Is There Harm In Trying Alternative Medecine?

– Written by Annika Rettig –

”Well, there’s no harm in trying”

I hear my stablemate say for the umpteenth time about a certain remedy she’s going to try for her horse’s summer eczema.

And I think this is how people often think in our horse world.

We try all kinds of things for our horses (with good intentions of course) and we don’t even look critically at the background of a remedy, product or treatment. Or the person behind it.

How about this?

The difficulty of this topic is perhaps in the words. The word “alternative medicine” has a certain connotation for many people.

If we look simply in adictionary, it says that the word alternative means that something is “different from the usual” or “different from the masses”.

Sometimes this is also taken to mean “different”. I think this immediately gives this a negative connotation for some people.

But the word “alternative” can of course also stand for “another possibility or another solution”.

And that already sounds a lot better.

Actually this says that we all have a choice, we can also choose an alternative. And in my opinion, being able to make our own choices is actually a very positive thing.

Alternative medicine is seen as the opposite of “traditional” or “regular” medicine. Or rather: science.

In the world of science, there must be evidence and substantiation of medical effectiveness. Everything is extensively tested with strict rules.

Large data sets where samples are taken to confirm or disprove a theory. Science is not an individual opinion. A product or treatment method that is scientifically proven to work, that should work.

And we all actually believe that scientific evidence. But in alternative medicine the so-called “anecdotal evidence” is often used. Often one or a few positive examples are used to make a general point.

For example, a few years ago Arjen Lubach had a video about anecdotal evidence: “my grandmother smoked a pack a day and lived to be 95”.

The dubiousness of the evidence in the case of the smoking grandmother may be readily apparent, but you hear such an argument more often than you think.

And it is sometimes difficult to remain critical in this. “I had a stablemate and her horse …”. We all hear it regularly.

And in the end, everything is relative too right?

What is known in China as a traditional treatment method, is listed as ‘alternative medicine’ here in the West. Ultimately, it is really a case of: how do I put a product on the market?

And as you have come to expect from me, I also look at this subject through my “marketing eyes”.

And the question that immediately comes to mind is: when are you good at healing horses or when are you especially good at marketing them?

Just to be clear: I am not against alternative medicine within the equestrian world.

As I also mentioned before: I think it’s good that we have a choice, that there is an alternative.

There are plenty of examples of horses benefiting from certain cures or products, without necessarily having a scientific basis.

But sometimes I do wonder if certain products or treatments don’t just have a very strong marketing strategy behind them.

And even though I do enjoy a powerful marketing approach, I also wonder: are we all still good enough at it to keep thinking critically?

Can we still separate the effectiveness of a product or treatment from the marketing strategy around it? Or are you the first to run to the store to get a certain lotion.

Because you just saw it pass by in the Youtube vlog of a horse influencer? “But she says it works!”

My point is: I don’t think there is necessarily a hard line to be found between right or wrong when it comes to alternative medicine within the equestrian field.

Whatever works for you or your horse, works. And that’s fine. But do try to think critically and stay close to yourself in this.

What do you think is important?

And of course: “there’s no harm in trying” may indeed apply to quite a few things.

But do not be influenced too easily by the mostly fantastic marketing strategy around it. 😉

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