Holistic means more than using a wider range of techniques or machines. It is a different way of thinking. Modern medicine tends to focus on the disease process, with the idea of fighting and defeating an enemy that is attacking the body. A holistic approach has a different perspective: that the natural condition of life for every one at any age is to be fully healthy, and that our role is to help the body to heal itself, as it is designed and waiting to do.
Healthy means more than “not sick or lame”. It is a positive expression through our whole presence of the joy of life, of feeling great and being part of a thriving environment and community. Abundant health actually is a natural condition on this living Earth of ours.
Healing is a concept that we need to look at from a “whole picture” standpoint. For example, people have told me that they can “cure” cribbing with a collar, or headshaking with a drug. These are not cures. They may suppress symptoms for a while, but the original condition is still present, and possibly worsening as we ignore the true cause. Successful outcomes from several cases of cribbing and headshaking have shown me that looking for the causes of a condition and aiming for a return to health are more powerful ways to practice healthy living.
One day as I waited in line at the fruit stand with a large bag of organic carrots, the woman behind me asked why so many and why organic. I said, “They’re for my horses, I like them to be really healthy. ” She reacted with, “MY horses are healthy!” As I checked out I heard her husband asking, “Why don’t WE buy organic carrots?”
For many years I regarded my animals as “healthy” because I was doing my best, after all, and they were “fine.” However I lived in constant low level fear of random strikes by diseases, colic, laminitis, hoof abscesses, injuries or mysterious lameness. I have learned that as I focus up front on the details of creating and maintaining a high level of health, giving the entire being what he or she needs to be truly well, the rate of illness and injuries for my horses and other animals (even myself) has fallen nearly to zero.
Of course, life is uncertain and dangerous (and ultimately fatal). Challenges are going to come along. A healthy being is able to face them with a positive attitude, a strong immune system, quick attention to feeling “off”, and a rapid response to the need for support or rest. That support may come in the form of a healing herb or homeopathic remedy, restorative vitamins or minerals, a call to a health professional or a knowledgeable friend for advice. What is important is to know how it feels to be healthy; to notice right away when you (or your horse) are not; and to take steps to help yourself or your horse to get back to normal.
One obstacle to recovery from a condition is the belief that it is not possible; we frequently are told “Nothing can be done for this,” or perhaps, “He’ll be on this medication for the rest of his life.” In some cases, we are told that the condition is a genetic disorder with an inevitable, negative outcome.
A second obstacle to recovery can be our tendency to expect quick results from a few applications of one therapy, or to base expectations for recovery on a given schedule. In fact, each body has different needs in regards to the therapies, the time, and the conditions it needs for healing.
A third obstacle is the need to follow up. This is a vital part of any project and the one most likely to impact success. It takes dedication to our goal and discipline to follow our plan, to keep going even when we’re not yet seeing results, to maintain optimism. Here’s where it is important to stay in touch with others, a community of support and help. Now is an important time to see the horse we’re working with as our partner in healing and in a shared life.
Living tissues and living beings have the innate capacity to recover from injury or illness. We may not be successful in our attempt; but we might as well aim for success, investigate how to find it, and intend for the best result. Starting with a journey to optimal health does support a better outcome.