Complementary Therapies for Horses

Alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and herbal treatments, have been generating phenomenal interest in recent years, and many people believe these modalities might provide an adjunct to veterinary medicine
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Perhaps Shakespeare said it best: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Certainly a significant number of horsepeople are becoming open to the idea that "conventional" veterinary medicine might not be the only way of dealing with the complex health issues of today’s equine athletes. Alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and herbal treatments, have been generating phenomenal interest in recent years, and many people believe these modalities might provide an adjunct to veterinary medicine, as well as provide help for conditions which the veterinary community has had little or no success.

One of the problems with alternative approaches to horse health is the fact that they are less regulated than veterinary medicine. While techniques such as chiropractic and acupuncture have certification courses and professional associations, there are many active practitioners in these fields who have no professional qualifications–and some of these modalities are so new (at least to the Western world) that there are no recognized governing bodies or courses available. It can be very difficult to separate the hocus pocus from what might be legitimate therapy.

In an effort to help horse owners sort through the hype, the University of Guelph’s Equine Research Centre (in Guelph, Ontario, Canada) recently hosted a two-day seminar on Complementary Therapies for Horses and invited speakers who are certified practitioners and leaders in their fields to illuminate some of the important points of five different modalities.

Kelly Counsel, communications coordinator for the ERC, said she first came up with the idea of the seminar almost two years ago. "I’d noticed that there was a growing interest (in alternative medicine) in the horse industry, and I felt there was a need for reliable information. It took me a little while to sell (ERC Director) Andrew Clarke on the idea, as it’s a little off the scientific beaten path! But he could also see the demand, among equine practitioners as well as horse owners

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Written by:

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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