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Holistically Healthy Horses

Holistic healing means approaching each horse as an individual to
support or restore health. This differs from conventional
medicine which is based on diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Many people associate conventional medicine with drugs and
holistic medicine with natural substances but the basic
difference is in the philosophy; any method of treatment that
considers all aspects of health in an individual could be
considered holistic. Holistic therapies work with the horses’ own
healing mechanisms by providing them with substances needed or by
removing blockages. I see fewer side effects and less resistance,
and it has been my experience that horses successfully treated
holistically are at least as healthy if not more healthy after
treatment than before. Holistic healing modalities include
acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, and if indicated,
conventional medications and surgery. It is more the philosophy
than the modality which determines what is holistic healing.
Conventional or western medicine tends to break the body into
systems such as the immune system, digestive system, nervous
system etc. These systems are then considered to function
independently without relation to each other. Holistic medicine
considers the whole body and takes the approach that all systems
interact with each other.

Balance is a term you will often hear in holistic medicine. As a
holistic practitioner I believe symptoms are produced by the body
when it is out of balance and these symptoms will disappear when
balance is restored. I believe a healthy body does not make
mistakes so symptoms should not be removed without considering
their cause. It is not uncommon to see a horse get generally
worse after symptoms have been removed through the use of drugs
or surgery. This is because the underlying imbalance has not been
addressed and is continuing to get worse. You can expect the
original symptom to return or in some cases a more serious
symptom to take its place. With a holistic approach the horse may
begin to feel overall better even before the presenting symptoms
improve. This is because the body heals the most important areas
first and a sense of well being returns as the body moves towards
balance. Holistic healing works more on an energetic level to
address underlying imbalances on a physical and energetic level.
For instance, using a drug or herb to treat fever is working on
the physical level while using acupuncture to bring the body into
balance by supporting the yin cooling properties and dispersing
the yang heat is working energetically. The action on the
energetic level is why it is often hard to “prove” the efficacy
of some holistic modalities using the same scientific testing
methods used for conventional medicine. Horses, being such
spiritual creatures, respond beautifully to subtle and gentle
modalities such as network chiropractic, homeopathy and

Another important aspect of thinking holistically is considering
the variation in individuals. For instance in the above example
of fever, one horse might respond to one group of acupuncture
points while another would need a different set of points to
achieve the desired results. The practitioner would choose the
points not based on the fever but on the overall presentation of
the patient. Again, this approach does not fit the program for
double blind testing protocols used to test drugs which have a
similar effect on all patients.

Learning to think holistically is a process. Good conventional
practitioners often think holistically even as they work within
the confines of individual systems and some holistic
practitioners use herbs or remedies to treat symptoms on
occasion. Remember the holistic approach should leave your horse
overall healthier and happier after treatment than before.

Madalyn Ward, DVM has been the owner of Bear Creek Veterinary
Clinic in Austin, Texas since 1985. She is certified in
Veterinary Homeopathy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture. She is the
co-author of “Holistic Treatment of Chronic Lamintis” and has
lectured about homeopathic medicine for horses around the United
States and Canada since 1992. Madalyn has consulted on articles
for Dressage Today, Chronicle of the Horse, The Horse, The Whole
Horse Journal and Practical Horseman. Through her website
Holistic Horse Keeping  she
publishes a free monthly newsletter, offers the Healthy, Happy
Horse online study course, has the 5 Element e-book available and
provides information and resources for horse and mule owners.

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