The horse has evolved over millions of years to walk the plains, eat grass, reproduce and take flight from predators in order to survive. These traits are firmly embedded in its DNA and the length of time man has used the horse for his own purposes - around 4000 years - is a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, so the horse is still a flight animal with every natural instinct intact.
This explains why, in times of either physical or psychological stress, it is very unlikely that the horse's evolutionary ‘programming' will be overcome by any bond with humans built up through mutual respect and training. As a result, stress can and does manifest in a number of ways, including the development of behavioural problems or lameness for which a definitive diagnosis is elusive. The physical and the psychological aspects of health and wellbeing are inextricably linked and it is now accepted by leading psychiatrists working in the field of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that "there is never a physical injury without an associated psychological injury".
In our management of working and competition horses, working ‘with' the horse's natural instincts is increasingly understood to be of significant importance in maintaining both physical health and psychological wellbeing. Chronic stress can and often does result in physical symptoms and similarly, traumatic physical injury will inevitably have a psychological effect.
Holistic healthcare is not a new term and in the context of working and competition horses, managing psychological health is known to be a powerful tool in maintaining physical health. If things do go wrong, reviewing psychological stressors in the context of evolution is essential.
Ian Thirkell, Managing Director of ArcEquine, the company behind the ArcEquine microcurrent healing technology explains more: "Our work with an eminent Professor of Psychiatry, who is a leading expert on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, teaches that to enable healing of a physical injury, it is essential to first eliminate all trauma, both physical and psychological, before progressing to a rehabilitation phase, which in the case of horses, should take full account of the horse's evolutionary traits."
"An injured horse in its natural environment will not remain static in one location, as it has to do when on box rest, preferring to move quietly from one area of cover to another, keeping itself physically safe from predators and at the same time, it feels safe ‘psychologically'. By behaving in this manner, it is putting a ‘load' through the injured tissues and this is how nature encourages tissue repair."
"As the problem resolves, so the horse moves more in a given time period, systematically increasing the load and stimulating more repair. By comparison, an extended period of box rest induces chronic psychological stress, which is not conducive to tissue repair or the long term outcome, either physical and /or psychological. The rehabilitation protocols we recommend utilise nature's evolutionary approach to rehabilitation and are available online at www.arcequine.com together with more information about how psychological stress is inextricably linked to physical manifestations of disease and injury in horses."