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Alternative Therapies That Benefit Horses And Humans

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138 – March/April, 2024

By Heather Smith Thomas

Today there are many ways we can help horses perform optimally to keep them sound and comfortable. Just as for human athletes, sore muscles and joints can hinder a horse’s performance. These situations can often be addressed with therapies like chiropractic, massage, and cold treatments to help the body regain better mobility and comfort.

Chiropractic Care

Dr. Leah Van Blarcom has been a licensed chiropractor since 2011–working on both humans and horses. She graduated from chiropractic college then went to animal chiropractic school at Parker University in Texas. An animal chiropractor must be licensed in the state he/she is working. “I am licensed in 10 states and only work the Quarter Horse circuit, since these are the horses that I grew up showing. At first, I was just going to work with horses, then realized how much the riders needed help.” If they are sore or uncomfortable, they can be a hindrance to the horse’s performance.

“At one show, a trainer sent a horse back to me; he didn’t think the chiropractic adjustment helped. I was surprised because the horse had responded well. So I watched the amateur ride and realized she couldn’t close her legs. I adjusted her, and my Equestrian Chiropractor business was born. I now have booth space at the major shows where I can work on the riders as well as the horses.”

Chiropractic work is meant to align spinal segments that are out of alignment due to stress, Van Blarcom explains. “Those stresses can be physical, emotional, or chemical. Spinal segments can skew out of alignment with physical stresses encountered every day–such as the horse being ridden. Gravity itself is a physical stress.”

Emotional stress can lead to tension and tightening of muscles that can pull things out of alignment. “A horse being trailered is a physical stress (and also an emotional stress if the horse isn’t accustomed to transport). A new environment at a horse show­–away from home–is an emotional stress,” she says.

“Chemical stress can be the result of what we put in our bodies, or the horse’s body, or what we don’t put in our body. Are we not getting the right nutrition? Are we doing things that are harmful like drinking, smoking, etc., or eating things we shouldn’t? It’s the same with horses, and this could lead to things like stomach ulcers. A horse might be out of alignment because his stomach hurts,” Leah explains. “That horse might be leaning to his right too hard, and it might not be fixed by chiropractic work; that’s where his cecum is located, and his belly hurts.” It’s important to have proper diagnosis and get the problem resolved if that horse is moving guardedly because of internal pain.

“After we realign the joint segments, we monitor the horse. Is it now able to function optimally? Maybe it has improved but isn’t as good as it could be and we need to look at other things. Is it his belly? Or do his joints have changes and need injections by a veterinarian? Maybe the muscles are not adapting/recovering and the horse needs PEMF (Pulse Electrical Magnetic Field) therapy,” Leah says. Sometimes shockwave therapy is also very beneficial.

Shockwave Therapy

Click here to read the complete article
138 – March/April, 2024

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