Featured in Saddle Mule News Mag.1999

The current trend is toward whole-istic types of therapies. More and more people are using these modalities for themselves and are discovering the benefits for their animals, as well.

I prefer the term whole-istic rather than holistic because it immediately brings forth the idea of the whole animal ~ mental, physical, and emotional. And the care for them will then encompass more than just 'training' or 'riding'.

No type of complimentary therapy is a substitute for veterinary care or surgery when the situation calls for it. That is why I like the word complimentary ~ these approaches can work in conjunction with other treatments. They can also stand ~ alone and be used safely and effectively.

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy comes from the Greek words "homoios" meaning similar and "pathos" meaning suffering. Hence, "similar suffering". Treatments are based on the "Law of Similars" or "like cures like". This law states that the same substance that produces dis-ease symptoms in a healthy person/animal when given in concentrated doses, can also 'cure' a sick person/animal with similar symptoms when given in very diluted form.

As an example; Ipecac is a liquid medicine often used to induce vomiting ~ this is why it is given to people who ingest certain types of poison. However, prepared as a homeopathic remedy, Ipecac will stop vomiting.

Homeopathy is considered a vitalistic healing art; the theory is that homeopathic remedies are able to stimulate the body's own healing abilities. Conventional Western, or allopathic medicine ("opposite suffering"),in contrast, is founded on a mechanistic viewpoint ~ that an unhealthy body can be fixed with drugs. A drug is given that produces the opposite of the symptom. (Ex. Decongestant to DRY UP a RUNNY nose.)

Most people raised with the ideas of conventional medicine confuse the symptoms of an illness ~ such as pain, discharges ~ with the illness itself. When the symptoms are gone, the dis-ease is presumed to be cured. In contrast, the homeopath believes that the symptoms are merely signals that the body's natural defense mechanism is attempting to restore balance internally. The homeopath would treat the imbalance, not the symptom. Symptoms are used to understand what the body is trying to accomplish. Therefore, from a homeopathic viewpoint, the chronic use of most drugs has a suppressive rather than curative action.

How is the correct remedy chosen?

It is vitally important that the practitioner know all of the signs and symptoms of the illness. This process is known as casetaking. A detailed history and physical examination is performed with the emphasis on establishing a complete picture of the animal's symptoms. Such a casetaking will delve into many areas of the animal's life, not just the symptoms evidenced.

Usually, the homeopath will then refer to a repertory ~ a book, which lists all symptoms and indexes them to their remedies. The possible remedy is narrowed down to three or four which are carefully evaluated based on their descriptions in the Materia Medica, to determine which remedy most closely matches the symptoms. Here is where the accessibility to someone trained in Applied Kinesiology would come in very handy ~ would take the 'closely match' out of it and would determine which remedy this particular animal's body truly wants.

I don't have a homeopathic practitioner in my area
~ What can I do?

No one knows your animal better than you do. Observe and take copious notes. Then you can do a phone consult with someone who is knowledgeable in treating equines with homeopathy. Obtain an Equine Materia Medica and familiarize yourself with the different remedies. Also, many companies are coming out with 'combination remedies'. Basically, they take all the single remedies that would help a particular imbalance and combine them ~ kind of a 'scatter gun' approach ~ one is bound to help!!

What are some commonly used remedies?

Arnica ~ bruising injuries to soft tissues, injuries from blows, falls, shock, sore muscles, promotes circulation, also used as a preventative to soreness when used prior to a strenuous workout.

Aconite ~ anxiety and restlessness, intolerance of pain, emotional trauma. Very good for separation anxiety, i.e. weaning, transporting, herd-bound. Also helpful for inflammation and hot, swollen joints

Calendula ~ open cuts and wounds. Can be used internally or externally. Mix with spring water in a spray bottle and spray on the wound.

What about colic?

Generally speaking, when diagnosed and administered properly, homeopathic remedies are gentle, safe and have no side effects. Therefore, they can be of great help to your mule's well being while waiting for the vet.

Again, observe your animal. Symptoms such as spasmodic cramping caused by ingesting green foods (too much early spring grass, for example), severe abdominal pain and distention, loud gut sounds, pawing, looks at belly ~ Colocynth or Chamomilla

Distention of abdomen, esp. on the right side, rumbling or high-pitched gas sounds, prefers to remain standing ~ Colchicum

Impaction, spasms, straining to have bowel movement, irritable, lies on side ~ Nux Vomica

Though there are over 3,000 remedies, the encouraging news is that there are about 25 that are most commonly used for equines! Most tack and feed stores carry or can order for you books on homeopathy and other natural forms of health care.

For a list of holistic veterinarians in your area, contact American Holistic Veterinary Medical Assoc. 410-569-0795.

Dr. Madalyn Ward specializes in the use of homeopathy, nutrition, acupuncture and chiropractic care. She offers phone consultations for out of area clients. Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic, Austin, TX 512-288-0428

I also highly recommend Cheyanne West, homeopathic consultant. A Natural Path, Lewis, Co. 970-882-8888 and Diana Thompson, editor of The Whole Horse Journal, Fulton, Ca. 707-542-4646.

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