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How Long Should My Horse Rest Following an Adjustment?


Talk about a question that receives a lot of different answers… I’ve heard anywhere from 2 hours, to 3 days. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know that I like to be thorough with my explanations. This is for two reasons. First, it’s in my nature to teach and provide people with value and understanding. Second, I want what you want, which is whatever is best for you, and primarily, for your horse. I am aware that depending on who you ask, you will get various opinions, and most of the time, with little to no explanation to back them up.


So let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How long should you wait before you ride or work your horse, following a chiropractic adjustment? First, let’s consider the utopian situation. You’re at home, your horse is at your barn (not at a show), and you have all the time in the world before you have to ride. In this situation, how long should you wait? My answer: wait at least until the following day. Without getting too in the weeds, I want to address the neurology of movement. What is the purpose of the adjustment? It is to restore (not improve) the function of the nervous system. You know, the system that controls absolutely everything in the body? When we think about how we move our bodies, we usually think about the information that is being sent out from the brain to our muscles. We want to drink a glass of water so we reach for the glass and bring it to our mouth. But really, how did you just do that? Well, your brain told the appropriate muscles to contract, and also the opposite muscles to relax. Could you move your biceps if your triceps didn’t relax? No…



So, two thing have to happen simultaneously when we want to move our bodies. Some muscles contract, and other muscles relax. And we think that the brain just tells everything want to do as the master controller. What we don’t typically think about is the information going from the muscles, back to the brain. How can the brain possibly move the joints, via the muscles, if it doesn’t know the position of the joints and muscles to begin with? The information going out from the brain is called “efferent”, or “motor” information, and the information going from the body to the brain is called “afferent”, or “sensory” information.


With chiropractic care, we are affecting the afferent information, which again, is the information going from the body to the brain. Why is this important? Well, think about if you were trying to solve a math problem using a calculator. You wanted to know the answer to a complex mathematical equation such as 1 + 2 = ?. The calculator can only provide you with the correct answer (the efferent information) IF what you put into the calculator (the afferent information) is correct. If you put in 1+3, you won’t get the output you were expecting from the calculator. The output will be correct, based on what you put in, but it’s not the answer that you want. In this case, the calculator is the horse’s brain, and the answer is the information going out from the brain to the muscles the brain is trying to control. Within your horse’s muscles, are something called muscle spindle cells. These cells provide the brain with something called “position sense”. As the muscles relax and lengthen, theses spindle cells relay this information to the brain. And as the muscles contract and shorten, they relay this information as well. These muscle spindle cells are essential to proper movement because all of the muscles that make the joints move are constantly relaying information to the brain. The brain then uses this information to determine the position of the joints. Once it knows the position, it can then send out the correct signals to the muscles to control the joints properly.


During a chiropractic adjustment, the goal is to fire off these muscle spindle cells, so that they send the positional information to the brain. The more muscle spindle cells we fire off, the more information the brain receives about the joint that is being adjusted. We are talking purely about communication from muscle to brain. So through the adjustment, we are reconnecting the brain with the muscles controlling the joints. This is why movement improves post adjustment. This positional information being received by the brain, also causes a release of endorphins, which is why you’ll notice licking of the lips, yawning, and deep breaths during and after the adjustment.


Okay, so what does this all have to do with rest periods after the adjustment? Earlier, I referred to the brain as a master controller, constantly processing all of this positional information, and sending new information back out to the body. During the adjustment, we are flooding the brain with massive amounts of positional information, that the brain does not normally receive. Massive inputs to the joints, causes massive amounts of information to be sent to the brain.


So, after the adjustment, the horse SHOULD have some time to rest and give the brain time to process all of this information. Which is why I suggest at least an overnight of rest.

I say “should” because there are certain situations, at horse shows for example, when an overnight isn’t possible. There have been plenty of times when I have worked on horses at a show, right after they had been dismissed from a class due to lameness. These horses had other classes that same day, so I adjusted them, and they went right back into their next classes and did amazing. However, in most of these cases, the horses still felt even better the next day. So based upon experience, I recommend that the horses be turned out immediately after the adjustment, so they can move, run, buck, roll, etc. All of this movement does two things: 1) it gives the brain even more information about the new positions of the muscles and joints that were just worked on, and 2) the horse needs to know that he/she is now capable of moving in ways that were not possible, or were uncomfortable, prior to the adjustment. They can be left out overnight, or if they are normally stalled overnight, that is fine as well.


So in summary, it’s all about the brain knowing the current position of the joints and muscles, so that it can send out the correct information to provide for proper movement. The adjustment should be followed by turnout time, then an overnight of rest, before being ridden. That next day, you will have a new horse!


I hope that you have enjoyed this post! If you have any questions about this information, or to schedule a chiropractic adjustment for your horse(s), please contact us at 480–490–6655, or email us at sporthorsechiro@gmail.com.


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Thanks for reading!


*This information is intended to be used for information purposes only. Only a trained, certified animal chiropractor or veterinarian should perform chiropractic adjustments on your animals. If your animals are experiencing medical problems, please contact your veterinarian.*

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