Once a horse becomes injured, owners want their horse to recover rapidly and fully and to encourage this, many modalities are available. Some have well-established efficacy and safety (ice therapy), some are considered unethical (pin firing), and some come from human medicine without proper research on horses (electro-stimulation).
Time seems to be the best therapy, but shortcuts develop for fast healing with pressure to get the horse back in action. Some are medically advanced (stem cell, shock wave, hyperbaric), and some are traditional (physical therapy, chiropractic, massage). I have found that the treatment’s effectiveness is proportional to the practitioner’s ability.
I often find the addition of sound nutritional advice missing in selecting a therapy. I sound like a stuck record here because I believe the prevention of most injuries comes with good feeding practices. This approach would avoid the need for treatments and therapies. Still, once injured, the addition of the correct materials from nutrition is needed for repair in every therapy and treatment discussion.
For example, treatment for a horse with laminitis includes ice therapy, anti-inflammatories, and therapeutic shoes. Nutritionally, the horse is placed on a reduced sugar diet and tested for insulin resistance. A proven approach excludes all glucose (soaking the hay, no pasture) and adds high-quality protein. Still, no one looks at the root cause of this disease – chronic protein deficiency causing poor hoof quality plus inflammation from excess blood glucose.
In veterinary and human medicine, the approach taught to students has been to identify the problem and then treat it with the goal of a quick recovery. I rarely hear of any of these people looking at the root cause of any issue and working towards a more long-lasting recovery and prevention. I can’t take the credit for calling this “Whack-A-Mole medicine,” but this isn’t just a problem in veterinary medicine. Some human doctors invest in longevity lifestyles and health changes to prevent illness as we age, thus avoiding the focused approach to treatment so common today. This proactive approach requires 1) medical schools to teach it and 2) owners to want it. In the world of instant repair of problems, multiple therapies thrive.
But the underlying problem is often ignored. You cannot fix a bad hoof with trims, shoes or supplements until you fix the nutrition of the hoof and the horse.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Excluding trauma, horse owners could prevent most illnesses and soundness issues with good nutrition and training. And most problems, if given good food and good workouts, will recover with time. However, don’t rush the beautiful processes the body has to heal. After all, these processes have been around longer than man and horse have been together.