Selecting an Alternative Practitioner

Let’s say you decide to give an alternative therapy a try. How do you find a competent practitioner? We know which ones you’d rather have work on your horse, so we’ll give you some tips for finding the qualified people and avoiding
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We give you an overview of the non-conventional treatments you’re most likely to encounter in your horse’s life, along with experts’ viewpoints and resources for obtaining more information about chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and other "complementary" therapies, in Alternative Therapies: Quality Or Quackery. We hope you’ll use the information to make informed decisions about what treatments your horse receives–decisions that prove to be both medically and economically sound.

After you make those decisions, your duty as a responsible horse owner isn’t over. Let’s say you decide to give an alternative therapy a try. How do you find a competent practitioner? Equine publications are filled with advertisements from all manner of therapists. Some are experienced, trustworthy professionals; others have little or no training. We know which ones you’d rather have work on your horse, so we’ll give you some tips for finding the qualified people and avoiding the seat-of-the-pants practitioners. We’ll also tell you how to assess your practitioner’s technique, and what actions should serve as red flags that he or she might be harming your horse.

Find A Card-Carrying Professional

An alternative therapy practitioner also should be a licensed veterinarian or work under a veterinarian’s supervision. The various national professional associations (see Associations for Alternative Veterinary Medicine on page 44) offer comprehensive veterinary training courses in acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, and even Chinese herbal medicine. DVMs who complete courses successfully are listed on the associations’ membership rosters, says well-known holistic practitioner Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS, of Washington, Va. Three areas of alternative therapy–equine massage therapy, herbal medicine, and nutraceuticals–don’t have corresponding veterinary certification programs. Comprehensive, non-veterinary courses are available for massage therapists, and many of the best herbalists and nutraceuticals experts are employed by the manufacturing companies, she adds. Harman advises asking the practitioner about his or her certification and training. Beware the therapist whose "training" amounts to a weekend or a week-long course. "About 500 hours of training is ideal for a massage therapist, with at least some of that time spent in equine-specific courses," she says

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Written by:

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation’s magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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