TC was having problems. Lecie wasn’t sure what it was, but she knew she had to get help for her friend — something just wasn’t quite right. She asked her local chiropractor, Dr. Dan Albrecht, if he could refer her to someone, but there was no one to help out her buddy. Not willing to give up, she kept searching until one day the doctor called and said, “I think I have a solution for you.”

TC, after all, was a horse and there just wasn’t any chiropractic relief for him until Dr. Joey Longoria came to town.

“I was probably one of the first to use him as an animal chiropractor,” said Lecie Leavell, barrel racer. “My main barrel horse was not turning the first barrel. He would go up to it, then bite me, run up the fence, run into the fence — everything but go around the barrel.”

Cautious of the doctor at first, it took three of them about a half hour to calm the horse long enough for Longoria to make his first adjustments.

“After the first adjustment I could tell a difference. After four treatments, he wrapped the barrel,” said Leavall, her voice full of praise. Now, TC is always ready for whatever the doctor requests, knowing help is on the way.

This afternoon there are two of Leavall’s horses the doctor will be checking out — TC and Wrangler.

“I bring my horses for preventative maintenance. Sometimes it’s just little things that are wrong,” she said.

Today the doctor studies the horses, looking for restrictions in their gait as they walk in front of him, turning first one way and then the other. Studying the crossover of the feet as they parade, his astute eyes see the subtle nuances in their off-gait, which tells him he has a bit of work to do. Then he’ll evaluate them with his hands, deciding where the problematic areas are.

Before he begins his work, he starts out saying “Hi” to the horse by breathing up its nose.

“It is a proper introduction to a horse. Wherever you stand, that horse knows who you are and where you are because he knows your breath. Another thing I do is rub the head — on top of the forehead. This brings them back into their nurture phase when they were in their foal stage, still drinking milk from their mother. Then I clamp them around the back of the neck with my hand because, in the wild, a stranger horse will come up to them and bite them on the back of the neck. The horse is trying to communicate to the other horse that ‘I want to be your friend,’” said the doctor.

“In other words, I am telling the horse I’m here. You don’t know me but I want to be your friend. I’m not your enemy,” he said.

Dr. Longoria decided first to become a chiropractor for humans.

“But when I went to school and they offered the animal chiropractic course of study I was interested because I wanted to help humans and animals. Due to this course it all came together and I decided to take all the postgraduate courses,” Dr. Longoria said.

Starting his human chiropractic practice in September 2003, on Feb. 2, 2004, he began practicing as a certified animal chiropractor. Now, one day of his week is devoted to helping four-legged creatures.

Equine chiropractic is his first speciality, then dogs and show heifers and steers.

“I had a show heifer that had a limp on the hind end and the veterinarian referred him to me. My main focus was to get the restrictions on the pelvis and the sacrum aligned so we could have decreased nerve inflammation and decreased pain. We were able to do that with three adjustments and that show heifer went on to do very well. She made Grand Champion in San Antonio,” he said.

“What I concentrate on in animal chiropractic is increasing performance and preventing injuries. My job is to evaluate the animal and see how it is functioning biomechanically (the external and internal forces on the living body). In the majority of the horses I treat, I can see an increase in their performance and in some horses there is a personality change. That’s just part of being without pain.”

Being the only animal chiropractor in the Valley, he’s traveled to Laredo, Rockport, and areas in between — going where he is needed.

He works with local veterinarians who refer the animals, as with Lecie’s horses, to his care after they have evaluated them and know the problem lies in Dr. Longoria’s expertise. With a horse, the doctor knows when he’s solved the problem.

“When I do the adjustments on the horse, most of the time as soon as the vertebrate releases, the horse will feel a release of pain and will lick their lips,” he said. “It’s a neurological reflex that signifies, in an animal, relief of pain.”

Helping animal or human, Dr. Longoria has the touch.

“As his assistant, one thing I find so amazing is that he can go from a horse to a human, adjusting them the same — adjusting his strength to work on them both without hurting either,” said his assistant, Robert.

“Horses are like people — some horses want help and some don’t,” Dr. Longoria said. “Horses have a sense. They know if you’re there to help or hurt. If your heart is not in it, about helping the horse and doing everything you know to help that horse, the horse will sense that.”

One thing is for certain. The doctor’s heart is definitely in his work.

“I have a passion for the chiropractic profession as a whole. So, whether it’s animal chiropractic or human chiropractic, the passion is there for me. It’s exactly what my calling is. The only thing I know is chiropractic.”