10 Year-old WB gelding has been stumbling in forelimbs while being ridden for several weeks. The horse is being schooled and shown Intermediare dressage. He is shod regularly, every 5 weeks. On observation of the horse while being ridden, the shoulders appeared tight and the strides rather choppy during trot work. The horse did not appear to be moving forward freely. The stumbling was observed at a walk, and occasionally at the trot. On physical exam, the muscles were very tight from the mid to lower neck on both sides, worse on the left side than the right. The articulation between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae had decreased mobility on the right side of the neck. The articulation between the fifth and sixth, as well as sixth and seventh, cervical vertebrae had decreased mobility on the left side of the neck. The sternum was shifted to the left side. The muscles along the front of the left scapula were tense and adhered to the underlying tissues. The pelvis was shifted with the right side higher than the left, and the right sacroiliac (SI) joint had decreased mobility. Ribs 11, 12, and 13 were displaced dorsally on left side.
The neck, sternum, ribs, right side of pelvis, and right sacral base and apex were adjusted. Acupuncture treatment focused on the meridians along the neck, right SI and sacrum; as well as trigger points along the right gluteals and displaced ribs.
This horse presented with a fairly typical pattern of crookedness seen in horses used for various disciplines that gives the impression of the horse’s body being somewhat “twisted.” This occurs when a problem begins in either the front or hind end of the horse, followed by the rest of the body compensating for it. As a side note, shifting of the sternum to one side of the body is often due to foot pain, where the horse attempts to decrease weight placed on the sore foot, causing the sternum to shift toward that side. In this case, no foot pain or lameness was detected; therefore the shift in the sternum was most likely due to compensation from either the stiff right SI joint, or from the restrictions in the lower neck and shoulder on the left side. There are two possible scenarios: 1)The tight SI and higher pelvic carriage on the right side caused the horse to carry itself in such a way that the sternum shifted to the left side, and ribs11-13 sprung upward on the left side, followed by bracing of the lower neck on the left side and left shoulder restriction; or 2)Restriction in the left lower neck inhibited free movement of the left shoulder, causing the sternum to shift to the left and the sprung ribs on the left side, followed by overcompensation with the right hind limb leading to the shifted pelvis and tight right SI joint.
In either scenario, all restricted areas must be addressed- the decreased joint mobility with chiropractic adjustments, and the muscle tension with acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture compliments the adjustments very well in these cases, because it stimulates blood flow and nerve conduction and relaxes the muscles. This makes the adjustments more effective and helps prevent muscle tension and spasm which recreate vertebral joint restrictions.
Regular treatments every 2 weeks was recommended for this horse, to encourage symmetrical muscle development during training. The goal is to keep the skeleton in alignment while the muscles are strengthening in order to avoid compensation. As training progresses, the treatments can be spread out to every four weeks, then every 6 weeks, then as needed.