Our training notes often show schooling at the farm but may also
include cross country schoolings and trail rides away from the
farm. Go back through our notes to see how we train our off-the-track
Thoroughbreds and prepare them for new careers as sport horses. The
focus of this training note is on equine chiropractic care.
How do I know if my horse needs chiropractic care?
Most Off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) need some chiropractic
care. Their hips are slammed from behind in the starting gate,
their heads are twisted sideways by the pony horse or on the hot
walker. They are strong animals - they resist and pull muscles.
Just as we humans can benefit from good chiropractic care, followed
by stretching exercises to help us stay aligned, so do horses.
Horses shows positive results much more quickly as their spinal
column is not compressed like a human's. They become more relaxed
and happy when they are not afraid of pain when being ridden.
Signs of needing an adjustment
Watch your horse being lead away from you.
Do the hip
bones come up evenly on each side of the spine as the
horse walks or does one hip bone come up more than another?
Watch the tail. It should swing and flow from side to side
not be cocked to one side.
Roll over the image to
the tail flowing.
Watch the top of the tail it should move like a sideways the infinity
sign with both sides being equal. If one side moves in a larger
circle that is a sign that a hip is out of adjustment.
Trot your horse on a lunge line. Does one rear foot take a shorter
step than the other? It may be very subtle.
Does the horse not want to put weight on one of the rear legs
as you are lunging in one direction or another?
Does your horse drag a hind leg in the trot?
It will look
like a stifle problem.
Does your horse struggles to do smooth downward
transitions – canter
to trot, trot to walk?
Does your horse buck when you ride him? I am not talking about
a head down between the legs - get off me rodeo buck. Does he buck
up like a hop with both legs and then kick out to the side with
one of the legs? This is classic of a horse whose hips are locked
in extension. The muscles right behind the saddle become sore and
can be painful. Imagine the horse has a sore back and the rider
chooses to do a sitting trot! Ouch! - Buck, butt scoot.
When asked to canter is the horse switching leads in the back?
Does your horse suddenly scoot his butt under him and bolt? This
could be a sign of a pinched nerve.
Does your horse move unevenly showing possible lameness issues?
Not all lameness issues can be solved by chiropractic but many
are. If the lameness is related to a horse being out of
alignment then an adjustment will show immediate improvement. When
a hip or leg can not move freely as it should, other muscles are
pulled and become sore. The horse then starts favoring his sore
muscle. This leads to more problems in other body parts and sometimes
It is important for you to evaluate your horse's movement before speaking
with your vet. Watch the video below to see classic signs of
a horse out of alignment.
Many vets first suggestion is to lay up
the horse because he is lame and needs rest. This is not
a good idea if it is an alignment problem causing the lameness.
That is why we do not suggest you put your newly purchased OTTB
out to pasture. They will be sore when they come off-the-track.
You need to work through the soreness and correct it with either
veterinary care, chiropractic care or other alternative methods
of treating soreness such as: acupuncture, lasers or magnets.
You need to understand why the horse is not moving well and
if it is an injury such as a strained tendon, then rest is
the best option.
It is obvious to most of us when a horse is
not right - the hard part is finding out where he is hurting
and determining, with your vet and chiropractor, which is
the best solution.
Video of horses showing signs of needing chiropractic adjustment
Here is a video of a horse that is out in the back. He shows all
the classic signs. His buck is not a "get off me" buck
but rather one where he is trying to stretch out the soreness
by kicking out sideways. As soon as his head is raised he starts
tail switching. The head being raised puts increased pressure on
the back. Raise your head and feel it in your own back. Now image
your back is sore and you have a rider bouncing on it. OUCH! Notice
that the horse is cross firing when he picks up the canter and
he bucks to get the front and rear legs on the same lead. He did
not want to load the sore side so he used the other rear leg to
get his balance and pick up the canter. Later when he is trotting
you can see his stride is shorter on the left side. The owner of
this video later comments that the horse had a muscle issue. The
owner tried chiropractors but had no luck. Not all chiropractors
know what they are doing. It is best to get referrals. It was a
muscle issue and it was resolved by releasing the soreness.
we tried chiro (3 times) equine touch...form of massage...nothing
worked....we then had a final chance at a lady called lesley who
does Equine Muscle Release Therapy, she did 3 and a half sessions
and he's come on leaps and bounds (see my other more recent videos
including a win at XC compeition)"
Click on the image above to watch a video found on YouTube
to see some of these bucking issues which were resolved by chiropractic/massage
therapy and good training methods. UPDATE: This video has been
made Private by its creator.
The horses in the first part of the video are exhibiting classic
signs of being out of alignment: bucking with both legs hopping
together or kicking out to one side with one leg and butt scooting
because the nerves on the back are being pinched. These are not
like the rodeo bucks of a horse that is trying to get rid of the
rider. Getting a chiropractor to work on them and then exercising
them to hold the adjustment is a quick way to help a horse that
is bucking like these horses. The trainer in this video is a good
rider and may have exercised the horses properly to help them align
Exercises to help hold a horse's chiropractic adjustment
At Bits & Bytes Farm each horse is evaluated on a monthly basis
to see if chiropractic care is needed. After each adjustment the
horses are lunged for a few days (or weeks if necessary) to help
strengthen the muscles to hold the adjustment.
We also do poll stretches, neck stretches, butt tucks and cross
under exercises. Click here for a description of the exercises
that you can start doing with your horse today to help keep him
We do these exercises with each horse before he is ridden. We
pay close attention to how they are moving when we are riding them
and we watch each other's horses for signs that another adjustment
may be needed.
Many vets first suggestion is to lay up the horse
because he is lame and needs rest. This is not a good idea
if it is an alignment problem causing the lameness.
We have spoken with many people who purchased OTTBs who did not
believe in chiropractic. They used it as a last ditch effort to
solve a lameness issue - It worked!
We have many Success
Stories that will tell of the results of getting
a horse adjusted. Be nice to your horse and have a vet and a
chiropractor check him out. This article is not to be used as
a replacement to professional veterinary care. Always consult
with your veterinarian if your horse is not doing well.
At Bits & Bytes Farm each horse
evaluated to see if chiropractic care is needed.
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