Horses suffering from arthritis, allergies or other painful ailments may benefit from acupuncture.

In “The Acupuncture Alternative” in the August Western Horseman, freelancer Audrey Pavia discussed acupuncture from both the Eastern and the Western points of view, and gave one horse owner’s firsthand account of her experiences with the alternative treatment. Here, Pavia includes some things to consider in determining if acupuncture might be a right for your horse. She also provides guidelines for finding a qualified acupuncturist.


Consider Acupuncture

Veterinarians practicing traditional Western medicine are trained to apply a specific treatment to an animal when that animal shows symptoms of disease. In the Chinese way of thinking, however, when an animal is sick, this is a sign that the body is out of balance.

For this reason, any horse-or any animal, for that matter-feeling under the weather in any way can benefit from acupuncture. Acupuncture restores the body’s balance, enabling it to heal itself.

Cheryl Schwartz, DVM, writes in her book about Chinese medicine, Four Paws, Five Directions (Celestial Arts Publishing), “Acupuncture was first used on animals as long as 3,500 year ago, when, legend has it, an elephant was treated for a stomach disorder similar to bloating. Since then, acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine have been used to treat a variety of problems, including pain, arthritis, heart, lung, kidney, digestive, hormonal, allergic, reproductive and mental illness. In fact, TCM can be used to treat almost any imbalance except those requiring surgery.”

If your horse is having health problems and you have sought a traditional veterinarian’s advice without satisfying results, consider acupuncture as an alternative. Acupuncture risks are virtually non-existent if you use a qualified practitioner, which means that your horse can only stand to benefit from this ancient procedure.

Finding a Qualified Acupuncturist

As with any veterinary procedure, it’s important that the acupuncturist you are considering is well-qualified. When searching for an acupuncturist for your horse, follow these guidelines:

* Get referrals. Other horse owners with success stories are the best places to find names of reputable veterinary acupuncturists.

* Credentials count. Seek an acupuncturist who has been formally trained and is a member of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society or the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncturists. (For a list of the organizations’ members, visit or

* Look for experience. Ask the practitioner how much experience he or she has with acupuncture in general and horses in particular.

* Verify sanitation. Make sure disposable needles are used, and that needles are not reused.

California freelancer Audrey Pavia has written Horses for Dummies (John Wiley Publishing) and Trail Riding: A Complete Guide (Howell Book House).

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