Howdy Friends! Many friends know I support and believe in the work Dr Joseph Thomas has done, and continues to do to support horse (and human) health. Please enjoy this article I wrote about him for my column in Natural Horse Magazine July, 2014. Re-publishing this, it is my hope, many will seek Dr Thomas’, and his team’s help through his amazing understanding of Contemporary Chinese Herbalism.


Two veterinarians had been to the farm to inspect Jesse Doe, Crystal’s beloved mare. They had both decided the only course of action for the foundered horse was euthanasia. They were both escorted off the farm. Crystal turned to her husband, Dr. Joseph Thomas. “You save her,” she pleaded. “You’ve been saving people with horrible diseases for twenty years. Please use everything you’ve learned to save my Jesse Doe.” That moment changed everything – for Jessie Doe, Crystal, Dr. Thomas and people and horses everywhere.




The year was 1997 and Dr. Thomas had indeed been practicing contemporary Chinese medicine in his clinic for the previous twenty years.

Scores of people had been helped by his thorough analysis, research and treatments. Many of his patients came to him when they had been given no hope by their physicians or oncologists, and scores of these people had been helped by Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Thomas had apprenticed with Dr. Leon Hammer, MD.

Dr. Thomas had apprenticed with Dr. Leon Hammer, MD, regarded by many as the father of contemporary Chinese medicine. Dr. Hammer had in turn studied under Dr. John H.F. Shen, considered to be the world’s foremost expert in both diagnostic and Chinese herbalism. It was Dr. Hammer’s careful teachings that instilled in Dr. Thomas the absolute importance of proper and thorough diagnostic consideration.

The very core of Chinese medicine is searching beneath the surface, digging deep to the root of the problem or situation, allowing for complete understanding of not what appears to be wrong, but the beginning of why it went wrong. This provides the blueprint of how to right that wrong. Dr. Thomas’ nature is to investigate, research and understand things at their most basic level, so the teachings of Dr. Hammer and Dr. Shen suited him well.

When patients visited his clinic, Dr. Thomas conducted comprehensive and lengthy exams to uncover clues leading to a treatment.

Using all the modalities of contemporary Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and Chinese herbalism, a treatment could be established after careful study of the patient’s diet, environment, previous illness and treatments. Chinese herbalism, Dr. Thomas explains, is not just about understanding herbs and their usage, but also understanding how each herb in a given treatment interacts with the others and supports the body in the healing process.

The benefit of each herb must be weighed and understood singularly and collectively. Each situation and treatment is unique and must be carefully orchestrated to match the patient and situation, illness and condition.

During his years of operating the clinic, Dr. Thomas worked, on average, twelve hours a day and went home to study long into the night.

His insatiable appetite to learn fed his enthusiasm. He understood the wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it is impossible to ever stop learning. His quest to learn was always fed by his desire to help heal.

For him it was like a puzzle, putting the questions he learned during the patient’s exam and interview together with the modalities of Chinese medicine and herbalism, thus making life better for his patients. His early life had schooled him in the art of fitting puzzles together.

Dr. Thomas grew up in a rough part of Boston.

He was never in any real trouble, but struggled to graduate from high school. He was a horse lover as early as he can recall even though he never saw one in person until much later in life. He’ll tell you the part of town where he grew up was all concrete, noise and gangs. Each Saturday morning he’d gather a pile of snacks and a bottle of milk and park himself in front of the family’s little black and white television to watch all the old westerns. Not for the cowboys, he’ll assure you, but he loved those horses.

He remembers a time he entered a contest to name Roy Rogers’ and Dale Evans’ new foal. The winner would spend a week on the ranch. Every day, until the winner was announced, Dr. Thomas went to church to pray to St. Francis. He never got to the Double Bar Ranch, but he did get to Viet Nam.

Upon returning from Viet Nam Thomas had no clear vision of what to do with his life.

The mess over there had left his thoughts a mess, and, as he would later discover, his body too. One thing he was sure of, he could not return to his old life. Using his VA benefits he decided on more education. School had not been his friend, but he’d always loved physics and calculus. So he set out to get a degree in physics. Having finished that, he went on to his Masters and, still hungry for knowledge, he secured his Ph.D. He quickly found a home as a research scientist at MIT’s Department of Brain Science, but after four years of doing things he could not embrace, he left.

His apprenticeship under Dr. Hammer was research he could love, research to understand how to heal.

This was the piece of the puzzle missing from his life’s story. The more he learned from Dr. Hammer, the more he needed to learn. The ancient practice of Chinese herbalism made perfect sense to Dr. Thomas. He also clearly understood and embraced the theory of contemporary Chinese medicine, which Dr. Hammer introduced him to. One of the underlying principles of contemporary Chinese medicine is to keep learning and throw nothing away – this includes taking what is useful from allopathic or Western medicine.

