Meet Sue Thompson DVM - Dr. Sue is a long time horse trainer, veterinarian and certified in small and large animal chiropractic. She currently practices at The Animal Hospital on the Ridge in Paradise, California.
Since receiving her equine chiropractic certification in 2007 she travels considerable distances providing referral services for fellow veterinarians, and much needed relief to her chiropractic patients.
Dr. Sue’s horse savvy and intimate knowledge of equine anatomy make the perfect combination for someone in the horse chiropractic business. It’s no wonder she’s been such a success!
Dr. Sue, for those of us that are unfamiliar with it, what exactly is equine chiropractic?
Chiropractic treatment of horses and other animals is not that much different than for humans. Difference in structure requires different techniques but the basics are the same.
Chiropractic is a diagnostic and treatment method used to address problems with bio-mechanics (motion) in stuck joints (what we call – subluxation complexes). The technique we use is called an adjustment. This is a small in amplitude (size), high energy, pulse through the working plane of the stuck joint to improve its motion. Traditional chiropractic is done by hand not instruments or tools.
As a horsemen yourself, you know how attached we get to our horses! I can see how some may be reluctant to try something unfamiliar when it comes to horse care. Is it possible for a horse to be injured by an equine chiropractic adjustment?
Chiropractic when used by someone properly trained: including to recognize when it is an appropriate treatment method and when other medical tools or techniques should be used, is very safe for horses.
How long does the average equine chiropractic session take? And do the horses like it?
Treatment time and details will very with each practitioner and patient. My average 1st appointment is about a 45 min to an hour. Subsequent treatments usually take less time, as the patient gets better with fewer adjustments needed. You ask if they like it. They certainly seem too. If not actually like the process they like the results. Many of my patients especially the horses get bossy about their treatments.
What are some of the issues with horses that cause your clients to seek out an equine chiropractic treatment Dr. Sue?
That varies widely but it's everything from the regular vet can't find the source of lameness to behavioral problems to they just are a little off. A common comment is trouble with picking up a lead or they have gotten cinchy. The performance horses just aren’t working up to par. It might be that they are having trouble with saddle fit.
How can the average owner determine if their horse is in need of an equine chiropractic adjustment?
The best way is to have their horse examined by a qualified practitioner but short of that there are a few things to look for:
What are the benefits of using equine chiropractic vs. training or other methods to solve problems with horses?
If your horse has a true lameness that first needs a medical diagnosis. That said if we are looking at a lameness problem, compensating for that injury often causes trouble in other places in the system. (Think about walking with a limp and the stress it puts on your back and other leg)
If a horse has a subluxation complex, a chiropractic problem, stretching or training can increase the risk of injury and only increases imbalance in their muscles. This is detrimental in the long run as it takes longer to retrain and rebalance the system the longer it has been compensating for the stuck joint or joints.
If someone is interested in seeking out an equine chiropractor, what’s the best way to go about finding a qualified practitioner in their area?
There are 2 certifying agencies to check with:
They both have “find a practitioner” functions on their websites. (I’m certified through the I.V.C.A.)
You can also go through one of the 3 recognized schools of animal chiropractic:
These also have ways to find their equine chiropractic students in your area on their website.
We do not yet have a registration system for qualified practitioners through the California Veterinary Medical Board.
I’m sure you have plenty of stories to tell, but would you mind sharing one of your most memorable equine chiropractic cases with us?
One of my favorite stories is about a big warmblood gelding that was being trained as a dressage horse but had been sent back by 3 different trainers as impossible to deal with.
He was a big horse and could be very intimidating and he was very self-protective.
This big horse was traveling in about 4 different directions all at the same time. He was a twisted mess. It took some patience and convincing to get him to let me work on him; but once he decided he could trust me, he started to help me.
He would position himself for the next adjustment and stood rock still instead of dancing around. When I was done, he put his head down on my shoulder and pulled me into his chest in a big horse hug. He could actually walk a straight line as he went back to his barn.
I worked with him a few times and the last I heard he was doing well in training. His behavior issues have mostly gone by the wayside. I have had this type of response from several incorrigible horses now over the years, but he was the first one that responded so dramatically.
Wow, that’s a beautiful story. I believe it is so important for people to realize there are other options for fixing their horses 'issues'. Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to share this information with us Dr. Sue!
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