The first adjustments that I witnessed seemed as though they might be magic - a mere trick of hand
conjured by some healing wizard who was literally forcing the limb or joint to move more dramatically in order to move
my hand more dramatically to my wallet. No one could explain to me how the treatment worked… how could that
quick thrust motion truly do anything at all to a 1500lb horse?  This quest for answers led to my own certification in
veterinary spinal manipulative therapy.  I am blessed to have attended a course that taught us not “how to thump on
the high side” but instead how to understand the anatomical, neurological and physiological mechanisms involved in this
therapy.  This section is dedicated to helping others find the answers to the same questions that I had while
discovering VSMT.

Putting VSMT into layman's understanding...

Ask yourself….how much force is required to elicit a response from a horse?  Many of you might think of a
riding whip, a heavy rider, spurs, or trying to drag a horse to someplace he doesn't want to go.  But what about that
tiny fly that lands on a sea of long horse hair? Do you recall the twitch in your horse’s skin? It’s actually referred to as a
panniculus reflex, and there is an associated panniculus muscle and nerves beneath the skin responsible for that
twitch.  Imagine a horse without that reflex. He’d soon be covered in flies in the summer, prone to disease, and
removed from the gene pool.  The amount of force required to elicit a response is as small as the smallest house fly. 
Now that’s covered, let’s dive deeper.  So how DOES that high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA)  thrust do anything?
Are you really trying to move BONES in there?

A common misconception is that a chiropractor or VSMT therapist is trying to move a large bone a great
distance. Some of this confusion comes from the fact that most veterinarians are trained to use the term
"subluxation" to refer to a subtotally dislocated joint.  From a VSMT standpoint, in most instances we’re talking about a
joint plane that has moved only millimeters rather than “out of it’s socket.”  But a few millimeters of force or stretch
across important structures yields dramatic, sometimes painful results. For example, there are important structures
exiting the intervertebral foramina:

dura (the spinal cord covering)
CSF (fluid that bathes the spinal cord)
spinal nerves
veins, arteries, lymphatics
fat, connective tissue
the interforaminal ligament
the recurrent meningeal nerve

A subluxation that shifts the tension on that intervertebral foramen, even millimeters, can potentially impinge on the
aforementioned structures.  Some neurology research indicates that nerves are not actually compressed or “pinched”
but distribute their force ninety degrees along the lines of tension, that problem therefore ends up someplace else. 
Which is why you could potentially have headaches from lower back problems. (see craniosacral).

The HVLA thrust works to restore normal motion in a joint or motion unit via the body’s innate
intelligence and some of anatomy’s smallest structures: the golgi-tendon organs.

Problems that can benefit from or potentially be healed with chiropractic include:
  • tripping
  • biting when saddled
  • crookedness
  • trouble going forward
  • head tossing
  • TMJ issues
  • old traumas
  • bucking and rearing
  • difficulty with lateral work
  • slow run times
  • problems engaging
  • refusing or chipping fences
  • birth trauma
  • immune system problems
  • atlanto-occipital issues
  • disk problems
  • canter lead problems, refusing to canter
  • and much, much more...

Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy (VSMT) -
Veterinary Chiropractic

Please note that in most states it is ILLEGAL for a non-veterinarian to make chiropractic adjustments. Human chiropractors who are AVCA members, must still work with or under direct supervision of a veterinarian or by the referral of a veterinarian. Farriers, massage therapists, and lay-people who claim to manipulate or adjust animals may cause harm and injury, and are violating practice laws intended to protect both the consumers and their pets.  Please seek a properly certified and licensed practitioner.
Dr. Robson is also available to treat canine patients. Dogs are athletes, just like horses and humans!
10yo Pointer "Maya" clears a horse jump at the farm.
To find a certified veterinary-chiropractor in your area, please look at

For a Veterinary-Acupuncturist, see: