The use of alternative therapies (physiotherapy, chiropractic, etc) in the New Zealand (NZ) Thoroughbred appears to be common practice, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support their use in the species. It is unknown what treatments are being offered to these athletes, the types of problems alternative therapies are used for, if the ‘therapists’ providing the treatments are qualified, and if the horses seen by therapists are also under veterinary care. To obtain preliminary data on the use of alternative therapies in the NZ Thoroughbred horse a face to face survey was conducted with 23 trainers located in the Auckland and Manawatu regions of the North Island of NZ. The data collected represented 906 racehorses in training during the 2004/2005 racing season. Stables were categorized as small (less than 10 horses, n=8), medium (11-25 horses, n=8) and large (greater than 26 horses in training, n=7). The proportion of horses injured within each stable category was 21%, 28% and 33% respectively. Nineteen trainers out of the 23 surveyed used at least one type of alternative therapy during the racing season, and 296 horses (33%) had at least one exposure to alternative therapy. On average trainers spent $25,026 per year on veterinary treatments and $43,112 on alternative therapies. Eleven different types of alternative therapy were identified by trainers, with physiotherapy being the most commonly used (10 trainers), particularly by large (71%) and small (63%) stables. Eight stables used some form of alternative therapy on a monthly basis to treat 33% of their horses in training, 4 on a weekly basis to treat 47% of their horses and 3 on a daily basis to treat 44% of their horses. Sixteen different alternative therapists were identified in this study, 7 had formal qualifications. The data collected indicated that the use of alternative therapies in the NZ Thoroughbred industry was widespread.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 66, Napier, 279-283, 2006
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