Q&A with Equine Chiropractor, Gary Wilson, DVM
Dr. Gary Wilson, DVM, is an AVCA-certified equine chiropractor working in the Chicago, Illinois area. He’s always had a great love of horses and a desire to help them perform. Dr. Wilson practiced equine veterinary medicine for 17 years before becoming certified in chiropractic in 1996. He chose to pursue chiropractic work because of his belief that many performance, injury, and lameness problems stem from spine and joint issues. He currently divides his time working as the primary veterinarian at Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, Illinois and working independently as an equine veterinarian and chiropractor. For more information about Dr. Wilson and his work, visit his website.
Can you explain what a ‘subluxation’ is and how they occur in horses?
A subluxation, or fixation, as I prefer to call them, occurs when the vertebral column gets out of alignment. The nerves around the vertebral column become impinged and the horse can’t move correctly. They can be caused by improper proprioception (sensory reception of muscles, tendons, and joints that detects the motion or position of the body/ limb by responding to stimuli arising within the horse) of the hoof, toxins, stress, or even illness in the body.
The word chiropractic actually means ‘to heal with hands.’ A subluxation needs to be manipulated by hand to be corrected.
What are some common equine problems that can be helped with chiropractic?
A common problem that I adjust is a P-2 (2nd phalanx) fixation. I adjust it so it moves correctly. My personal technique is to adjust the lower limbs first and then the upper body. By adjusting the lower limbs first, many issues in the spine seem to be resolved.
There’s nothing that I know of that can’t be helped by chiropractic. Lower limb disease, arthritis, and other chronic conditions can be helped by chiropractic. Many people are interested in helping their horses in natural way, and chiropractic can replace or lessen the need for joint injections in performance horses.
How do most horses respond to chiropractic work?
Most horses love it! They often lower their heads and lick and chew in response. If a horse is extremely sore in a particular area, they may not like it though. It’s important to use a different technique for these horses and to know where the issue is.
Which areas on the horse are most likely to need chiropractic adjustment?
The cervical (neck) vertebrae and the pelvis are the most common areas I adjust. I see a lot of right-sided issues—especially the right hip. Getting a horse adjusted routinely can really help with performance. Of course, proper hoofcare and dental maintenance is extremely important as well.
Does chiropractic work affect the muscles as well? If so, how?
When a horse is out of alignment, the muscles will try to pull the spinal cord back into alignment. This, in turn, creates soreness. If an animal has a long-term impingement, the nerves won’t fire and may eventually die. The muscle in that area then deteriorates and the horse’s overall health can deteriorate. Spinal adjustment can correct this problem though.
For more information on equine chiropractic or to find an equine chiropractor near you, Dr. Wilson suggests checking out the AVCA website.