Chances are you have a team of healthcare professionals in addition to your primary care doctor to keep you feeling your best. That may include a chiropractor, a masseuse, an acupuncturist and others. It’s becoming more common for horses to have this type of care too.
Unfortunately, just about anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be an equine therapist. So, what should you look for when selecting a therapist to work on your horse?
Word of mouth through other horse-owning friends or barn boarders is helpful in sorting through those therapists who might be best suited to work with your horse. In addition, it is prudent to seek out a person who is accredited through formal training.
The therapist should have achieved appropriate credentials and a working understanding of equine anatomy and physiology. Ask the therapist for their credentials that demonstrate that they have been through a formal training program and have been formally certified. Check that the organizations from which they have received their “accreditation” are ones that are trustworthy for graduating qualified individuals.
Examples of qualified schools include the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage provides a list of accredited members for these therapeutic pursuits. There are an abundance of other schools, but these resources have a good reputation for fostering and locating well-trained therapists.
Traits and Attributes to Consider
Once you have obtained a measure of confidence in a person’s credentials, ensure that the selected therapist is willing to work in conjunction with, and communicate with, your veterinarian. This maintains continuity of medical care for your horse, allowing both (or all) parties to have full knowledge of diagnosis and treatments. Additionally, ask the therapists if they recognize their limitations as a diagnostician–just because they are certified in massage does not mean they are qualified to make a diagnosis of some disease or musculoskeletal disorder.
Listen carefully to the therapist and be cautious in using them if they badmouth another equine professional or try to self-aggrandize their own importance by denigrating others’ professional input. Ideally, the acupuncturist or chiropractor will also be a veterinarian who has gone on to advanced training as an adjunct to managing horses’ needs in their veterinary practice.
What other attributes would you like to see when selecting your team member?
A therapist should:
- Be able to provide his/her full attention on the patient at the time of your appointment.
- Be patient, calm and compassionate when working with the horse.
- Have horsemanship skills and know-how to safely work with a horse that might have pain issues, is anxious or difficult to handle.
- Be observant of safe environmental conditions in which to work—away from equipment or sharp projections, electrical cords, other people, other horses, and an overly confining workspace, to name a few.
- Unless the person is a licensed veterinarian, no sedatives or tranquilizers should be used when performing procedures.
By doing your homework before hiring an equine therapist, you can best ensure that your horse will receive safe and qualified care.
by Nancy S. Loving, DVM