Friday, September 01, 2006

Bowen Therapy 3: Bowen And Horses

Bowen Therapy is big business. A search on google for "bowen therapy" and your locale will pretty much bring up a huge number of hits, particularly if you're located in Australia or the UK. EoR quickly found a list of practitioners in his backyard that goes on and on.

Like humans, equine bowen therapy can assist a host of problems:

Muscular, tendon & ligament strains

Skeletal/structural problems

Injury and illness speeds recovery and recuperation through improved circulation

Colds/flu, bladder/kidney infections, dry/cracked hooves, wound healing.

Removal of Toxins &lactic acid build-up associated with such conditions as "tying up"

Degenerative and Growth disorders

Mental/emotional problems caused by fear, tenseness

Prevention of problems or simply as a "treat" to your horse

EoR wonders what the connecting physiological process is between all these widely differing conditions and "gentle rolling of the cross fibres of muscles"? Apart from qi, of course. Equine bowen can also be applied to the over-caring owner's concern for the welfare of the horse as well, as indicated by that last item on the list: the well horse. EoR wonders whether these people also take an aspirin every day to "prevent" headaches occuring, or just as a "treat"?

Furthermore, at least one veterinarian is prepared to state it has wider applications:

it’s a modality I can recommend to you all... Australia’s own Bowen Therapy for Horses , it can be used in all diseases. EMRTatrade; allows the body to realign itself... often areas that have not been directly treated respond to it... and it can be used in association with routine western medicine for a large range of diseases

EoR wonders why you'd bother with vets at all.

Trainers in this miracle cure are a little unclear about what training is involved, but at the European School of Equine Bowen Therapy, for example, you can complete Stage One in two weekends.

Evidence for the application of Bowen Therapy in horses is nonexistent (though all good Equine Bowen sites will provide copious testimonials and case studies).

Unlike veterinarians, ethical Bowen practitioners are apparently allowed to refuse to treat animals involved in industries they don't approve of:

Mr Brooks doesn't approve of the racing industry and so confines his work to eventing horses, equestrian, polo ponies and work horses. He has a thriving practice here and abroad and believes the New Zealand and European tendency to race horses at an older age eradicates enormous injuries. A former farrier, Mr Brooks talks of manipulating and releasing pressure points in a horse's physiology and matching horse and rider to minimise stresses and strains on both. Mr Brooks uses a range of healing therapies. He originally completed a course on Bowen therapy for horses. Having now treated 4,000 horses his methods have evolved to embrace an even more holistic approach, which he stresses, is based on the latest science from here and abroad. "The responses that we've got are nothing short of profound and significant in most horses," he said.

EoR wonders how Mr Brooks lives with himself, deliberately denying his powerful healing powers to a whole subset of suffering equines.

Yet again, the claims (results are "profound and significant") fail to correspond to the reality. EoR has seen Bowen practiced on a group of elderly equines ridden by unbalanced riders and suffering, consequently, from various aches and pains and arthritis. All of which resolve and recur even if no intervention is provided. Nonetheless, the Bowen was attributed with curative powers. Even though the conditions would regularly recur, and the bowenist would regularly return to apply the magic and receive the money. Every treatment was seen as another miracle, yet no one ever questioned why the miracle also regularly failed. It's also saddening to note that the money being spent on the Bowen was money that wasn't spent on vets.

The longest cure that EoR witnessed in this group of horses was during the summer break when they weren't ridden (and when the bowenist was not attending), but when they were simply given a lengthy rest.

While bowenists will claim that the placebo effect is not applicable when treating animals, this is, of course, not true. There are a multitude of reasons why alternative therapies may appear to work in animals, and Dr David Ramey provides a good listing of why therapies may seem to work (when they don't) (as an aside, the illustration to this article would make an excellent masthead for hoofbeats).

You may believe that the placebo effect does not exist in animals since they don't know what treatment they are getting. However, their owners do. Recent research shows that up to 70 per cent of medical/surgical patients will report good results from techniques that we know today are ineffective (at the time of the treatment, both the patient and the physician were convinced that the treatment was effective).

Dr Ramey concludes:

Individual testimonies of effectiveness should count for very little in evaluating the effectiveness of a particular treatment. Many false leads can convince intelligent, honest people that cures have been achieved when they have not. Thus, it is essential that any treatment be tested under conditions that control for placebo responses, compliance effects and judgmental errors before it can be deemed to be effective. Any therapy that is supported only by testimonials, self-published books and pamphlets or items from the popular media must immediately be considered suspect. Even a single positive outcome from an experiment done in a carefully controlled fashion can always be a fluke. If a practitioner of any therapy claims to be persecuted, is openly hostile to mainstream science, can't supply a reason why the therapy might work that agrees with known principles or promises incredible results, there is good reason to be suspicious of that individual.

EoR looks forward to the responses from bowenists providing copious testimonials and media reports, attacks on the scientific method, claims of persecution and full scientific explanations of how Bowen actually works.

Bowen Therapy 1: An Introduction
Bowen Therapy 2: The Evidence

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