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Alternative therapies - what is what?

There is a vast number of ​​alternative treatments and therapies for horses. But when can they each be used, and what are the individual treatments good for? Here we give you a rundown of some of them. However, it is important to point out that there are far more forms of therapies than those mentioned here. And that there is a big difference in how well horses respond to them. It is always necessary to let a trained professional with knowledge of the horse's anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and pathology (knowledge of disease) assess which form of treatment is best for your horse.



In chiropractic treatment, the therapist uses only the hands. The purpose of this kind of treatment is to restore the normal function of the joints. The treatment is based on the assumption that displacements or locks between the vertebrae are the cause of several disorders in the horse's body. These can be cured by pushing the vertebrae into place with special grips with the hands. You must be a trained veterinarian to be a horse chiropractor.


Chiropractic can be used for both acute and chronic problems. If the horse has problems moving a joint, it will be perceived as locked or contradictory under the rider. The horse's behavior is naturally due to pain, which is most often due to inflammation in the area in question. This in turn affects the nerves and soft tissue in the surrounding areas.

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Osteopathy is a holistic form of treatment based on traditional health science disciplines, such as anatomy, neurology, physiology, biomechanics, embryology, and pathology. The philosophy behind osteopathy is that when the body is corrected mechanically, the body's self-healing mechanisms will come into effect.

Osteopathy focuses on the entire horse's body. Therefore, it deals with muscles, joints, nerves, and connective tissue. Where a chiropractor focuses on the place where the symptom appears, the osteopath works his way forward to finally be able to determine the cause of the horse's problem.


The basic idea of ​​osteopathy is to help the horse's body to help itself. Because it works with the whole horse's body, the treatment area on the horse is much wider than is the case with chiropractic treatment.

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Osteopathy focuses on the entire horse's body. Photo: Shutterstock.

Craniosacral therapy


The form of treatment craniosacral therapy is also called CTS. It is very gentle - the techniques are used with a pressure of only approx. 5 grams. Work is done with gentle pressure and stretching that can relieve everything from stress, tension in muscles, skeletal imbalances, nervousness, unexplained pain patterns, hormonal challenges, and headaches to digestive and well-being problems.


Because craniosacral therapy is a gentle form of therapy, it is suitable for all types of horses. It is good for particularly sensitive horses, where other forms of therapy may be too disruptive. Or for horses with severe pain, precisely because of the gentleness of the techniques. This kind of therapy can be used anywhere on the body, and is particularly good for relaxing the nervous system, but generally works holistically with relaxation and restoration of balance in the body.



Massage can be performed according to many principles, but here we have chosen to combine them to explain what the form of treatment overall can be good for. The primary goal is to loosen muscle tension and excrete waste products from the muscle tissue. Just like when we get a massage ourselves. If the horse is tense in a large part of its muscles, it can compensate and thereby cause injuries elsewhere in the body. Massage is therefore performed by first reviewing the horse's body and then treating the areas where it appears sore or affected by pain.


Getting your horse massaged can be a good idea virtually no matter what muscular problem you are facing. However, it is not a good idea to massage a horse that shows great discomfort when touched. Here, gentler techniques such as craniosacral therapy should be used instead.

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There are many different massage techniques. Photo: Bettina Stecher / Malgré Tout



Treatment with acupuncture is done using thin and flexible needles, which are inserted through the skin in certain places on the horse's body, which are connected to its meridian pathways. The meridian trajectories reach different organs around areas of the horse's body. By stimulating the points, endorphins are released, which have a pain-relieving and muscle-relaxing effect in the areas that the meridian orbit touches. The kind of treatment can be followed up by, for example, chiropractic, because it is easier to treat chiropractic when the muscles are completely relaxed. Just as it makes the treatment more comfortable for the horse. In addition, acupuncture can only be performed by veterinarians.


Acupuncture is especially good for horses with back problems, problems in the neck, knees, and hocks. In addition, the needle therapy can also be used for some types of skin disorders, hoof disorders and behavioral problems. However, it is the veterinarian's assessment of whether the horse being examined may benefit from being treated with acupuncture.

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Acupressure is intended to work like acupuncture, but without the use of needles. Instead, the therapist uses his hands to press, stroke, and make circular motions at the selected points on the horse's body that are connected to its meridian paths. Some believe that the form of treatment is not as effective as acupuncture, while others are of a different experience.


Just as with acupuncture, acupressure is intended to help with physical as well as mental disorders in the horse. This can include back problems, gastrointestinal problems, hormonal imbalances, respiratory problems, muscle tension and various mental challenges.



Homeopathy is a form of treatment in which extracts of natural substances - most often from plants, roots, and the like - are used in very small doses to set in motion the self-healing function of the horse´s body. Before the selection of which remedy the horse should be given, a review of the horse's disease history and personality takes place. The method of treatment should, of course, only be practiced by someone who is trained in it. There are veterinarians, who are trained for this.


Homeopathy is said to work on various problems in the horse - and in humans for that matter. This applies, for example, to impaired function in the internal organs, skin problems, and behavioral problems. However, this kind of treatment requires that the underlying cause can be found. There are also remedies for acute injuries and blood clots.



Healing is known as a very spiritual form of treatment. The goal is to try to understand the horse, either by placing a hand on it or through the power of thought or visualization. The treatment takes place by the therapist transferring so-called energies from the outside to the horse. The horse's disorder is understood as an expression that there are imbalances in its energy flow. The healer will therefore try to restore the balance in the horse's body energy by adding extra energy where there is imbalance. Thereby, the theory is to be able to strengthen the body's own, self-healing powers.


This kind of treatment is said to be able to help with some physical, but especially mental disorders in the horse. This can be, for example, behavioral changes, stress, and nervousness. It may also be that you are trying to get an answer as to why your horse continues to get injured. It is very important that you always consult a veterinarian before resorting to a healer if you suspect an injury or other serious disorder in the horse.

Do your homework

Whatever form of therapy you choose for your horse, it is perfectly okay - and often necessary - to demand certain requirements from the professional who will perform the work. Feel free to do a little research on the education of the person and feel free to ask about the person's background and specialties. There are several different ​​educations within the alternative forms of treatment, and there is a great variety in content, duration, and ways of certification.


Bettina Stecher, Integrated Equine Bodywork: Massage

Veterinary Watch: Chiropractic

Veterinarian Heidi Nielsen: Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Acupuncture on Horse back

Veterinarian Rikke Schultz: Homeopathy

Veterinary Watch: Acupuncture

Evidence: Chiropractic on horses

Evidence: Acupuncture on horses

Horse in Balance: Osteopathy

Horse Specialists: Acupressure & Shiatsu Massage

Jystrup Horse Practice: Acupuncture

Odense Osteopathy

The Health Guide: Healing

Pernille Rosengaard: Horse healing

Danish Osteopaths


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