Mythbuster Monday: Chiropractic Work on Young Horses

We’re excited to introduce a new series for 2022: Mythbuster Monday! Every other week, Marcella Gruchalak will tackle a variety of equestrian myths and either bust or confirm them. Today’s myth: chiropractic work on young horses.

Welcome to Myth Buster Monday, where Horse Nation will be diving into different equestrian myths and providing research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: chiropractic care in young horses. Is it harmful for young horses to have their bones and joints manipulated while growing? Read further to find out!

Myth:  Young horses (five and under) shouldn’t be getting chiropractic work because it interferes with the growing and developing of bone structure.

Myth or Fact: Myth

Chiropractic work is the manual manipulation of the musculoskeletal system to optimize function. On different occasions we have heard that manipulating the musculoskeletal system of a growing horse may stunt growth or disrupt the maturing process of the bones.

Over the past 20 years chiropractic treatment has gone from an unusual alternative therapy to a common option to relieve and heal different issues. Many thought it was taboo, but now many in the horse society are utilizing the practice and reaping its benefits. While implementation has been growing, professionals have been able to distinguish the benefits.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak.

According to an article by Amy Young with UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, when the normal range of motion of a joint is inhibited, swelling and pressure surrounds the nerves and soft tissue. When this happens the nerves can not give effective communication to the rest of the body. With chiropractic adjustment, swelling and pressure is diminished and the ability for the brain to communicate with the rest of the body improves overall health. For young horses, the ability for the brain to effectively communicate with a growing body is crucial.

Some of the reasons horse owners seek out chiropractic work for their young horses are stiffness, pain, changes in posture or topline, difficulty bending to one side or the other, reluctance to pick up a lead, difficulty engaging the hindquarters, holding the tail abnormally, difficulty chewing, uneven muscle development, uneven growth of the pelvis and hips and muscle atrophy.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

An article by ThinLine discusses the horse’s early years and how young horses maneuver recklessly, sometimes without knowing where they’re placing their bodies. This causes strain on young joints and bones.

Chiropractic care aids in placing these joints and bones back into alignment. It also aids in correcting issues during growth such as a roached back or body asymmetry.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

In a piece in Equine Wellness, Dr. William Ormstom states that individuals often think he is cracking jokes when he says a foal should receive chiropractic care nine months before conception. But he states that foals will develop greater if the mare is getting chiropractic work throughout her pregnancy.

If a mare’s nervous system is functioning to its highest capacity, the foal will have better development. It will also receive finer nutrition and have accelerated immune function. This will aid the foal once born as he will have more mobility and will be strong enough to nurse.

Once foaled, Dr. William Ormstom will review the foal for behavior issues and nursing issues and will adjust the foal accordingly. For example, if the foal is only nursing from one side, he would know that the foal couldn’t maneuver in one direction to get its head under the mare.

After diving into the research, we have found that chiropractic work, when done well by a professional, can benefit horses of all ages. From conception and through the early years of a horse’s life, positively manipulating the nervous system can relieve an array of issues.

Do you have an equine myth you’d like us to tackle? If so, send it our way! Email your suggestions to [email protected]. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.