almost all professional trainers and almost all top level horses get regular chiro care
I'd require some convincing there. I only know a very small handful of what I guess you'd call "top" trainers who have only a handful of "top" horses, and only a few trainers use chiro on a few horses, and IM(limited)E only as required. I'm willing to stipulate that my sample size is quite small, however! I have a lot more experience with human athletes and very definitely have observed that the use of chiropractic seems linearly related to income and level of self-absorption. If it's available and affordable, athletes often take advantage of it. But (again IME) this does not correlate very well with competitive success.
"Everyone's doing it" has never been much of a compelling reason for me to do stuff, I guess.
I agree, that everyones doing it should not be the reason to do it. But, that is where people that ride professionally can really feel the difference. Also, if you followed a good equine chiropractor around for a day you would not only feel the difference in certain joints of the horse, you would also be able to see how much more symmetrical horses walk off after a treatment. The big thing in chiro is finding a vet that is really good at at.
My horse gets seen probably every two months or so at this point. He has on going issues though, including a dropped hip that you can now barely see!! I know what chiropractic has done for myself in the past so I'm a total believer. I LOVE the chiropractor/vet we use. She's very much a minimalist and does not do things she doesn't think are necessary.
I am a huge believer in chiro, both for horses and humans.
I had chiro make me right as rain after 9 months of PT. I go when I need it.
My mare was done earlier in the summer and could use it again. The only "symptom" is that she gets a touch heavy on the right rein. When I had her done last time she was much lighter to ride - even my trainer noticed, not that there was anything "wrong" prior to the adjustment.
My chiro is also a vet and combines acupuncture as well. When she did my mare she said she wouldn't be seeing me for 6 months or so. My gelding she said would need done in about a month - and she was right. But he was fresh off the track and had some issues.
Just because you can't feel something wrong doesn't mean there isn't anything wrong. Almost all horses can certainly benefit from chiro treatments. It would be pretty rare if a good vet chiropractor doesn't find multiple things wrong with your horse. If the horse is very stoic they just may not show pain when indeed they are. This is very typical for many quarter horses. All my horses get chiro twice a year, even the ones that I don't ride. When a fixation is left for too long it can cause long term issues.
Conversely if you don't find anything wrong it might well mean that nothing is wrong!!!
The idea that "all horses need treatment for something" is a pretty big stretch. I'd rather do a SOAP analysis then make a treatment decision. That seems to me to be way smarter both in terms of dollars and risk to the horse.
IME, there are *more* skilled and effective practitioners and *less* skilled and effective practitioners of chiropractic (both equine and human), and this will determine how much benefit you and/or Dobbin get. IOW, "YMMV."
I have always used (and recommended) a highly respected vet who combines chiro and acupuncture, he always does the acupuncture first. His treatments have been noticeably helpful to my horses, whose backs feel better and who are subsequently softer and more comfortable U/S after treatment (so no "placebo effect" , and he never recommends that you have him treat the horse "on a regular basis" (unless there is a specific reason, like treatment for an acute injury), instead it's always "as needed." I believe that it's MOSTLY the acupuncture at work, here, and I am of the opinion that this is as much an art as it is a science.
I have seen other vets do acupuncture--and once had another vet do it on the same horse who is usually treated by the aforementioned vet--only to find little or NO discernable difference (or improvement) in the horse afterward.
A *big* waste of money in those cases!
The one time I had another practitioner do acupuncture (and a little chiro) on my sensitive mare, she was clearly irritated by and during the treatment , whereas with my usual guy, she melts into a pile of goo the instant he lays a hand on her, then stands like a rock, ground-tied, throughout the treatment. VERY telling
My own chiro helps me with my myriad and chronic back issues, no question--BUT they have quite the "money-making operation" going on there. If it were up to them, I would be going in every two weeks for the rest of my life, and they call and "nag", repeatedly, when I haven't been in for awhile. I would love to go bi-weekly (and the spinal decompression machine is hugely helpful, though NOT covered by insurance!), but funds are limited--so I go on an "as needed basis". And I DO wish they would get off my back (HA, figuratively speaking...)
Chiropractic can be a bit of a "cult" thing, claiming to be able to cure everything that ails a carbon-based organism, which I find QUITE exasperating. That said, it does have its place in maintaining a healthy back for those of us with issues.
