It’s All About Performance!

Chiropractic care for your horses is all about performance. It’s different than veterinary medicine! What does that mean? Veterinary medicine is intended to help cure or heal your animals when they become sick or injured. If your horse has an injured tendon, broken bone, colic, cysts, dehydration, etc. then please don’t bring your horse to a chiropractor! They need to see the expert, which is the veterinarian. However, if you have a performance animal, and you want to get the absolute best performance out of them, then call the chiropractor!

Chiropractic care was never intended to be used as a way of treating symptoms. Yes, I know many people go to the chiropractor because they have headaches, neck pain, back pain, etc. But that’s not what it was intended to be used for. Chiropractic simply stated, allows the body to function at its best, regardless what the “best” is for that particular body. For performance horses, what we are trying to do is squeeze that little bit extra out of the toothpaste tube. For barrel racers, an adjustment prior to a race, may mean getting that extra 3 tenths of a second off your time. For a pleasure horse, it may mean getting that little bit of extra flexion out of a fetlock to allow for full extension of a leg. For a reiner, it may mean getting that slightly quicker spin, or cleaner stop. For trained riders, that little bit makes a huge difference! Not only for the performance of the horse, but also for the confidence of the rider.

Training and performing is tough on the horses body. You never know how they might be compensating, but you can be sure that they are! These compensations are not meant to improve function, but rather, to help insure survival. Remember, to you, your horse is a pet, an athlete, a fun trail ride on a nice day. But to mother nature, at their core, they are prey animals. This means that their neurology is built for survival, fight or flight. Stated simply, at their core, they are just trying to stay alive.

How does this affect their performance? The horses’s pole (the base of the skull, and its articulation with the first vertebrae in the neck) allows the horse to flex and extend his head. That is to move his head as if he is nodding, “yes”. It also allows the horse to initiate a turn to the right or the left, by sharply turning its head to the left or right, as in bringing its left ear towards its left shoulder. If I was a horse in the wild, and as a result of a misalignment of my pole, my head was tilted to the left (left eye down closer to the ground than the right) that would affect my visual perception. This means that I couldn’t see around both sides of my body equally, and therefore couldn’t detect a potential threat as well as I would be able to otherwise. So what happens? The amazing wisdom of the brain causes another area of the body to compensate. Head tilt to the left, then the muscles on the right side of the withers will contract. This compensation results in the head dropping on the right side, to become level. But now that the muscles are tight on the right side of the withers, right side turns will be poor. Will you notice this compensation occurring by looking at your horse? Most likely you won’t. But you will notice problems going to the right, all of the sudden.

The way I look at horses is down to the nature of the animal, which is, “don’t die”. That’s why they spook at the smallest of things, such a waving banner, a grocery bag, or a neon flower. No doubt you know what I mean… So when they have a physical issue that will decrease their chances for survival, the brain immediately creates physical compensations. These compensations, though improving their chances for survival, are decreasing their performance. And it’s these compensations that we finally see as symptoms. We won’t see the head tilt, because that’s being compensated for in the withers. What we will see, is sudden soreness in the withers, poor movement in the shoulders, lead change problems, short-striding, etc. The sore withers leads you to start thinking that it’s a bad-fitting saddle, or the saddle pad, and down the rabbit hole you go!

However, what if the horse had just been receiving regular chiropractic adjustments? Could the sore withers have been prevented? Absolutely! No misalignment in the pole, means no sore muscles in the withers, equals none of the previously mentioned symptoms. This example is just one of many many compensatory patterns that horses exhibit! It’s why horses that are adjusted regularly perform better, and it’s why you should consider having your horses adjusted even before something feels off. Chiropractic care is all about optimizing performance, and not about treating symptoms! So consider getting your horses under regular chiropractic care, and let’s get them performing at their best!

Contact Sport Horse Chiropractic today, and we’ll see you in the Winner’s Circle!

I hope that you have enjoyed this article! 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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