Many of you have seen a chiropractor to help with aches and pains—most often back pain. Often horses express body pain through poor behavior. They buck, toss their heads, jig, bolt, remain inflexible or over-flex to try to escape the pain. An equine chiropractor can help sort out any misalignment or subluxations in your horse's spine and joints. This often helps your horse feel more comfortable, especially while being ridden. Chiropractic treatments can range in cost from 75$ to $150 depending on the practitioner. Often the initial consultation and treatment will be more costly as the chiropractor takes extra time to assess your horse thoroughly. Depending on the problems you're tackling, the chiropractor will recommend a schedule of adjustments—anywhere from a few weeks to months apart. Your horse may react negatively to initial treatments, but may learn to enjoy the treatments as they realize the adjustments bring them relief. Many chiropractors work on horses and humans as well as other pets.
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Acupuncture is a method of Traditional Chinese Medicine that treats pain and illness by activating the vital life energy in specific areas of the body. This is done by inserting fine needles into points along invisible meridian lines that correspond with bodily systems. It's believed that the needles stimulate the release of endorphins, which relieve pain, neurotransmitters that send signals to the brain and stimulates the autonomic nervous system (the functions of your body which you cannot specifically control). I personally have tried acupuncture for back pain and trigger finger and my husband, who has Parkinson's Disease goes for treatments to help stimulate his autonomic nervous system. Horses seem to respond very well to acupuncture too. In fact, one mare I know lowers her head and relaxes as soon as the needles start to go in. Acupuncture can help with healing and muscular tension in horses. Again, expect to pay between $75 to $150 for treatments and often multiple treatments are required.
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I don't think there's a creature on the planet who doesn't enjoy a good massage for no other reason than it is very relaxing. Horses respond well to massage to relieve muscular tension. Like human athletes, horses can develop aches and pains, and massage is often used in conjunction with other treatments to help loosen sore muscles. There are many good books and DVDs on equine massage, and I've learned enough from watching massage therapists at work on horses and reading, that I'm able to loosen sore muscles on my own horse. She shows appreciates having the knots worked out by leaning into me as I work on each area. A good massage therapist can work wonders to help horses that are stiff and sore. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 per treatment.
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Horse boots, blankets and wraps embedded with magnets are available and are said to speed healing, loosen tense muscles and increase circulation. Magnet therapy is very popular, although anytime I've experimented with magnets on myself, I've not been impressed with the results. However, I do know people who feel that magnotherapy help their horses, especially with relaxing muscles. Magnetic paraphernalia can be a bit costly. Bell boots and leg wraps are usually between $30 and $100 while full blankets can cost between $100 to $300 dollars.
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Light TherapyAlso called Phototherapy, light therapy is used for a number of things and can be employed it its simplest form by any horse owner. Those who want to prevent winter coat growth can install timed lights in their barns so that the horse's normal coat growth isn't triggered by the shorter daylight hours of fall and winter. Mare's heat cycles can also be controlled through the use of lights.
Infrared light therapy is used to enhance healing. Lights, either hand-held devices, blankets, pads or wraps that contain LEDs are applied the body or limbs to help heal and reduce the pain of injuries, strained ligaments and tendons, arthritis and degenerative issues like navicular, ring bone and laminitis. Many horse owners consider light therapy essential to their horse's health and soundness. While light therapy products can be purchased, it is also possible to have a practitioner treat your horse with lights. I've had a therapist treat leg issues with light therapy, to compliment the politicing and wrapping the veterinarian recommended.
LED pads, boots and wraps can cost about $300, while a full-size blanket is about $2100. Unless you plan to use items like this very frequently, it may be more cost-effective to call in a practitioner who will charge on a per-treatment basis.
Swimming with your horse can be a lot of fun but swimming for horses can be very therapeutic. Hydrotherapy can be as simple as cold hosing an injured leg. A horse suffering from founder, navicular or other injury of the lower legs may find some pain relief and lessening of inflammation by standing in a safe spot in a cold stream or river edge. In some areas, you may be able to take your horse to a specially designed salt, mineralized, aerated or freshwater pool that offers equine hydrotherapy treatments.
Hydrotherapy for horses works much like aqua-size for humans in that it encourages gentle stretching of the muscles, ligaments and tendons while saving soft tissue, bones and joints from any jarring impact. While it's tempting to take your horse out and swim it in the stock pond as a form of hydrotherapy, it's important to remember that you could injure your horse further if it runs into something hard, like rocks or tree stumps. And, handlers at a horse swimming pool will know how long a horse can safely swim without further straining any injuries and how to handle a horse that's reticent about entering the pool. Swims at a hydrotherapy pool can be costly, especially if you have to pay for trailering.
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Homoeopathic remedies may be familiar to many people, and they are often used on companion animals as well. Homeopathic remedies are controversial, many believing there is no scientific evidence supporting their efficacy. However, despite the controversy, many horse owners either engage a homeopathic practitioner, or treat their horses with homeopathic remedies themselves. The theory behind homoeopathy is that like treats like—sort of a 'hair of the dog' treatment. Horses (and other pets and humans) are treated with small doses of remedies containing minute quantities of substances thought to trigger the body to heal itself. Homeopathy is used to treat injuries, illness and behavioral problems. Emergency kits of basic remedies can be purchased for around $100 depending on the exact contents, or a homeopathic practitioner can assess and treat your horse.
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Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies are the essences of various flowers captured in a base of alcohol. Drops of these essences are applied to the horse's gums or fed on a sugar cube or other small treat. Bach Remedies are not intended to heal any injury or illness, but calm the emotional state. Rescue Remedy, a blend of several flower essences is very commonly used to help horses and riders who are anxious—perhaps in situations like going to a show or moving to a new stable. I’ve used Rescue Remedy on nervous horses and Star of Bethlehem, which is supposed to help one recover from past trauma, and don't know if I can attribute relief to the remedies. Sometimes just doing 'something' about a problem, rather than doing 'nothing' can help calm nerves, so the act of getting the little bottle and administering it may be the calming part of the process. Bach Flower Remedies are not expensive and can be found in many health-food stores and the natural product aisles of some pharmacies and grocery stores. They are inexpensive enough to experiment with to find what works for you.
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One of my favorite alternative therapies to experiment with is aromatherapy. Even if no real health or healing benefit occurs, it is nice to go to sleep to the lovely scent of lavender or fill the house with spicy, invigorating citrus or pine scents. Horses are said to respond to aromatherapy as well and are even more sensitive to scents than we are. I've used lavender oil to repel insects while riding. The fringe benefit of lavender is that is it said to be calming. However, because horses have such an acute sense of smell, a few drops on the nose band of a halter, or dripped into the horse's stall bedding may be all that's needed. Many essential oils used in aromatherapy are inexpensive and can be purchased in health-food stores and the natural product aisles of some pharmacies and grocery stores.
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