Client Resources: Articles


If you have ever enjoyed one of our National Parks you can legitimately thank John Muir, at least in part, for its existence. Muir was born in Scotland in 1838. When he came to America, he discovered our magnificent wild areas and became their champion. He has been called the founder of the environmental movement and started the Sierra Club. His influence as a speaker and writer in saving our wild areas from development is profound.

Muir’s quotes are all worth reading and thinking about. My favorite is: “When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Have you ever noticed what happens when a row of pine trees next to a road gets cut down to widen the road’s shoulder? Within a few years the pines behind the missing ones start to lean, and will eventually fall over. Each pine depends on the interlocking root system of its neighbors. When enough are lost, the remaining trees cannot stand. The tug is cutting down several dozen trees that were literally attached to others, and the rest of the woods are affected.
The quote holds true for all living things. A good part of my day is usually spent doing chiropractic work on horses. I am often asked how a horse’s pelvis, withers or any other part could have gotten out of alignment. To answer the question I will often use that quote of Muir’s. “Tug on a single thing……”

Let’s say that your left stirrup is a couple of inches lower than the right. Can you see how this would cause your horse to rotate his trunk to the right to try to stay straight? Over time, if the situation is not corrected, the muscles attached to the spine on the right side tugging on the spinal vertebrae will pull them out of alignment. This action also affects the vertebrae above and below that area. Eventually the forces and counter forces influence every part of the body, and if you are lucky only the gait will be affected.

If you wait too long to get your horse trimmed or reshod the usual result is long toes and low heels. This puts a strain on the ligaments around the lower joints because the bones are out of position. At the same time, the tendons that attach to the lower legs are affected. This results in muscle imbalance and soon the horse becomes sore all over. Long toes are the tug, and the eventual result is a horse too lame to ride.

The other day I noticed that a client’s horse was carrying way too much weight and getting a cresty neck. There were 3 tugs pulling on this horse. The first was that she is a Morgan. Morgans are well known as easy keepers. The second tug was a diet high in carbohydrates. If you haven’t already guessed, the third was the fact that the animal hadn’t been exercised in weeks. Correcting her diet and getting those feet moving may keep her from contracting laminitis, a disease of the feet. There doesn’t seem to be a obvious connection between diet, exercise, and laminitis, but thousands of affected horses tell us it’s true. “Tug on a single thing ….”

My point is to think about the eventual effect of everything likely to tug on your animal. The consequences of lazy or ignorant horsemanship can be expensive and sometimes disastrous.


David A. Jefferson, DVM

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