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
"It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")
My horse sees his vet/chiro regularly. He has yet to figure out that if he stops only using the right side of his mouth to chew, his left side won't get sharp, his jaw won't get sore, he won't have to lock his poll to avoid the soreness in his jaw, he won't get a stiff neck from a stiff poll, and his back won't hurt because of his stiff neck. Since I don't guess he'll figure that out anytime soon, he gets unlocked on a regular basis. He's a pest about having it done at first because why would he want to bend his neck a way it doesn't want to go? He's not stupid. But he is such a happy horse after he's adjusted and he goes a lot better.
Incidentally, I recently had another set of MRI's and x-rays done on my own back. I have two herniated discs and one of the spine processes was impinging on a nerve (I think.) In comparison to the x-rays from last year, there is more space between vertebrae than there was, and the process is no longer sitting on a nerve. Only thing different I've done treatment-wise in the last year was to see a chiropractor. Mind you, I don't think the manual adjustment did as much as the traction table, and of course there's plenty that could have affected it, but it's still something to think about.
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden
I have had very mixed success with chiro -- both equine and human.
For myself, I had a chiropractor (two different ones) address a pinched nerve in my neck. This was a recurring problem. The chiro treatment would fix it for awhile . . . and then it would come back. I would have a muscle spasm and I'd be back to square one. They wanted me there twice a week and then weekly!
Finally I started seeing a massage therapist who did very deep muscle massage. After a massage I felt good for at least a month and finally the problem went away. I also find the massage far more enjoyable. My conclusion was that it was impossible to hold an adjustment when the muscles were so tight that they wanted to snap back to how it was before. You have to relax the muscles to have any kind of lasting effect.
I've had my horses worked on occasionally. The first time was an unmitigated disaster. The woman who worked on my horse was both a chiro and a vet. I won't go into the details but my vet (very well respected) was appalled by what she said/tried to do given that she had never seen my horse before, had never seen any of his medical records or films.
Subsequently I had two other chiros work on horses. One of them helped my horse after he was kicked and felt crooked. That took two visits. The other didn't help my horse but didn't hurt him. Another horse in the barn who was adjusted was seriously lame after it.
My saddle fitter also does body work. Based on my observations of both massage therapists and chiropractors, he does a bit of both. He has shown me some great stretches and I always show him how I'm massaging my horses so that he can evaluate my technique. He will occasionally make an adjustment on one of the horses in the barn. I have always been able to see a difference in how the horse moves after that. Often he does this work as part of the saddle fitting process and many times he won't even charge for the minor adjustments.
I think that much of the time when there is a problem it's more important to find the cause rather than treat the symptoms. Case in point: someone I know just had a chiropractor work on her horse because she felt a bit stiff and a bit off. She had 7 treatments done at a cost of $70/session. The practitioner used a VOM and each session lasted about 15 minutes. My friend felt the horse moved better and was more comfortable -- she was very pleased with the results.
Last week the saddle fitter came. He said that her jumping saddle didn't fit well and was rocking on the mare's back. We just finished hunt season and the horse was out galloping twice a week in the jumping saddle for several hours. The saddle adjustment cost $75 and he also released some tension spots in the mare's back and hamstrings using massage techniques.
Interestingly, when my friend rode her horse after the chiro adjustments, she always rode in her dressage saddle (which fit). So -- what fixed the problem? $450 in adjustments? or riding in a saddle that fit? The mare isn't talking!
I won't go as far as saying that chiropractic doesn't work because I think that sometimes it does. I do feel though that people turn to it to solve many problems that might well be fixed in other ways (maybe better ways) simply because it's trendy. And sometimes I think that people want to see an improvement in their horse so they do.
my horse receives "regular" chiropractic care - once every 4 or so months (a month or so before competition season, once in between two large events that are back to back weekends, and once in the winter. Not only do I see improvement my chiro is huge on building muscle and doing other PT therapies (back lifts, butt tucks, kinesio tape, stretches, etc etc). It is really great to have someone point out exactly where shes tight (poll, right side of back, etc) to help me figure out what I can change in my own riding.
I do chiro as needed on my Arab. It isn't terribly often. He's young, fit and has nice conformation. However, he is a young, idiot Arab who does silly things in the field and occasionally manages to do things like get the vertebra over his withers pointing left, right, left, right and his sacroiliac doing weird things which lead to a whole lot of uncharacteristic bucking and cross cantering on the hunt field the other day. After the chiro? Back do his normal self. He'll need to be seen again in a month to make sure everything stayed put, but likely he won't see her again after that for 6mo to a year when he does something else weird.
My friend's OTQH gets seen a little more often than my guy, but he's twice the age and has been used HARD his whole life - raced on the track, then barrel raced until he was 12. Now he's relearning life as an English horse and learning how to do things like use himself properly, but there are a lot of old things that are getting fixed both with chiro and proper work.