Blanketing your horse during cold weather will decrease the movement in your horse’s shoulders and lower neck. This reduced movement in one area of the body can lead to reduced motion in other areas of the body. Even if you don’t blanket, weather affects your horse’s joints, reducing motion in some. Reduced motion means reduced health in that area. Your horse may not be getting as much exercise as he did during the summer, and arthritis may be bothering the older equines.
The goal of chiropractic care is to help restore motion to the joints and influence the nervous system. Many things happen to your horse’s body when a subluxation (misalignment of two or more vertebrae) occurs in its spine. When the vertebral bones are misaligned, even slightly, the flow of nervous energy is affected. Nerves exit the spinal canal between the vertebrae; if these nerves receive pressure due to a subluxation, pain results.
IMPORTANCE OF BLANKET FIT
Q: How important is blanket fit, chiropractically?
A: Very. When the blankets are on, I definitely find more subluxations in the horses.
Q: Specifically, how do blankets restrict movement?
A: They restrict the motion in the lower neck and shoulder area. Restriction can increase when the weight of the blankets increases; this area is not meant to support weight the way a blanket imposes it.
Q: If we see rubbing on the shoulder, what other parts of the horse’s body are affected?
A: From a biomechanical standpoint it takes every muscle, ligament, tendon, bone and joint in the body for the horse to move correctly. If any one of these has restricted motion, it will change the way the entire body moves.
Q: Can a blanket be too loose?
A: The looser blankets actually place more weight on the horse's shoulders and lower neck; light and stretchy are the least restrictive.
Tightness and spasms in muscles can be worse during cold weather when movement may be reduced. The tightness can be isolated to the small muscles that connect one vertebra to the next or it can extend to the long muscles that run along the entire length of your horse’s back. This tightness can cause pain and weakness in the muscle and may lead to changes in the curve of your horse’s spine. If muscles are not kept mobile, they will eventually atrophy from disuse.
Normal motion of the muscles stimulates venous blood flow in an area and promotes hygiene of the local synovial (joint) tissues. Blood vessels enter the spinal canal between the vertebrae, providing blood to each segment of the spinal cord. When this flow is compromised, problems may result:
- Swelling in the area will cause decreased blood flow which can lead to increased joint stiffness and spinal disease.
- Immobilization of tendons, ligaments, and supporting tissues leads to profound degenerative changes in as little as 3 days.
- Cartilage shrinks, increasing its susceptibility to damage from minor trauma.
- Adhesions start to form, which further decreases mobility in the area.
- Ligaments begin to shorten, leading to tightness in the area.
Luckily for your horse, most of these changes are favorably affected by the chiropractic adjustment.
The cold won’t affect how your horse responds to his chiropractic adjustment; he may even appreciate it more. Your certified equine chiropractor may suggest extra stretches for you to do with your horse in the cold weather.
Routine chiropractic care should benefit your horse, working or retired, in any season.
Dr. Bill Ormston owns Jubilee Animal Health, a mobile mixed animal practice in the Dallas Metroplex area, using mostly alternative methods. Dr. Ormston is one of the founding instructors of the post-graduate course in Animal Chiropractic at Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas. He has lectured nationally and internationally on Animal Chiropractic and biomechanics, and gait analysis in the quadruped. www.jubileeac.com