In time, Dr. Thomas started his clinic and began seeing patients of his own.

His practice grew, and his studies continued. Over the years his reputation spread and it became all too common for there to be a month’s-long waiting list to see Dr. Thomas. Despite his working twelve-hour days, doing research and writing at night, and starting apprentices.

His thorough hands-on exams, diagnostics, research, writings and applications of contemporary Chinese medicine for each patient proved highly successful.  – in many cases belying the death sentences already handed to them.

Gradually the long hours began to take a toll on Dr. Thomas.

The injury that had traveled home with him from Viet Nam was weakening his body, but not his spirit or his desire to help heal others.

At home he would reenergize, swaddled in the love of his wife and their horses. He and Crystal had met during graduate school, and she, too, had always wanted horses to be a part of her life. Eventually they had settled on a little farm not far from the clinic where they could live with and love horses. In addition to Crystal’s horse Jesse Doe, Dr. Thomas had a horse of his own, Marco. Together they learned much from the horses, as they always knew they would. The bond between horse and human that had started decades earlier in his childhood living room had finally become real. It became increasingly difficult for Dr. Thomas to stand to complete exams and acupuncture treatments.

It was also during this time that Crystal’s Jesse Doe was handed her death sentence by two veterinarians.

Answering Crystal’s plea to focus all he’d learned on saving her horse, Dr. Thomas began his thorough exam, analysis and research. A crucial and vital part of all his exams was precise blood work. But he had learned over the years that even precise allopathic blood work was only part of the story, for it tends to focus on red flags.

Dr. Thomas had learned from contemporary Chinese medicine that the answer lies well before the red flag. The solution for the healing was hidden in areas often not even searched.

The solution, Dr. Thomas knew from decades of study and practice, did not lie in treating red flags. It could only be found in healing the rudimentary cause of the red flag. Jesse Doe’s blood work told him she was type 2 diabetic, but it also charted the treatment. That was 1997 and today Jesse Doe is thriving, galloping and a bundle of life.

Eventually, traveling to the clinic to see patients became more than Dr. Thomas could endure

He was forced to make one of the toughest decisions of his life. With great sadness, but also confidence, he turned the clinic over to his longest apprentice … and went home.

It was a somber time. Dr. Thomas still had the passion to help others, but not the health. It became difficult to even leave the house to visit the horses.

His wife, the horses and visits from their daughter Allison continued to bring joy to his days. But he could never shake the feeling, the fear, that he could no longer help heal others. It was during a visit that Allison pointed out he certainly could still help many. Hadn’t he used all he’d learned to save Jesse Doe, a horse unable to even stand, who was now frolicking like a yearling?

Allison was quite talented in the world of computers and internet.

She was keenly aware of her father’s skills and his love of horses. Because of him she has horses of her own. She also saw the depression trying to overtake him. She had witnessed the turnaround in Jesse Doe’s life orchestrated by her father and was convinced that his years of study and practice could, and should, be focused on helping horses. And he could do it from his home, on the internet. And she would help set it all up.

Dr. Thomas loved the idea. A new energy began to pulse through him.

In 2002, “For Love of the Horse” was born!

Why it took Jesse Doe to connect that piece of the puzzle, bringing all he’d learned from Dr. Hammer and decades of practice to the world of horses, may never be known.

But Dr. Thomas, his wife, daughter, and a few key and talented people created a healing place for horses all over the world. And that healing place is at every horse keeper’s fingertips.

Ever since Crystal begged him to save her Jesse Doe, Dr. Thomas has been applying his passion to investigate, understand and heal to helping horses.

He has been instrumental in bringing Chinese herbalism and contemporary Chinese medicine to the world of equines and their guardians.

The, For Love of the Horse website offers many ready-to-use herbal solutions for horses. (Now for cats & dogs too).

There is also a “Support Services” page where horse keepers can write to describe the condition and tell the story of their horse’s health problem. If Dr. Thomas suspects none of those blends can heal the horse, he will offer to formulate a blend that is specific to their horse’s condition. This may often require more blood work and questions to find the very beginning of the red flag, but find it he will.

This is the comprehensive exam, to uncover clues leading to a treatment.

In addition to Dr. Thomas there is a team of talented apprentices learning to promote horse wellness at For Love of the Horse. So the healing can go on forever.

It is important to Dr. Thomas that folks understand he is there to help and they should not hesitate to contact him at customer service with their questions, concerns and dreams. For Dr. Thomas and everyone at For Love of the Horse the motto is, “We are here for the horse.”

Have a stroll through their website – Your horse will thank you. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch


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