Our horses must eat hay and drink water, which means their bodies must cope with elevated levels of toxins on a constant basis. Their natural biologic coping mechanisms can become overwhelmed and stop functioning healthfully. So what can we do to support equine immune systems in a world full of toxins?
Not many years ago, there were over 100 different types of grasses in pastures. Now, due to environmental factors such as acid rain, nitrates from fertilizers and pesticides, there are a mere 10-20, providing only a small variety of nutrients. Add this depletion to increased environmental toxins and it’s no surprise equine immune systems are declining. Even if your horses are not in pasture, the hay you feed them has to come from a field somewhere, which means it is also exposed to environmental contaminants.
TCM AND ACUPRESSURE
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help support and strengthen equine immune systems by aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption, and detoxifying. You can offer your horse an acupressure session that supports his natural ability to manage the toxins he can’t avoid. By stimulating acupressure points, you help maintain the energetic balance of the horse’s body.
IMMUNITY AND CHI
From a TCM point of view, illness will not occur if the body’s resistance is strong. It is only when there is a weakness that the body succumbs to ill health. If chi (life-promoting force) is balanced throughout the horse’s body, he will be able to manage external pathogens more successfully.
The Lung Organ System is the first line of defense. The immune system depends on the lungs’ strength to create “protective chi”, which forms a shield on the body’s surface and resists external pathogenic factors from invading the body. The lungs also inhale toxins so they must be strong enough to exhale them. The lungs work in concert with all the other internal organ systems to provide air nutrients (i.e., oxygen), protective chi and body cleansing.
DIGESTION AND STOMACH/SPLEEN CHI
The next line of defense is to support the horse’s stomach and spleen. A horse’s digestive system is vulnerable to disturbance due to any number of factors. The horse’s stomach and spleen chi must function optimally to be able to deal with the many environmental hazards that can cause digestion and absorption problems.
The horse’s stomach comprises only 10% of the digestive system. We need to look at the whole digestive process, which begins in the mouth, goes through the esophagus down to the stomach, continues through the very long (approximately 70’) small intestine, then on to the cecum where the fibrous feed is fermented further. Horses need to feed almost continuously since their stomachs are relatively small (holding eight to 19 quarts). In other words, horses spend much of their lives consuming environmental toxins by way of forage and water.
In TCM, the stomach is the “holding basin” where food and water reside, while the spleen is responsible for breaking down the food and water, “ripening and rotting” it into highly refined nutrient chi. If there is an imbalance in the stomach or spleen, the horse can become weak and lethargic. His muscle tone can suffer, and he may have trouble focusing during training.
DETOXIFICATION AND LIVER CHI
The Liver Organ System is responsible for cleaning and replenishing the blood, as well as providing a harmonious flow of chi to all parts of the body. To contend directly with environmental toxins, we need to support liver function. When the liver is over-burdened with toxins, the horse’s blood suffers and his blood and chi are not able to circulate properly. The horse may not be able resist infection, hoof problems can arise, and illnesses can occur. Optimal liver function is essential to a healthy horse.
HEALTHY PASTURES, HEALTHY HORSES
Combining acupressure sessions with the best quality forage you can find, along with exercise, rest and as natural a lifestyle as possible, will go a long way to improving and maintaining equine immune systems. We all have to be part of the solution that makes this earth a healthier place to live, but in the meantime, acupressure can support your horse’s wellness. Maybe someday, our horses will once again flourish while grazing endlessly on nourishing pastures of plenty.
NANCY ZIDONIS AND AMY SNOW ARE THE AUTHORS OF Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual, The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide To Canine Acupressure AND Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure. THEY OWN TALLGRASS PUBLISHERS, WHICH OFFERS MERIDIAN CHARTS AND TRAINING DVDS FOR HORSES, dogs, AND CATS. THEY ALSO PROVIDE HANDS-ON AND ONLINE TRAINING COURSES WORLDWIDE, INCLUDING A PRACTITIONER CERTIFICATION PROGRAM. TO CONTACT CALL 888-841-7211 VISIT ANIMALACUPRESSURE.COM OR EMAIL INFO@ANIMALACUPRESSURE.COM.