Unconventional medicine might be a blessed relief
Acupuncture was seen as
providing a last chance
for one horse in pain.
Tamara Farrant tells the story
I WAS brought up amidst strictly conventional medicine – most of my relatives were vets and sneered at "quacks" who offered alternative treatments. Now those "quacks" are often highly qualified and there is greater awareness that conventional medicine does not have all the answers.
In fact where conventional medicine has failed, I have often found the alternatives have brought dramatic results.
Buoyed up by these successes, I hoped that acupuncture might do miracles for Annie, a 12-year-old mare. Id had her on loan for only four weeks when the bony growths above her hooves – which I knew she had – started to cause her so much pain that even bute, the pain-killing drug regularly used in the horse world, could not eliminate the knock-on back pain.
So as a "last chance", I decided to try acupuncture, which releases the bodys natural painkillers and has an anti-inflammatory function.
* Alternative therapies
I called in Peter Gregory from East Hoathly, near Lewes, who qualified as a vet in 1972 and started using homeopathy and acupuncture in the mid-1980s. Since 1995 he has used only alternative therapies.
His reading of Annies acupuncture points revealed that her neck and back problems had not been in my imagination – or hers. These points, which can be felt by the trained hand, are where nerve and energy pathways within the body reach the skin. When linked, they can be mapped out to produce so-called meridian lines.
In a healthy, pain-free horse, these are soft to the touch. But after continual pain, the pathways become tense and hard. Annie had an impressive array of blocked acupuncture points down her back and neck.
Before Peter made any recommendations, he put together an in-depth picture of Annies likes and dislikes, finding out everything, from her behaviour with other horses to the amount she drinks.
To stimulate repair, classic narrow needles were put into the acupuncture points to encourage the release of natural painkillers. Annie was rather apprehensive, but eventually settled as the soothing effect began to kick in.
Peter has found that acupuncture is often helped by linking it with homeopathic treatments.
The array of medication Annie was given to follow the treatment included a powder to combat her bodys over-production of cells – manifesting itself in sarcoids and bone growths. Other medication dealt with her mental trauma of moving home several times.
* Good sign
After the first visit, Annie was considerably worse for a few days – but in alternative medicine, this is often a good sign. To my delight, over the following weeks she appeared almost sound, to the point that I took her out for a quiet walk.
Peter came back for the second visit and found there were fewer painful points on her back, and prescribed some more powders, this time to focus on the ring bone and side bone. Progress seemed to go well the following week, but suddenly Annie returned to the original high pain levels, shown by her not wanting to move out of her stable and walking crooked downhill.
Acupuncture was a last chance for her and it was worth taking. Sadly, for me and her, she turned out to be one of the 20% for whom the treatment does not work.