The Easy Fix
I can’t tell you how many times someone has emailed me to ask which essential oil or herb they need to use to fix X, Y, or Z with their horse. I wish things were as simple as this, but all too often, they’re not.
As a society, I think we’re much too obsessed with finding the ‘easy fix’. We’re always searching for that next miracle pill or herb or treatment which will cure our ill. If you think about it–this is why diet pills, strange exercise contraptions, and a plethora of ‘miracle cure’ devices or products exist. These companies make big money preying on our vulnerabilities.
And of course, this tendency for seeking easy fixes spills over to our horses as well. Competitive horse people are notorious for this. Joint injections, chiropractic work, magnetic blankets, etc.–they’re just searching for what will keep their horse going for another year or two. I know this because I was once one of them.
I was leery of joint injections for many years, but finally relented when my barrel horses who’d previously been at the top of their game suddenly started experiencing problems. I also used Adequan and various joint supplements, but by the time I’d gotten to this point with Hershey, especially, we were nearing the end of our barrel racing career together. I would later learn that there was just too much wear and tear on his joints.
The truth is, most issues our horses face have been a long time in the making. They don’t happen overnight (except in the case of an acute injury such as a wound). And if it took several months, or more likely, years to get your horse to a certain point, we can’t expect to fix the problem in a day, a week, or even a month. It will likely take much longer than that. And some conditions, such as severe arthritis, simply aren’t going to go away (though the pain can be lessened with certain treatments).
Let’s take acupressure (or acupuncture), for example. I love using this modality on horses, but I would never call it an ‘easy fix’. That’s one reason why I refused to work at shows when I was working on outside horses. You aren’t going to simply press on a few points and then the horse is magically going to run faster, jump higher, or move more fluidly at their show. Sure, it might help, but for acupressure to really have an effect, the horse needs to be calm and relatively unstressed. This probably won’t be the case at a show environment.
And I’ve also learned that when I go to the acupuncturist, myself, it often takes at least two or three sessions to see any noticeable change. This is often true with horses, too.
The fact is, we need to change our expectations when it comes to helping our horses overcome injuries, emotional trauma, or even behavioral problems. Instead of focusing on quick solutions to get us through the day or the next competition, we need to seek long-term solutions, and more importantly, preventative care. It’s going to require some effort on our part.
It’s also kind of like barefoot. In my opinion, shoes are the easy solution. They protect our horse’s feet (albeit temporarily) and often mask true problems. When you take the shoes off, you’re left with the truth. If thrush is an issue, it may very well show in the horse’s gait when he’s barefoot. Same with any other type of problem/ imbalance in the hoof. But this is often the only way we can see what we’re really dealing with and begin to fix it. I know plenty of people will differ with me on this, but this is what I absolutely believe.
So again, I’m not saying essential oils aren’t wonderful. I’m not saying that chiropractic work or magnetic therapy (though I haven’t really researched this one) or certain supplements won’t help a horse. Because they often have they’re place. But we need to quit viewing them as easy fixes. We need to be willing to look at the whole picture–one that includes how the horse got to this point in the first place. Then, we need to devise a long-term strategy for how to deal with it. This strategy might include drugs/ medicine from your vet. It might also include supplements/ herbs and changes to the horse’s lifestyle and diet. And it should definitely involve a closer look at your horse’s feet (since this is where so many musculo-skeletal issues begin).
But I know one thing for sure: this whole-horse approach is going to get you a lot further than an easy fix.