Polo Players Edition

OCT 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

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16 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N E Q U I N E A T H L E T E BY STEPHANIE COLBURN, DVM HOLISTIC MEDICINE V eterinary medicine is a holistic profession when you regard that the entire animal (patient) is considered in combination with its environment when being evaluated by your veterinarian for a medical condition. Holistic veterinarians take in the whole picture of the horse (its disease or ailment, its history, environment, genetics, nutrition, stress level, job, etc.). Despite what many people think, the term holistic is not synonymous with alternative medicine therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, massage therapy, laser therapy, etc.), rather, holistic medicine incorporates both conventional western medicine and alternative therapies for the better well being of the horse. The goal of holistic medicine is not only curing the condition at hand with the most effective and least invasive treatment available, but also finding out the root of that problem. Acupuncture, a technique utilized in China for over 3,500 years and still treating one quarter of the world's population, is a common alternative therapy sought after to improve performance in horses. Acupuncture needles stimulate the nervous system via more than 300 acupuncture points on the surface of the body that help to relieve pain and improve organ function. Dr. Shelley Onderdonk, a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist in South Carolina, has seen the benefits of employing a holistic veterinary approach on performance horses firsthand throughout her career, specifically on her husband, Adam Snow's high-goal polo pony string. The success of her treatment modalities is displayed through the longevity of his horses in the sport and numerous Best Playing Pony awards received. Acupuncture can be used to treat a multitude of body systems and medical conditions within our polo ponies. Onderdonk says she uses acupuncture to treat a range of issues, including behavioral, internal medicine, immunological, hormonal and musculoskeletal. A minimally invasive therapy like acupuncture can have significant beneficial results for our polo ponies and improve their general quality of life, including potentially alleviating the need for administering certain medications that can have harmful side effects. "[Acupuncture] is most commonly used for elite athletes as it is very effective at diagnosing and treating subclinical unsoundness, which when resolved, results in a noticeable improvement in performance," Onderdonk said. "Horses in heavy competition thrive on weekly checks, which can catch problems early." Many veterinarians, like Onderdonk, practice holistic medicine and are trained in alternative therapies, utilizing both western and alternative medicine for the best treatment of their patients. There is a time and place for each subset of treatments, which makes it vital that your veterinarian is involved and overseeing the health care your horse is receiving. In many cases, especially those concerning severe colic, trauma or Benefits of chiropractic and acupuncture for your horses' health Veterinarian Alison Smith performs acupuncture on a horse at Virginia Tech Marion Dupont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia. MICHAEL VENTURA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

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