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McTimoney Chiropractic Technique - What?!
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McTimoney Chiropractic Technique - What?!

What is it?

The McTimoney chiropractic technique is a holistic treatment designed to rebalance the horse's skeletal system. Areas of resistance are identified and treated using gentle manual adjustments. Once normal movement is resumed, the associated soft tissues relax and pain is relieved. The technique works on the principle that the body is designed to self-heal and the treatment merely stimulates the healing process. No drugs or sedatives are necessary and the procedure is totally non-invasive. Most horses seem to really enjoy the treatment and derive almost immediate benefit from it.

The technique dates back to the 1930s. Founder, John McTimoney, trained in the US with pioneering chiropractor Dr Mary Walker, returning to Oxfordshire in the UK and setting up a human practice. Several years later, a client asked him to try the treatment out on a horse which he did with spectacular results. There are now McTimoney practitioners worldwide.

Animal practitioners are required to have completed the two year post-graduate training course. The exams are stringent and a high standard is required to achieve a pass grade.

Signs of musculoskeletal problems

Your horse clearly cannot actually tell you that he has a problem and sometimes the signs can be quite subtle. Remain vigilant and look out for the following:

  • Changes in behaviour: sudden unexplained bucking, rearing, napping, bolting, resistance or lack of usual energy, refusing or jumping to one side. Biting or kicking when groomed or having rugs changed. Refusal to stand whilst mounted.
  • Sudden knocking down of jumps, loss of bascule and lack of enthusiasm for jumping.
  • Stiffness on one rein, not tracking up, uneven steps, loss of engagement or impulsion, incorrect canter strike offs, going disunited in canter, reluctance to go forward. Leaning on one rein, tilting or shaking the head, refusal to stand square or still in halt, continually resting a hind leg.
  • Uneven muscle tone; the saddle may continually slip to one side. Carrying the tail to one side, tripping or stumbling, uneven wear to the hooves or shoes.

Causes of problems

Most people have at some time or other twisted awkwardly whilst getting out of a car, or simply woken up with a stiff shoulder. Horses can injure themselves just as easily. Some suffer direct trauma as a result of a fall or can injure themselves through getting cast. An unbalanced rider can cause problems as can being worked unevenly resulting in asymmetrical stress being placed on the horse's body. Asking too much of a horse before he has been sufficiently warmed up can cause problems. Ill-fitting tack or rugs will cause the horse to hold himself unnaturally to compensate for the discomfort which over time will lead to muscular soreness. Overgrown or poorly trimmed feet will cause stress to be placed on the joints of the affected limb leading to chronic uneven gait.

The treatment

Even a slight injury causes the horse to compensate elsewhere on his body. In chronic conditions, these compensations may become a habit and lead to long-term problems. Obviously, any behaviour indicative of pain or discomfort should be investigated initially by a vet. In cases of recurrent lameness or loss of performance where no obvious cause can be determined, McTimoney treatment can be extremely effective. Chronic conditions like arthritis can also benefit from maintenance treatment at regular intervals.

Initial assessment and treatment takes about an hour. The practitioner will then provide an individually tailored treatment together with full aftercare advice. Usually, two or three treatments are enough to produce significant improvement with a follow up visit six months later; more frequently in competition horses. This is a rough guide though as the treatment schedule will vary depending upon the injuries involved and the horse's individual reaction to the treatment as some respond more quickly than others.

Aftercare

Healing takes time and a couple of days off following treatment are usually required. The workload can then be gradually increased day by day and the practitioner may recommend exercises designed to strengthen muscle groups which may have become atrophied or weakened. Owners must follow the advice they are given and not be in a hurry to return the horse to work too soon.

So, is McTimoney just another New Age fad designed to fleece yet more money from concerned owners anxious to provide the very best care for their horses or does it really work? There are certainly plenty of happy owners who will testify in its favour and the fact that practitioners can study for a Masters degree in the therapy must surely be reassuring.

I hope you found this article interesting. Please do comment and don't forget to vote if you enjoyed it

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  1. PonyGirl
    PonyGirl
    I am a firm believer in chiropractic work, both for myself and for my horses. I had an appaloosa at one time who would weave under certain circumstances. He was always a little off in his gaits- nothing very much, but I could feel it. He also would stand with his knees slightly bent, rather than locked. I had every vet on the track look at him in New Orleans, and not one could find anything wrong with him. When I went back to Shreveport, I had Dr. Lowdermilk look at him. Dr. Lowdermilk was a licensed veterinarian who became interested in chiropractic and acupuncture,went back to school, and became accredited in both. I rode up to Dr. Lowdermilk on the horse in question, and told him Freckles' symptoms. Dr. Lowdermilk ran his finger down the crease in Freckles' neck right behind his jaw. I thought the horse was going to fall when he did that. Dr. Lowdermilk then popped Freckles' neck, and the horse walked off completely sound. (This is all with me sitting on him, mind you.) Dr. Lowdermilk said his atlas (first bone of the spine) was out of place, probably due to his weaving. For two or three years, I would get him adjusted every 6 months or so, but after that he stayed sound. My old horse, Bear, also needs occasional adjustments. When he's having a problem, he will carry his head unnaturally low. Once he has had an adjustment, he will carry his head normally again. And I can personally attest to the huge pain relief, chiropractic can offer, from my own experience with "people" chiropractors. Thanks for another timely and interesting post.
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    1. autumnap
      autumnap
      Thank you. There are lots of "quack" remedies and alleged horse "communicators" out there but this technique certainly seems to work and be genuine. They also use it on dogs and cats to good effect (not to mention people!) x
      Log in to reply.
  2. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. Love this piece. I miss having Chrio done on myself and I can really tell the difference. I can only imagine a horse who is out of alignment would love it too and make them feel so much better.
    Log in to reply.
    1. autumnap
      autumnap
      Thank you! x
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  3. arabobsession
    arabobsession
    I had chiro done on my mare twice about a year apart, once by a chiro for people and the second time by a old timer who owns pacers. He was amazing, he walked up to my mare, told me my saddle wasn't fitting properly, never used it again, and that she was a striker, this freaked him out a little bit, but as I told him, we had already worked through that and she dosen't do that anymore. That was the very first time he had ever seen her. She's all fixed now, but I do know what to look for now, as he explained it all very clearly and in plain simple english
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