The term complementary/alternative therapies refers to holistic methods of healing that differ from that a regular veterinarian does. It includes massage, acupressure, acupuncture, and aromatherapy. While these therapies should not entirely replace veterinarian care, especially in serious situations, they can be used in conjunction with it. For example, you can use massage therapy when your horse is injured in addition to have your vet come out.
Acupressure and Acupuncture
Acupressure is a form of therapy used in traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that an energy flow, called the chi, runs along channels(meridians), through every person and animal, giving them balance and health. When this energy flow is blocked somehow, a health problem occurs. To fix this, a person must apply pressure on certain points along the meridians, depending on the health problem, to continue the flow of energy. Acupuncture works the same way, except small needles are used. According to the Illustrated Guide to Holistic Care for Horses, by Denise Bean-Raymond, both therapies have several benefits. Among these are a strengthened immune system, and increased blood flow, and reduced inflammation. If your horse has a disease or a fever, the veterinarian should be called to care for him. Also, do not perform acupressure/acupuncture until at least few after your horse has eaten and when he is completely cooled down from any recent exercise.
Aromatherapy uses extracts, called essential oils, from various beneficial plants, including lavender, chamomile, wintergreen, and clove, to benefit both physical and mental health. Some are very potent and should not be applied directly to skin, while others can safely by applied topically. Horses will often show that they need a certain oil by perking up their ears when they smell it, or pinning their ears if they do not need the oil at the time. You should only use pure, therapeutic grade essentials because the cheaper kinds may be diluted with harmful chemicals. It may be more expensive the buy therapeutic grade oils, but you can save money in the long run since they are more beneficial and do not have the chemicals others might have. If you would like to learn more about essential oils and using them for your horse, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Massages are something most of you are probably familiar with. Someone giving a massage will rub and knead the person's muscles, reducing discomfort and increasing blood flow. The same thing works in horses. Equine massage therapies work with their patients to relieve muscle tension and pain, cause the horse to become more relaxed and ready to learn, and prevent injuries. Massaging your own horse is also a way to bond. When combining it with essential oils, you can increased benefit from both the oils and the massage(see Raindrop Technique 1, 2).
Although stretching isn't an alternative therapy, it does have its benefits. It causes muscles to become more supple, elastic, and flexible, preventing many injuries. Remember to never stretch a cold muscle. Stretching should be done after your horse warms up since stretching a cold muscle can cause it to become injured. Also remember not to strain the muscle too much when stretching it, gently lifting and stretching it. Hold it for a short amount of time at first(about 5 seconds) and over several days work your way up to about 15 seconds. If you horse seems agitated about you stretching a certain body part, release it.
These therapies can be beneficial, if done correctly. Remember that they are not meant to replace veterinarian, so if your horse becomes sick or injured, call you vet before attempting any of these therapies.