I’m sure when you hear the word Holistic you have many thoughts about what that means. Normally it is a term associated with more complimentary therapies and is often coined in the trade as such. However I believe holistic thinking is independent of how you ultimately treat yourself or your horse it is an approach that everyone should take towards caring for their horse, any other pets and indeed even ourselves.
To me Holistic means looking at everything, every single aspect of your horse and his life, not trying to treat one part in isolation. Consider each piece as a cog in the system that needs to be functioning and turning properly so that the whole system (in this case the whole horse) works and runs smoothly in a balance of optimum health.
My first real experience of thinking of it as a bigger picture came when I first met Chris Day of the Alternative Veterinary medicine centre he came out to try and help me with Jasper’s sarcoids. Chris was with us the best part of an hour with his examination. He asked about everything, Jasper’s lifestyle, his feeding program, his turnout, his feet and shoeing, his saddle and riding, he assessed his body and he asked questions about his temperament and emotional state amongst many things. This was a revelation for me I was used to a vet being “on the clock” and making a quick assessment without asking any of those questions or taking the time to look at the bigger picture – the whole horse in front of them not just the isolated part or symptom they had been called to look at.
In this section I’ve tried to cover the main categories that you need to be thinking of and accessing when you evaluate your horse. These include:
- Nutrition, together with land management,
- Movement and training,
- Saddle fitting,
- Body work – in its many forms: massage, chiropractic, shiatsu, bowen etc
- The Hooves – with a overview of barefoot options.
- Worming programs
- Lastly YOU, the impact of you or the people around your horse regularly trainers, owners, riders, carers.
This list could be extended further to to include dentistry, general husbandry, changes in routine/home/owner/trainer and many more items and I hope to go on and cover these through blog posts and articles in the future.
Its important to realise that holistic thinking shouldn’t just be reserved for after a problem has arisen, whether it be a disease or lameness issue or even a so called “vice”. Ideally it should be thought of and assessed for every horse all the time, from the moment they are conceived to the moment they leave this world. Your horse should be seen as a constantly moving dynamic being, changes will need to be made throughout the year and throughout your horses life to maintain the optimum and each horse will be an individual who will have slightly different requirements.
As the old saying goes Prevention is Better than Cure, and thats really what you hope to achieve by adopting holistic thinking in your daily decisions and management of your horse: To maintain them in health and optimum balance, to avoid problems and disease before they arise or at least before they become serious and expensive and difficult to treat.