As you may know, I’ve been a veterinarian for nearly 24 years. I’ve owned and ridden horses since 4th grade, when my parents sold our house in the subdivision to move to acreage where I could have a horse.
I’ve been a horse crazy girl my entire life. I’m so thankful for them. They keep me sane, teach me patience, and partner with me for a ride.
I began looking into animal chiropractic work when I discovered horses that I couldn’t diagnose or treat with conventional veterinary medicine. I have always had a human chiropractor, and I am so grateful for that sweet man who could fix my migraines with a simple neck adjustment.
I knew that chiropractic was real and helpful and the thought of transferring that into the veterinary world made me happy.
As a veterinarian who has adjusted a multitude of horses, I want to share some things with you that I have seen.
The most important thing is to LISTEN to your horse.
I adjust horses that are muscle sore, and they immediately relax and ride better.
I adjust horses that have necks that don’t bend well, and after the adjustment I watch them stretch their nose to their hip.
I adjust nervous horses who can’t relax under saddle. After the adjustment, they are quieter and more willing to please.
When you have a horse that suddenly does something out of character for that horse, you need to investigate.
Horses can have bad feet, causing them pain.
Horses can have muscle injuries that go unnoticed by owners and trainers. This causes them to act or feel different. Get that checked out.
Horses can have rib pain, preventing them from picking up their rib cage and collecting themselves.
Now how does a horse tell you that something hurts?
They can’t speak with their voices, but they do communicate with their bodies.
Anytime a horse is “off” or “different” – investigate.
Good horses are people pleasers. They want to do what will make you happy. They want to get a pressure release to know they are doing the right thing.
Horses don’t just blow up without reason. They don’t kick or bite or rear or run up the fence for no reason. They simply have no other way to communicate discomfort.
I was listening to my audio Bible last week when this passage came up from the book of Numbers.
To set the story, Balaam was riding his trusted, loyal donkey. The donkey kept “spooking” because an angel was there with a sword.
The poor donkey was caught in a bad spot. He knew there was danger but could not physically tell his rider. The only thing he could do was try to leave the situation. Finally God give the donkey the power of speech to explain himself.
“The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.””
Numbers 22:30-33 NIV
Now this hit me hard because it’s exactly what people tend to do with their horses. When a horse develops a new habit, it is very likely due to pain.
It is our job as their owners, veterinarians, trainers, nutritionists, farriers, and trusted humans to figure out why. It is never ok to just assume they are misbehaving.
Utilize your veterinary care team.
Keep your body in good physical shape and your mind abreast of the best training techniques.
Horses can’t be forced to do something they are unable to do. If they have a problem, it’s our job to find it and correct it.
Enjoy your equine companions!