Originally founded around 1986, the American Veterinary Chiropraction Assocation (AVCA) has been bringing Equine Chiropractic services to the forefront. It has been a long fought battle to prove the importance and relevancy of animal chiropractic services to the point it is today. At the Equine Aqua Spa Center, we are blessed to have Dr. Kelsey Howard, DC CAc, as part of our every growing and outstanding team! Her dedication to her craft is one of the many reasons so many of her clients return to her on a regular basis to work with her, in conjunction with their veterinarian, to keep their equine athletes feeling and performing their best. We sat down with “K Doc” and had an informative Q & A session with her. Read on to learn more!
What first got you interested in Chiropractic Services?
I had a personal experience with Chiropractic. I broke my back when a mare flipped over on me and Chiropractic helped me regain my strength, reduced my pain, and sped up the healing of my spine. I had a hard time standing up straight where my fracture was. Chiropractic was delivered to other compensating areas of my body while I healed and I was able to start standing up straight again. I checked into becoming a chiropractor during my senior year of undergraduate studies to become a veterinarian. When I realized Chiropractic could be part of my curriculum for animals, I had to switch majors immediately and never looked back.
Why is chiropractic so important to these equine athletes?
The nervous system is the center of our body and how it functions. A proper functioning nervous system gives us the ability to move correctly, breathe effectively, fight infections and maintain our immune system, digest foods properly, and heal our bodies when injured. Its the life of our body and how we operate. The spine and skull is the house to the nervous system components, our spinal cord, brain, etc. We want to keep those structures sound, strong, and moving correctly. A house with a poor foundation and no maintenance will crumble, as is, a spine without good muscle tone and proper care will endure deterioration. This can and will lead to dysfunction and pain. You would go see the dentist to keep your teeth clean and healthy, just like you would go to see the chiropractor to keep your spine healthy and functioning properly. This is also true for animals. The spine and skull house their nervous system components and must be maintained along with the associated soft tissue, such as, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
What common problems could a horse be having that chiropractic can treat or benefit?
Musculoskeletal pain is the number one problem, sore back, sore neck, poor range of motion, nerve dysfunction or pain, lameness linked to the back and poor organ function. Gastrointestinal health is high on the list too. Our splenic nerves from the midback of the horse where we ride and sit the horse can often be affected causing poor digestion and ulceritic conditions. Horses can also improper movement of the skull with the first bone (atlas) and can create inflammation, leading to headaches, poor focus, TMJ pain, and a bad attitude with the head/face. There is a long list of issues that Chiropractic can help because we focus on the health of the nervous system which is central to so many functions of the body.
Are there particular issues that CANNOT be worked on?
There a few issues high on the list that I chose to avoid working on, sometimes I may work around them and collaborate with a veterinarian in some severe cases. A horse with severe back pain with associated muscle spasms should not receive chiropractic right away. You could strain the already spasmed muscle and make them worse. The soft tissue must be treated prior and heal first, usually massage therapy, acupuncture, and/or pain meds can be prescribed by the attending veterinarian. I also avoid working directly over kissing spine, facet syndrome, and/or fractures. These are just a few of contraindications I see routinely. I also get a thorough history and careful examination prior to adjusting a horse.
Why is it so important to find Licensed Chiropractor to work on your animals?
Chiropractic can help keep your horse healthy and feeling good to perform at their best. A licensed chiropractor will have the knowledge and education to perform a proper examination and deliver a safe and effective adjustment. Licensing is done by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and entails a course of studies and board exams for the already educated Doctor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The spine is so important and should be treated as such. You wouldn't go to a dentist or cardiologist if they weren't licensed. Chiropractic should be the same way. Please check credentials, just because someone is a doctor does not mean they have taken the extra course to adjust animals. It is an effective profession and it helps many animals when it is respected and used by the proper licensed individuals.
There are multiple signs that our horses show us, indicating that a trip to see someone like Dr. Kelsey might be beneficial. Poor attitude or performance, a decreased topline, or even becoming fatigued may be signs that something is off. If your normally solid and consistent barrel horse used to be at the top of his game running to the right, and suddenly he refuses to turn, gets a bad attitude or doesn't hit the pocket like usual, chiropractic issues may actually be to blame. Partnering with your veterinarian and a licensed equine chiropractor will help both you and your horse target these issues and not only find a way to treat them, but hopefully prevent their re-occurrence.
You also don't have to wait until a problem arises to take your horse to see a specialist like this either. Just like a person, routine care is key in preventing issues BEFORE they arise. Each individual horse will vary on how often they should get chiropractic adjustments. According to Dr Kelsey, this is a great discussion to have with your practitioner, in order to find the best program. Depending on the horse's job, their history of injuries, and even their genetics, they may need to been every 2 months, or just once a year.
We expect so much out of our horses on a daily basis, so it is so important that we do our part, as owners, to ensure that they have every possible chance to succeed and feel great doing it! If you would like to learn more about how chiropractic could be beneficial, or to set up an appointment for your horse (and yourself!) give us a call at 940-665-1940, we are here to help! #onehorseonerideronefacility