Alternative Therapies for Horses is an excellent article from Horse and Rider by Dr. Barb Crabbe, DVM about using alternative therapies on your horse. She lists some of the conditions for which these therapies can have benefit as well as guidelines for finding a qualified practitioner.
As a practicing licensed equine massage therapist and a licensed human massage therapist, I do have a few comments of my own.
I cannot stress this enough if your horse has been injured, or suddenly appears lame or sick, your first call is always your vet! Most trained alternative therapists will not work on an animal or human until we know it is safe to do so. There are many instances such as told about in the article that alternative therapies may do more harm. Ask your vet if it is alright to do the alternative treatment you are considering.
While your vet is examining your horse, take notes! We will be asking detailed questions about the horse's condition and need to know exactly what the vet diagnosed and his prognosis.
Alternative Equine Therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage can help with soft tissue injuries and chronic pain.
Veterinarians and Alternative Therapies
This can be tricky. I consult with some vets who remain skeptical of any alternative treatments and would not recommend them to their clients. In fact, a few flat discourage any form of alternative therapy. I also work with some vets who embrace alternative methods and would gladly recommend alternative treatments to clients. Just be prepared if your vet is less than enthusiastic about calling in an alternative practitioner.
What Should I Do If My Vet Discourages Alternative Treatment?
The first question is why is your vet discouraging treatment? Is it because the vet does not believe in alternative treatment? Or is because he/she feels alternative treatment may cause harm? If it is because there is a chance treatment could make the condition worse, then you should wait until your vet determines it is safe. If it is because the vet does not believe in alternative treatments then that has to be your decision. I would encourage you to speak to a trained practitioner about treatment options before making a final decision.
Does Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Really Work?
In my opinion, the answer is yes! I have seen all three therapies help tremendously, especially in soft tissue injuries and chronic pain issues. But I must stress, alternative therapy is not miracle therapy. With injury and lameness issues it usually takes 3-6 sessions minimum for optimal benefit. Chronic pain issues are often helped in one session but will require additional sessions to maintain pain relieve and gain progress.