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 aromatherapy.
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.
About the Author:
Madalyn Ward, DVM, practicing holistic veterinarian, author, consultant and lecturer is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture. Her website (http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com) offers a newsletter, online study course, e-book and information for horse and mule owners.