Digestive problems are common in today’s horses. Done once a week, this simple acupressure session will help prevent such issues.
Horses in a pasture grazing to their hearts’ content… what an idyllic vision! Each one steps slowly forward and wraps his prehensile lips around the next tuft of grass. With a deliberate gnashing of teeth and a slight gesture to the side, the forage moves seamlessly into his mouth. The rhythmic chewing infuses the grass with saliva before it makes the long journey through the horse’s powerful esophagus into his stomach.
Horses are perfectly designed through evolution to consume a variety of grasses, herbs and other foliage to meet their needs for nourishment. In the wild, horses have thrived for centuries knowing exactly what their bodies require to be healthy and strong and meet the challenges of their rugged lives.
Then and Now
Try as we may, we can never completely replicate the food and exercise regime of the non-domesticated horse. In the past, pastures offered a nutritious blend of grasses, and most horses enjoyed the pleasure of grazing for hours on end. Back then, gastric ulcers, colic, founder and other digestive issues were rare events. Today, conversely, it is rare for a horse to get through life without having some form of painful gastric disruption.
It would be nice if we could turn back the clock to an era when horses led less stressful and confined lives. Because our own lives have also become more stressful and restricted, we are driven to balancing what we think is best for our horses with what is convenient for us.
Digestion and TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers us a natural means of maintaining a horse’s ability to consume and absorb nutrients from quality grass hay. Like acupuncture, acupressure is based on the concepts and principles of TCM. The best part of acupressure is that you can perform sessions on your horse yourself since it is non-invasive, perfectly safe and always available. Acupuncture can only be performed by a qualified veterinarian, as it involves needles.
A Bit of Anatomy
The stomach, spleen, small intestine and large intestine make up the gastrointestinal tract, which is responsible for the horse’s digestive processes. As a horse guardian, you know how vulnerable his digestive system can become without proper care, and that includes his teeth, lots of clean water and a continuous supply of grass hay or pasture.
The horse’s stomach is relatively small; it comprises about 10% of the digestive system. This means horses need to eat almost continuously to maintain a constant supply of nourishment for their large bodies.
Feeding the Gut for Good Health
In Chinese medicine, the stomach is seen as the “holding basin” for food and water, while the spleen is responsible for breaking down the food into highly refined absorbable nutrients. Most of the nutrients are absorbed in the approximately 70’-long small intestine before entering the cecum and colon in the large intestines, where further fermentation and absorption occur.
A healthy, well-functioning digestive system is absolutely essential to the health and well being of your horse. Once you have implemented a feeding regime adapted to his performance demands and environment, along with other natural horse management techniques, a weekly acupressure session will help your horse with his digestion and nutrient absorption.
Good Digestion Acupressure Session
The intention of an acupressure session for the horse’s digestive system is to support and maintain a harmonious flow of chi (life-promoting energy, pronounced “chee”, also seen as qi or ki) and blood so the organ systems involved in the digestive processes are nourished and able to function optimally. In Chinese medicine, chi and blood support the health of the internal organs. If there’s any disruption in the smooth flow of these vital substances, digestion and nutrient absorption can become compromised.
The acupressure points selected for this session enhance the flow of chi and blood to the horse’s stomach, spleen, small intestine and large intestine organ systems. It will help with the breakdown of forage through internal fermentation processes, support motility of the plant matter, and increase the absorption of nutrients.
How to Perform the Session
Follow the accompanying chart. Begin by resting one hand on your horse wherever you both feel comfortable. You’re going to perform the actual point work with the other hand. Use either the thumb or two-finger technique depending on what is most comfortable for you.
• Thumb technique: Place the tip of your thumb directly on the acupressure point, also called an “acupoint”, and hold the point gently, but with intent, for a slow count to 30. Release the point and go to the next.
• Two-finger technique: Put your middle finger on top of your index finger, then place your index finger gently, but with intentional firmness, directly on the acupressure point. Apply pressure for a slow count to 30, then move on to the next point.
Stimulate the acupoints on both sides of your horse. Watch his reaction. Healthy energy releases are:
• Deep breathing
• Muscle twitches
• Release of air
• Softening of the eye
• Falling asleep
If your horse is overly reactive to a particular point or exhibits a pain reaction, move to the next point. No need to make your horse unhappy – you can try that point again during a later session.
When you have completed this session, allow your horse to have some time off so that this energy work can become integrated into his body at a rate that is natural to him. You want your horse to get the full benefit of the session. And, guess what? You may receive great benefit from this session, too
Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow are the authors of: Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual, Acu-Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure and Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass, which offers books, manuals, DVDs and meridian charts. Tallgrass also provides hands-on and online training courses worldwide, including a Practitioner Certification Program. It is an approved school for the Dept. of Higher Education through the State of Colorado and an approved provider of National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) Continuing Education credits. animalacupressure.com or firstname.lastname@example.org