Life lessons teach us to be skeptical. Skepticism is the mindset that says, “I’ll believe it when I see it…and even then I'll have doubts. In practical terms skeptics need to see a reasonable degree of external proof before they’ll believe anything out of the ordinary.
These days we are constantly bombarded with dubious claims of miracle cures, get rich schemes and endless combinations of the two. Eternally optimistic, I too have fallen victim to a quick fix or two on occasion. I have yet to to send any "exiled" Nigerians my account number, but I have purchased a few life altering as seen on TV products during bouts of insomnia. Skepticism can be a good thing if keeps people from being too gullible and being taken advantage of. However, sometimes in being too closed minded we do ourselves and our animals a disservice.
There has been a great increase in interest in alternative veterinary practices such as acupuncture and the use of herbal remedies in the equine area recently, both by the public and the veterinary medical community. The eastern approach to health is totally different from how Americans think of medicine. Western medicine aims at treating the condition while Eastern medicine is focused on overall wellness and treating the whole body. The concepts of Eastern medicine are sometimes hard to relate to the American penchant for proof.
Alternative medicine is a phrase that is used to describe a wide range of health care modalities including acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, massage and other touch therapies, and flower essences among others. It is generally defined as "...those treatments and health care practices not taught in medical schools and not generally used in hospitals"
Interestingly, many of these alternative medical approaches have been in existence for hundreds if not thousands of years in various parts of the world. Acupuncture, an ancient health care modality originating in the Far East, has roots that are at least 3000 years old. Herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy are still used effectively and extensively in many countries around the world, and are often viewed as the primary form of treatment in those countries.
Treating illness and pain in horses can be difficult, frustrating, and expensive. Even when we have a clear and accurate diagnosis there are many conditions not easily cured with conventional western medicine. In an earlier post I discussed the plight of my 12 year old Appaloosa Bailey who suffers from from Equine Recurrent Uveitis. His last flare up was the worst I had ever seen. It lasted 8 weeks and cost almost a thousand dollars. I was treating the eye with a combination of antibiotics, steriods and anti inflammatories. As the two month mark approached I was concerned that Bailey was not only loosing his patience with my constant medicating, he was also loosing his vision. It was out of desperation that I decided to try something new.
A local Veterinarian with an extensive background in alternative therapies including, acupuncture and the use of Chinese herbs suggested a product called Haliotis Powder or (Jue-ming-san). In the Traditional Chinese Medicine guide it states that Jue-ming-san or Concha Haliotidis is used in formulas to treat high blood pressure,eye redness with light sensitivity, blurred vision, glaucoma, cataracts, and headaches spasms. This supposedly works by clearing heat in the liver; thus detoxifying and brightening the eye.
Although I was doubtful that this Herbal formula would prove effective I decided to purchase a one month supply. She suggested I also schedule an acupuncture session for Bailey as well. I was willing to try the powder but I was still skeptical about surrounding an already aching eye with needles.
Within 3 days of beginning the haliotis powder virtually all swelling and tearing had disappeared and Bailey's eye had regained clarity and color. It has been two months now with no sign of the flare up returning. I don't know why it worked. I still have no idea what heat in the liver has to do with the eyes, but quite frankly it doesn't matter. As long as Bailey is out grazing with his buddies instead of hanging his head in a dark corner I will continue to use the product.
This small success set the stage for another two weeks ago with my 7 year old palomino mare "Maddie." Maddie has been dealing with chronic back pain for the last three years. As we advanced through the levels of training we always came to a point where she was physically unable to progress. She would become extremely back sore followed by extreme attitude. I later found out about an incident early on in her training involving flipping over on and breaking a western saddle.
Trying to correct the problem, I made the terrible mistake of placing my mare in the hands of an incompetent chiropractic adjustor ( not a vet! there is a big difference) Not only did he insist she be sedated, twitched and wear a chain but he managed to make a bad situation much worse. After Maddie's treatment she could barely walk let alone be ridden. After several more mis diagnosis and failed attempts to rehabilitate I finally gave up. Luckily, she is a beautiful mare that adores children. Being a palomino that resembles "Barbie's horse" apparently has its advantages. She became a child only lesson horse and life size model to be brushed and fawned over.
I was told that Dr. Froeling often incorporated chiropractic work and acupuncture in her practice so I thought it might be worth asking her to do an assessment on Maddie. I figured if Chinese herbs can cure eyes maybe needles can help sore backs.
The doctor ran her hands down the spine and over her legs checking her feet and teeth. she stretched and flexed, pushed and pulled all while consoling Maddie with her voice. After the assessment was complete, Dr. Froeling determined it was not her back but her neck and teeth that were causing my mare such discomfort. She said that Maddie had a slight overbite that was causing problems that needed to be addressed further than the once to twice a year floating. The dental problems were directly related to the inability to properly use the lower back and hindquarters. She also found signs of damage to the poll rather than the back most likely the result of her being flipped.
She asked if she could do an adjustment and administer acupuncture that day. I was reluctant to have her adjusted but decided to proceed after the Doctor assured me sedation would not be necessary as it would be a relatively painless procedure. I spent the next 20 minutes with my jaw dropped as I watched the interaction between Dr. Froeling and my mare. The same horse that most times reacted with violence at light massage was standing relaxed and perfectly still while she was pulled, twisted and popped then transformed into an equine pin cushion.
Dr. Froeling taught me numerous stretches and exercises
to keep Maddie comfortable for riding. After seeing my mare do everything under the sun for this doctor including hopping on three legs (literally) I was ready to listen to whatever she had to say. She suggested I incorporate the new stretches into our daily routine and that we slowly return to work. The Doctor said what I never expected to hear... "Maddie should be fine. I expect she should be capable of a full recovery."
I was still reluctant to believe it was that simple but I couldn't help but feel excited and hopeful at the possibilities. Only time will tell if Maddie will become all I dreamed she could be but so far I could not be happier with the results. I saw an amazing difference in a matter of days. For the first time in more than two years she is moving forward, stretching down and beginning to round her back.
I am certainly not ready to abandon western medicine, however these experiences have opened my eyes to a different approach to maintaining health. I think we can all benefit by combining both the advanced diagnostics available and wondrous cures seen with Western medicine aided by the techniques which utilize the body's natural healing powers. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe health is represented as a balance of yin and yang. These two forces represent the bipolar manifestation of all things in nature, and because of this, one must be present to allow the other to exist.
The idea is that maintaining overall wellness and preventing discord is superior to dealing with the after effects. At the core of eastern medicine is the belief that as balance is restored in the body, so is health. Perhaps this approach is more of a philosophy than an exact science, but I think this theory is not as backward as western dogma would have us believe. The goal is achieving and maintaining balance, and that is something we could all use a little more of...