If You Go:
A childhood spent riding horses in her native state of Pennsylvania has turned into a lifetime of healing horses and people for one new Washougal resident.
After practicing for 10 years in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, and another five years on her farm in Andover, Ohio, Dr. Karen Holen has brought her chiropractic skills to Clark County.
She recently opened her Holen Family Chiropractic office in downtown Washougal.
Asked about her move from the mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest, Holen said she always wanted to live in Washington State, and she and her husband decided to make the cross-country move while their two sons were still young.
Holen, 43, became inspired to help humans and horses through chiropractic medicine after being thrown from her horse, Bernie, during her early teen years. The fall injured Holen’s hip and shoulder. Seeking chiropractic treatment for her own injuries led Holen into the world of equine chiropractic care.
Holen had always loved riding — she competed in dressage and eventing, a combination of dressage, cross country and show jumping, in elementary and high school — but she didn’t realize how riding and equipment can stress a horse and cause pain to the animal.
Her own horse, Bernie, for instance, had a sore back from a poorly fit saddle and saddle pad.
“I always carried around the guilt that I was the reason my horse was in pain,” Holen said. “Horses can become out of alignment from being ridden, driven or just out in the pasture playing around.”
Holen started taking courses on equine chiropractic care as a student at Life University, in Marietta, Georgia. There, she learned how horses benefit from chiropractic adjustments.
“When a horse is out of alignment, it can cause many issues that can impede their performance or they may begin to have behavioral problems,” she says.
After receiving her chiropractic degree, Holen completed a six-month, American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) accredited “Options for Animals” course for veterinarians and chiropractors, in Iowa. She also has taken renowned veterinarian Judith Shoemaker’s “Maximum Horsepower” course to continue her equine chiropractic education.
The differences between treating a person and treating a horse include the enormous size of horses and their inability to verbally tell Holen where they hurt.
“Horses communicate through body language,” she says. “As an equine chiropractor, you have to understand what the horse is telling you.”
Signs that a horse needs to be adjusted include having a decreased range of motion and being sensitive to touch and reluctant to follow commands, according to Holen. Undefined lameness, stiffness when the horse first leaves the stall and abnormal gait rhythm are other conditions that can be treated by an equine chiropractor.
The human touch
While equines make up a portion of her business, Holen is still very much a healer of humans. With 17 years’ worth of chiropractic experience under her belt, Holen is able to offer chiropractic adjustments for people of all ages, including newborns who have colic, bowel issues or problems latching during breastfeeding.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a chiropractor uses their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint, when providing a chiropractic adjustment.
The goal of an adjustment, also known as spinal manipulation, is to correct structural alignment and improve physical function. People seek chiropractic adjustments for ailments such as headaches, low back pain and neck pain.
Holen, a mother of two, is interested in how alternative and complementary medicine can help pregnant, laboring and new mothers, as well as their infants. A certified HypnoBirthing instructor, who teaches women and their birth partners how to stay focused and relaxed during the birthing process, also is certified in the Webster technique, which she says balances the sacrum and pelvis for an easier labor and has had success with reducing breech babies.