Is Cause and Effect, Really That Important?

When something goes wrong, we always want to know why. In a mechanistic model, think a machine such as a car, your bike, or your air conditioner, it’s easy to figure out the why. Why did my fan belt snap in my car? Well, because it was old, your car has 2 million miles on it, and it was never changed out when it should have been. Why did my bike get a flat tire? Because you ran over a nail (see, there is a nail in it right there). Why did my air conditioner stop blowing cold air? Because your thermostat is broken. Then the repairman shows you the bad thermostat. It’s very simple in these types of systems to show, and often prove, cause and effect. It’s human nature to want to know the reason something happened, so that that we can prevent it from happening again down the road. So it makes perfect sense for people to often ask why their horse has a “twisted pelvis”, or why it all of a sudden stopped taking a left lead.

When I adjust an area of a horse’s body, people will often ask what happened to make that area need to be adjusted. When I am asked, I often refer to it as the million-dollar question. In reality, there are a million potential causes for something to need attention in the body. Hocks get sore, even when x-rays are clean. Low backs get sore, even when there has been no trauma. We put horses on regular injection schedules, even though we have no idea why they are sore in those areas to begin with. If you ask why these areas are sore, you’ll receive such responses as: “Because he’s a show horse,” or “Because he’s getting old,” or “It’s normal”, and on and on. Why such vague answers? Because sometimes, there is just no way of telling why pain, or motion limitations occur.

We cannot look at a living being, and apply mechanical concepts to it. At least not in every situation. Sure, in cases such as trauma, we can certainly do that. You sprain your ankle, get an MRI, and see that you tore some ligaments. Okay, you know what you have to fix. You fall and break your leg, obvious fix there. You step in a sprinkler hole playing soccer and twist your knee. MRI reveals a torn ACL. We know what we need to do there also. In each of these situations, we know why it occurred, and what we need to do to fix it. But in cases where there is no trauma, it’s often impossible to answer the “why”. In my human practice, when people tell me that they have a sore low back, but there wasn’t signs of trauma, I can ask them what happened, and many times, determine the cause. But when we take similar situations and apply them to animals, the lack of verbal communication between animal and doctor makes it very difficult to determine the cause.

Do they have back pain, hip pain or neck pain for no apparent reason? As practitioners, we can’t ask them if they tripped in the pasture, got kicked by another horse, slammed their head in the trailer or strained a muscle while rolling in the dirt, like we could if they were people. All we can really do, is determine where the pain or motion limitation is coming from, and correct it the best we can, being satisfied that we just don’t know what caused it. We have to surrender to the fact that the “why” will just not be answered in the majority of cases. I can guess, but what good does that do you? What I would rather do, is be up front with you, tell you I don’t know what caused it, and then tell you what I found, what I did to correct it, and what you can do at the barn to help prevent it from recurring. Again, we are talking about non-trauma related pain. Trauma would be such things as a fall, a trip, a flip-over, getting a leg stuck in a fence, getting casted, etc. But these would all be things that you would have had to witness. As a practitioner, there is a lot of freedom that comes with acknowledging this. But at the same time, you are still dealing with clients that want the question answered. This is understandable, but would be less of an issue if more people understood the reality of the situation.

Unless there was a traumatic event that caused the issue, sometimes the best mindset to have is to say, “I don’t care what caused it, I just want it fixed.” Which is what you really want, isn’t it? You want your horse feeling better so that you can go have a nice ride, and maybe win a buckle. As a practitioner, that’s what I want for you also. I want your horse, after an adjustment, to feel the best it has ever felt under saddle. I want it to feel so good, that the way you can tell he/she needs another adjustment, is not because you notice pain, but because their performance just isn’t quite at the level that it was, following the adjustment.

The way we improve performance is not by continuously applying band-aids every time they are hurting, but by preventing them from hurting in the first place. This is done by maintenance-based care, which is having your horses adjusted on a regular schedule.

Let’s ensure proper position of the joints, proper tension in the muscles, and proper range of motion BEFORE a problem develops. This will lead to more ease in the system, more fluidity of motion, and less pain and breakdown. Most importantly, it will ensure that your horse feels it’s best and therefore, will perform at its optimum level! This is the goal of chiropractic care.

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

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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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