True Equestrian: Horses need chiropractic care too

Photo by Lauren Mueller – Dr. DeBenedetto-Iared checks Chester’s flexibility. 

By Lauren Mueller, Reporter

Going to the chiropractor is a normal practice for some people. But taking your horse to the chiropractor is not something many people think about.

This is unfortunate, because according to Dr. Alyx DeBenedetto-Iared, who has been practicing equine chiropractic since 2009, there is a need in the horse community for such practices to be adopted.

“The goal is to keep them [the horses] out of pain,” DeBenedetto-Iared said.

Chiropractic work can be done on horses of all ages, from newborn to geriatric. Debenedetto-Iared said she has worked on everything from newborn foals that cannot nurse properly to retired jumpers who are now able to compete again, and everything in between.

Horses can need chiropractic adjustment for many reasons, some of which are the same as why humans would need it. These reasons include trauma, birth and age. Other reasons for horses include saddle fit, confinement and performance.

Horses that are particularly irritable when being groomed or saddled, who exhibit changes in behavior, or who show a reduced performance may be in need of a chiropractic adjustment. These signs can all indicate that one or more of their vertebrae are out of alignment and causing the horse pain.

Only a rider knows their horse well enough to determine if the horse is behaving unusually, however, and each horse has different needs and pain tolerance levels.

On the side of the rider, there is also the consideration of how horses compensate when being ridden. DeBenedetto-Iared cautions that riders who are out-of-alignment may impact their horse’s alignment. And the process goes both ways.

It ties in to how horses and riders communicate with body language through the saddle. If a rider is unable to drop their hip to ask for a proper lead, for example, the horse might refuse the lead or might pick it up and be uncomfortable because the rider is unable to sit properly in the saddle. In reverse, a horse that is out of alignment may move in an odd way and create discomfort for the rider. Both scenarios can lead to both horse and rider getting out of alignment and needing the help of a chiropractor.

Every horse is different and may react differently to being adjusted. For this reason, DeBenedetto-Iared works with veterinarians in the area to aid those horses that are too agitated or in too much pain to be adjusted without the help of a sedative.

Chiropractic treatment is for any horse and is used for many reasons as an alternative to expensive medical treatments and injuries. It may not be for every horse, but it is not for every human either. As with anything, the use of chiropractic treatments for an equine partner should be considered carefully, as should the chiropractor one would choose to take their horse to.

Chiropractors must be licensed to practice with either an American or International license. To become a chiropractor for horses, one must attend four years of chiropractic school to be able to practice on humans. An additional five months is required before one is able to practice on animals, and a license must be obtained with either the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.

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