Holistic Symposium Report 1998

The second annual Equine Holistic Symposium was held at the Kentucky Horse Park on March 21-22. Attendees from as far away as France assembled on the first day of spring to listen to a series of speakers whose presentations centered around the symposium's holistic concept: devoted to the propagation of complete health care for the equine. Following are some of the highlights from the symposium lectures:

Anita Jackson, DC, opened the symposium with a lecture on chiropractic. During her presentation, she reminded the audience that pain is not the only criterion of which to be aware in assessing the well-being of a horse. Pain often is the last thing to appear and the first thing to go away. One must find the problem; by the time there is pain, the problem has been there for a while. According to Jackson, one must locate and know the problem before treatment can begin, whether the problem is nutritional, structural, chemical, etc. She also reminded the audience of the stages of care: to get relief from pain, to stabilize and correct the problem, to maintain the correction (this is a very important stage), and to rehabilitate (if there is no rehabilitation, one is setting himself or herself up for a lack of success).

Physical therapy is an integral part of care, but one must first make sure that the initial problem is corrected. Most importantly, one must make sure he or she is using a qualified practitioner. Jackson also discussed the components of a good chiropractic exam: a complete case history, posture analysis, gait analysis, static palpation, motion palpation, muscle involvement, and spinal temperature. Conditions she said can be treated include stiffness, performance problems, some lameness, and uneven gaits. There is no "cookbook" formula in regard to the frequency of treatments. The number of treatments must be determined on an individual basis, but treatment must be given at least once a week initially.

Peggy Fleming, DVM, presented homeopathy as a modality of holistic medicine. According to Fleming, whether horse or human, symptoms are the body's way of trying to achieve balance, and we should try to stimulate those symptoms in order to effect a cure. Therefore, one should administer a homeopathic to stimulate the cure. The remedy prods the body's immune system to work rather than to be suppressed. In other words, a homeopathic remedy is used to stimulate a central reaction to fight the insult. Another cornerstone of homeopathy concerns the potency. The substances given are very diluted. To illustrate this modality, Fleming listed many homeopathic remedies and the problem they are intended to cure. For example, aconitum (monk's hood) is used as a fever remedy. It should be used at the first sign of illness. It also is used as a preventative for shipping fever. Fleming warned the audience that this form of medicine can be powerful and dangerous, especially since many of the remedies come from poisonous substances.

Other speakers of the day included Bruce Jackson, DC, who lectured on equine kinesiology and Tim Fleck, DVM, who presented Temporal-Mandibular Dysfunction.

The evening presentation was given at The Heritage Farm. Using a 10-year old Arabian stallion, Marvin Cain, DVM, performed a complete acupuncture evaluation procedure.

Mimi Porter, BA, MS, opened the second day of the program with her discussion of the role of physical therapy in treating horses. Based on the Hippocratic philosophies of doing no harm and honoring the healing power of nature, physical therapy is a non-invasive and non-pharmacologic modality whose goals are to relieve and/or reduce pain, to restore range of motion, to restore strength, and to prevent further injury. Porter stressed that the physical therapist must work in conjunction with a veterinarian because the physical therapist is neither trained to make, nor should make, a diagnosis. She also stressed the mistake in trying to make speed of recovery a goal since the body needs time to repair. Among the tools used by physical therapists are natural energy sources like sound, light, heat, and cold. The physical therapist uses these tools to target the nerve network, the lymph system, the blood circulatory system, and the inter/intra cell messenger system. The energy these tools employ must then reach the target tissue and be absorbed in order to create the desired effect. In order to be the most effective, however, physical therapy must be applied as soon as possible after the injury. Porter then reviewed many of the types of physical therapy available including ice, chemical hot and cold packs, thermographs, ultrasound, and laser, as well as the manual therapies like massage, acupressure, and stretching exercises, among others.

Cletus Vonderwell, DVM, IVAS, discussed acupuncture. According to Vonderwell, acupuncture does work and it works predictably well. Acupuncture points help tell where the horse is hurting. He does not treat every horse with acupuncture, but he does go over every horse performing a complete acupuncture procedure.

Joe Pagan, PhD, of Kentucky Equine Research, presented a lecture on nutrition and its role on equine health. He began with the premise that there is not one single way to feed horses, and that we often try to apply human nutrition to equine nutrition. However, the things that work on humans don't work on horses. Strongly emphasized was the role of forage and having the right forage foundation for other types of feed. A rule of thumb is that a horse should have, at minimum, 1% of his body weight a day of forage. Putting hay in fields is a good way to tell if a horse is getting enough forage. If the grass isn't sufficient to meet his needs, he will eat the hay. All rations should contain some long stem roughage or the horse will satisfy his need to chew by gnawing on wood or the other horses' tails. Pagan also provided the audience with some steps to prevent laminitis: 1) feed liberal quantities of forage; 2) make feed changes gradually (take about five days to change the feed so that the bacteria in the hind gut can adjust; 3) never feed more than five pounds of grain per meal (most important); 4) watch the horse's weight.

The final presentation was made by Ric Redden, DVM. According to Redden, all four feet on a horse differ slightly. Because very few horses have matching feet, when one does try to match them for purely aesthetic reasons, there is harm done to the functionality of the foot. What it does take to keep a horse's foot a maximum health is the four-point trim, which is designed to keep equilibrium by distributing the weight-bearing load. Redden also emphasized the importance of the heel-no heel no horse.

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