Alternative Therapies for Horse Health Care

Nowadays, more and more horse owners are looking beyond the realms of conventional medicine to alternative therapies when seeking health care options for their horses. By Jayne Pedigo for EquiSearch. Written by Jayne Pedigo.
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Nowadays, more and more horse owners are looking beyond the realms of conventional medicine to alternative therapies when seeking health care options for their horses. By Jayne Pedigo for EquiSearch. Written by Jayne Pedigo.

Nowadays, more and more horse owners are looking beyond the realms of conventional medicine when seeking healthcare options for their horses. The reasons for this are varied--perhaps a long term illness or condition is not responding to conventional treatment or therapy, or perhaps the treatment worked, but the horse still isn't quite "right". Modern horse owners want to do everything possible to bring their horses back to the peak of health, be they valuable competition horses or beloved backyard pets.

For many years, the medical professional looked with scorn upon holistic or alternative healthcare practitioners but nowadays they can often be seen working as a team for the benefit of the horse.

Many of the holistic therapies available for humans are now available and beneficial for equines and complementary and alternative veterinary medicine is a growing field.

For example, there are a wide range of behaviors and conditions in horses that may be helped by chiropractic adjustment. These range from discomfort while being saddled, and irregularities of gait, such as dragging of toes to the refusal to jump. Chiropractic care looks to the relationship of the spine and the nervous system. Misalignments in the spine can restrict the flow of nerve impulses, or messages, along the nerves pathways, leading to symptoms showing up in other parts of the body affected by this restriction of nerve impulses. This is what chiropractic adjustments seek to remedy by the realigning of the spine, allowing the nervous system to work properly again.

The ancient arts of acupuncture and acupressure have been found to as be beneficial to horses as they are to humans. Acupressure releases the flow of natural endorphins, thereby acting as a natural pain reliever. In addition, the increased blood flow stimulated by the acupressure brings nutrients to the area being treated and also quickly moves waste materials away. Acupuncture, which most people are more familiar with, works on the premise that energy is flowing around the body along well defined meridians. Needles are inserted into key points in this network to correct any imbalance by stimulating or dispersing the energy flow.

The art of Homeopathy uses very diluted solutions of substances to treat diseases which they may actually cause in a higher concentration. Trained homeopaths have to be familiar with over 2000 homeopathic remedies and be able to match the most appropriate for the symptoms. What works best with one chemistry won't necessarily work with another. For this reason, several sessions may be needed while the correct remedy is found.

Herbology has been around for thousands of years. How and when early man discovered the beneficial aspects of medicinal herbs is unknown, but nowadays 25% of modern drugs are plant-derived. Since research is still being done into the efficacy of herbal remedies and baseline doseages are not yet standard, there is the possible danger of mis-use. A number of companies now sell prepared mixtures of herbs, designed to help improve coat and hoof condition, rheumatism and other age related stiffness, tying up and many other conditions.

Before proceeding with any kind of alternative or complementary therapy, it's important to let your regular veterinarian know your plans. Your vet may be able to recommend an alternative practitioner that he or she has worked with before, or you can consult one of the online resources listed below:

Alt Vet Med
Holistic Product and Practitioner Directory
American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA)
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA)
Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH)