Chiropractics/Acupuncture and Saddle fits Oh My!

You may or may not know that Dr. Sergent offers chiropractics, acupuncture and saddle fitting, but how do you know it that is what your horse needs?  This is not always an easy question to answer.  There are many symptoms that may lead you to alternative medicine, especially if traditional treatments have failed. 

These symptoms may include:

A.)    behavioral issues, i.e. bucking, rearing, resisting aids, refusing jumps

B.)     movement issues, i.e. poor transitions, poor movement in one direction, stiffness, difficulty with the canter

Chiropractics are beneficial when there is an increase or decrease in the range of motion of a vertebral complex or joint.  The change in the range of motion influences the nerve endings in that particular joint as well as nerve impulses to the surrounding muscles and organs.  When a horse is adjusted for the first time, there may be muscle contractures or stretching around the abnormal joint/vertebral complex.  During the first adjustment, the horse may experience some mild discomfort.  This discomfort is usually followed by relaxation, chewing, dropping of the head, heavy breathing and closing of the eyes.  The length of time the problem has been present determines the number of treatments necessary, and often the success of therapy.

One of the most important things to remember in choosing to use a chiropractor for your horse is to use either a veterinarian, who is a certified chiropractor, or use a certified chiropractor with a veterinarianís involvement.  It is actually illegal for a chiropractor with out a veterinary license to adjust your horse without direct (on premises) supervision of a veterinarian in California.  This is to protect your horse and you.  Often I get called out for a chiropractic evaluation and it turns into a lameness issue. A human or lay Chiropractor does not have the years of animal anatomy, neurology and experience required to identify an issue that is a lameness.  I have found that it only makes sense to adjust a horse if I have taken care of underlying problems first.  These problems may include behavioral issues, foot balance, lameness, neurological issues, conformation as it relates to type of riding (suitability of horse), and girth/back pain related to saddle fit.

Saddle fit seems to be an area where many horses and owners can benefit from some expert advice. Teaching what to look for in a new saddle as well as evaluating your current saddle is included in the saddle fit service provided by Dr. Sergent.

Again, additional training and knowledge of anatomy is important. 


                Acupuncture again requires thorough knowledge of equine anatomy, physiology and neurology.  Acupuncture must be performed by a veterinarian trained in acupuncture.  Someone who is not a veterinarian may perform acupuncture only under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  Acupuncture is performed with acupuncture needles, which are much finer then what we use in everyday shots.   The needles are placed into acupoints, which are real anatomical sites.  Acupoints, microscopically, are structures  with fine nerve endings and blood vessels that have been shown to have lower resistance than other parts of the body.  Stimulation of these sites affect neurologic blood flow which affect numerous structures in the body for example muscles and organs.  A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in July of 2005 on electroacupuncture? for thoraco-lumbar pain showed that three sessions of acupuncture can alleviate pain in the thoraco-lumbar region for two weeks where bute and saline (controls) could not.  In acupuncture, the needle is left in place for 20-30 minutes during which time most animals exhibit the same signs of relaxation mentioned with chiropractic treatment.  On occasion, a horse may become irritated by the placement of the needle, this is rare however.

                The end goal of Chiropractic and acupuncture therapy is to normalize body function to allow the animalís body to heal itself. Why not treat your horse to a day at the spa?