“The fundamental principles of osteopathy are different from those of any other system and the cause of disease is considered from one standpoint, viz.: disease is the result of anatomical abnormalities followed by physiological discord.” — A.T. Still, Osteopathy Research and Practice
Equine Osteopathy is the specific application of the principles and standards developed in human osteopathy, translated, adapted and modified to the unique structure and physiology of the equine. Equine Osteopathy is a manual therapy that works successfully with veterinary medicine to aid horses in staying healthy even with the unnatural demands that are placed on them in their life with people.
An American medical doctor, Dr. Andrew Still, developed osteopathy as a treatment method for humans in the late 1800’s. He defined osteopathy as “a system of ‘engineering’ the whole body, that keeps the communication with the brain open, and prevents all possible blood and liquids stasis.” A more current definition is that osteopathy is an art, a science and a philosophy of treatment based on scientific principles. The science is based on precise knowledge of structural and functional anatomy of the bones, muscles, circulatory system and, especially, the nervous system. Osteopathy approaches the body as an entity with interaction between the three main systems: the parietal (the structure), the visceral (the physiology), and the cranio-sacral (the energetic). The body has specific alarm and protection systems that, when working optimally, allow the body to heal itself and stay healthy. The art of osteopathy is performance of manual therapy and stimulation of the whole body with the goal of re-harmonizing the body to keep these self-correcting systems working optimally.
The first school of osteopathy, the American School of Osteopathy was founded by Dr. Still in Kirksville, Missouri in 1892. In the early 1900’s, a student of Dr. Still, John M. Littlejohn, DO, introduced osteopathy to England and founded the British School of Osteopathy. From England, schools of Osteopathy were later founded in Europe and other parts of the world. In the British and European schools, Osteopathy has stayed true to its manual therapy origins. In the United States, training of osteopaths has evolved to align more closely with conventional medical training and manual therapy techniques are less often seen as a primary therapy approach.
In 1970, French veterinarian Dominique Giniaux began to employ osteopathic principles with horses and is considered the founder of equine osteopathy. Other veterinarians and osteopaths followed and began utilizing osteopathic concepts for animals both large and small.
By 2002, French osteopath Pascal Evrard had combined and further developed the early principles and techniques to a more structured and safer method. Through collaboration with Janek Vluggen, DO, MRO, EDO, who brought his expertise in visceral osteopathic principals (in relation to the autonomic nervous system and cranio-sacral system) to the effort , the two osteopathy school classmates continued in developing equine osteopathy into an independent complimentary specialization. With the untimely deaths of Pascal Evard in 2003 and Dr. Giniaux in 2004, Janek Vluggen has carried on the efforts to educate veterinarians and other equine professionals as Equine Osteopaths, EDO®, as well as expand scientific validation of equine osteopathy.
Formal education and research in equine osteopathy is growing. Curriculums offering equine osteopathic training exist around the world, with numerous schools located in Europe. The Vluggen Institute for Equine Osteopathy and Education, based in Germany, is the only school that offers training in the United States.