Acupuncture and Chiropractic: Healthy Horses Workshop

During the annual convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, one day is set aside for horse owners in the area to listen to experts in the field lecture and demonstrate on specific aspects involved in the overall wellness, training, and care of the horse. This program is known as the Healthy Horses Workshop.

The December 2007 workshop was held at the Osceola Heritage Park, Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show Pavilion, a short distance from the convention site in Orlando. A panel of blue ribbon presenters touched on subjects ranging from dentistry to understanding the art of communication between horse and human. About 175 horse owners were in attendance.

Heather Heiderich, DVM, associate veterinarian with Florida Equine Veterinary Services Inc., in Clermont, Fla., spoke on the topic of acupuncture and chiropractic.

Acupuncture can be effective in treating chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders such as lameness, Heiderich told her listeners. She said it also can be beneficial for eye problems, mild colic, respiratory disorders, anhidrosis (the inability to sweat), behavior problems, anxiety, neurological issues, and immune-related conditions.

Heiderich emphasized that chiropractic care does not replace traditional veterinary medicine, but it works very well in conjunction with it.

Acupuncture, she told the group, is an ancient technique that originated from traditional Chinese medicine and involves putting needles in specific points on the body to treat disease or relieve pain.

Those specific places, she said, are known as acupuncture points and can be used to diagnose and treat certain conditions. "Careful palpation of these points," she said, "can reveal problems, guide treatment recommendations, and even be used to evaluate the efficacy of the therapy."

These points, she further explained, are specific locations on the surface of the skin where pressure is applied in order to affect the channels through which Qi, defined as life force and energy, flows through the body. "By stimulating these acupuncture points, even those located far from the site of the symptoms, the veterinary acupuncturist can help the animal's body to heal itself by balancing its own vital energies," said Heiderich.

Chiropractic, she said, is defined as the art, science, and philosophy of conservative health care. "It is a type of holistic health care that promotes natural health through adjustments of the joints of the body in an attempt to remove interference from an individual's nervous system," she explained.

The chiropractic approach, she told the group, has been around for 100 years and involves the specific portion of the nervous system housed within the skull and the spinal column. It was discovered, she said, that a malalignment of joints (known as subluxation), especially the vertebrae, adversely alters nerve function in those areas. The goal of the chiropractor is to put the joints back into proper alignment.

Heiderich emphasized that chiropractic care does not replace traditional veterinary medicine, but it works very well in conjunction with it. "The chiropractic adjustment," she said, "is designed to restore correct alignment and full working order, thus, restoring the proper function of the nervous system."

Other presenters included: Rob Arnott, DVM, a practitioner with Saint John Valley Vet Services in Houlton, Maine, equine dentistry; Jennifer MacLeay, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of large animal medicine at Colorado State University, Understanding the Science of Natural Horsemanship; David Hayes, DVM, owner of The Pet Hospital in Meridian, Idaho, One Step Horsemanship; and Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor giving demonstrations and discussing horsemanship. Keep an eye on for more on their presentations.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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