Acupuncture: A Stick in Time

Today, acupuncture is a widely used modality in equine sports medicine. Whether used as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with other treatment options, acupuncture is gaining in popularity as an integral part of the total health care approach

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Your reining horse isn’t sinking as deeply into his hocks as he used to. Your hunter refuses jumps that should be no big deal. Your dressage horse isn’t bending properly. Your endurance horse flinches when he’s saddled up. It’s an old story: Acute or chronic pain that hinders a horse’s performance. The traditional treatment usually involves anti-inflammatories coupled with rest or exercise modification. But in the last 30-some years, acupuncture has emerged as an increasingly important component in keeping the performance horse performing.

Different Strokes

Performance-robbing pain is often musculoskeletal in nature. Causes for muscle, joint, or limb pain include poor or excessive riding or training, less-than-optimal conformation for the intended sport, shoddy shoeing, incorrect balance, and physical disorders such as osteoarthritis and navicular syndrome.

In Western sports, hind end soreness is the most common form of discomfort for the performance Quarter Horse. Brad Luckenbill, DVM, a practitioner at The Pony Express Veterinary Hospital in Xenia, Ohio, and president of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, states, "Often, training and showing of the Western horse puts pressure on the hind legs, creating inflammation in the ligaments and joints of the hock. Muscle soreness in the lumbar region of the back, over the hips, and around the stifles is also common. Western pleasure horses frequently experience sore feet or heel pain, while cutting and rodeo horses often encounter knee problems. Reining horses develop hock problems similar to the Western pleasure horse, but we see suspensory ligament and tendon problems in reiners, as well

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Written by:

Marcia King is an award-winning freelance writer based in Ohio who specializes in equine, canine, and feline veterinary topics. She’s schooled in hunt seat, dressage, and Western pleasure.

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