Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Horse Health Care: There Is Nothing That Cannot be Healed

According to Chinese Medicine, there is no ailment that cannot be cured. I believe that aphorism to be true, whether applied to humans or horses. At least, when it comes to horse health care, I believe that any condition can be improved, made healthier, and made more harmonious.

Fezzywig: A Bodywork Example of Horse Health Care
A prime example of this is my new Holsteiner warm blood gelding Fezzywig. He came to me with a severely roached back, meaning he has a hump in his back where several vertebrae stick up and out of his spine in his lumbar region. His roach back had been getting worse over time, and his former owner did not know how to help him. Hence, he came to me.

Fezzywig has been with us for a while now, and he receives bodywork every single day. I do "Bowen" type bodywork as well as passive stretches, acupressure, and network chiropractic on him. The improvement in less than 3 weeks is noticeable to me, even if not to the casual observer.

Here is a picture of Fezzywig when he first came to me. We believe he developed his roach back as a result of jumping out of a 6-foot tall paddock as a youngster.

Here is another picture of Fezzywig, 4 days after I got him:

Here he is again, this time about 18 days after he came to me.

Here's the most recent picture

While he definitely still has a hump in his back, to me his whole body structure looks more relaxed. In addition, his top and bottom lines look more harmonious. He looked "pot bellied" and seriously hunched over in his earlier pictures. Now he has more tone to his belly and his withers have risen up so they are closer in height to his rear.

What's the Point? Horse Health Care and Hope
The point of this article isn't to talk about specific bodywork conditions, but to point out that there is always hope for every horse ailment out there, be it ulcers, roached backs, or lameness issues. Maybe not every horse can be made perfect, but the quality of every horse's life can be improved.

More importantly, I believe that horse owners can be totally active participants in the horse health care process. Nine years ago I learned some basic bodywork techniques, which I have used every week since and continue to refine. Nine years ago I also learned to trim my own horse's feet. I couldn't quite figure out how to learn to do horse dental work (that's beyond my capabilities), but I do just about everything else.

When it comes to horse health care, there's always hope. My list of horses kind of looks like a cast of characters from a freak show:

Valentine: mustang mare who had a golf-ball sized tumor under her jaw and choked frequently
Reyacita: mustang mare with COPD, or heaves, when stressed and eating hay
Walker: quarter horse gelding with poor feet and ulcers
Samantha: mustang mare with an overly long back and a pulled groin muscle
Fezzywig: warmblood gelding with a roached back

Frightening isn't it? And yet, with the help of daily doses of my homemade "horse goo," regular bodywork, occasional help from a local vet, and a lot of help from Holistic Horsekeeping, these horses have achieved the incredible:

Valentine: Jumper Champion and Jumper Horse of the Year
Reyacita: eats hay, team sorts, and learning to be a rope horse
Walker: recovered from ulcers with probiotics, algae, and enzymes, beginner rope horse, gentle enough for an infant to ride
Samantha: Hunter Champion
Fezzywig: vast improvement in his roached back

Your Participation in Horse Health Care
Obviously, each horse lover is going to be different when it comes to how much "hands on" work they do for horse health care, and how much work is done by professional veterinarians, farriers, equine dentists, and bodyworkers. However, the more active a role you take in learning about horse health care, the better your horse's health will be, regardlesss of whether you do "hands on" work on not.

In this day and age, when money is tight and horse health care is expensive, I encourage every horse lover out there to learn to do as much "hands on" health care as possible. It's ultimately less expensive, empowers you to help your horses immediately, and helps you make better decision about your horse's management. A good place to start, with many free resources as well as ebooks and products, is the Holistic Horsekeeping website. Another great resource is Herbs and Animals. Enjoy!

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