May 5, 2009: Therapy for Thoroughbreds

  • May 27, 2009
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Trade Zone: Therapy for Thoroughbreds - Click Here to Download PDF

By Karen Briggs
Photos by Anne M. Eberhardt

Perhaps Shakespeare said it best: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The Thoroughbred world, in particular,has been slow to accept the idea that "alternative," or "complementary" therapies might be more than just hocus-pocus. But increasingly, trainers and owners are opening up to the idea that conventional veterinary medicine may not be the only way of dealing with the complex health issues of today's equine athletes. Modalities such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal treatments, may hold answers for conditions with which the veterinary community has had little or no success.

Horsepeople aren't the only ones interested. So are an increasing number of veterinarians, who have become frustrated with a school of thought that treats the symptoms and manages the causes, often with invasive medications. Some are gravitating toward a more holistic view-one that emphasizes the wellness of the whole horse, physical, emotional, and mental.

"Complementary therapies take the whole horse into consideration," said Dr. John Harthorn, who maintains a private practice in Avelia, Pa., and works almost exclusively on racing Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. "I try to establish a state of balance in each horse I treat. When a horse is unbalanced externally, it compromises his ability to move forward and be athletic, and it also expresses itself internally, most notably through the liver and the lungs.  When one facet is out of balance, things tend to snowball, health-wise. And when that happens, horses start to run cheaper and cheaper because they can't use themselves to their full potential.

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