and adjustment cost approximately $50-75, depending upon the extent of the problem and the length of the session.

Are there any risks?

Some believe that in the wrong hands, chiropractic can cause back and neck pain, lameness problems, and spinal cord injury. The equine chiropractor must have strong knowledge of equine vertebral anatomy, including vertebral joint relationships, the relationship of neural components, muscle attachments and nerve supply, and normal and abnormal range of motion.


During a massage, the soft tissues of the body are worked by experienced hands and fingers. As any human who has been the recipient of one knows, massage stimulates acupuncture points and relieves tension. Myofascial release therapy, in which the fascia that connect and surround the muscles are manipulated, and myotherapy, a method of relaxing muscle spasm, improving circulation, and alleviating pain, are two of the most common types of equine massage therapy.

What conditions does massage treat?

Massage can really help sore muscles and tendons. It is frequently used to repair damaged muscle fiber, such as contracted tendons, ligament and muscle strains, chronic inflammatory conditions, peripheral nerve injuries, scar tissue, and chronic edema.

How is massage administered?

The soft tissues of the body are worked by the hands and fingers. The strokes are generally performed in the direction in which blood flows, which is toward the heart.

How much does equine massage cost?

A massage costs between $25 and $75, depending upon its duration.

What are the risks?

If your horse has acute inflammatory processes of the skin, soft tissue, bone and joints, fractures, sprains, circulatory disorders, presence or danger of hemorrhage, lyphangitis, and tumors, then massage should be avoided.
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