Saying goodbye to your horse is never easy. Acupressure for equine hospice and grief care can help to make him comfortable.
It’s not easy to watch your horses as they age, fail, and ultimately pass on. It doesn’t matter if they’re 35 years old – it’s still tough to see them go. Throughout their lives, most horses give of themselves freely and without judgment. If you love them and treat them with respect, they whole-heartedly love you back. So when it’s time to say goodbye, we must do our best to let them die with honor, dignity and love.
Equine hospice care
The hospice and palliative care movement began with humans over 40 years ago, and is also an increasingly desired choice among those who care deeply for their companion animals. Horse owners and equine healthcare practitioners alike see the value in making the horse’s transition as comfortable as possible.
“A major goal of hospice care is to neither hasten nor prolong the dying process, while providing for the greatest possible comfort of the dying individual,” wrote holistic veterinarian and animal hospice specialist, Ella Bittel, in “Hospice for Horses” (Equine Wellness, Vol 4, Issue 4). “This requires that the horse’s condition is correctly recognized as being terminal, and that medical goals are redirected from treatment for a cure to supportive or comfort care.”
We all want the best for our animals, and seeking the best for your horse during the final stage of his life is important. Until recently, euthanasia has been the go-to resolution, even when horses are simply elderly, as opposed to letting them pass naturally. Of course, if your horse is in extreme pain due to injury or illness, and has been deemed terminal with no way to mitigate his pain, you don’t want him to suffer and euthanasia may be indicated. However, there are still ways to ease your horse’s transition and provide comfort.
Hospice care for a horse could entail being out in a grassy field or paddock enjoying the sun, and being free to graze and wander happily all day. If his owner takes the time to groom him and walk with him, while not making any demands, that would also be beneficial for his well-being. This image of equine hospice care is ideal – but the ideal is not always possible for a host of reasons.
Horses are large animals, making the logistics of death difficult to manage. There could be financial issues keeping you from being able to provide lengthy hospice care. Life and death decisions are difficult no matter what. However, when approaching your horse’s end-of-life care, you need to feel you are giving him the best you can offer.
The role of acupressure
Chinese medicine practitioners have used acupressure for centuries to ease pain and allow the animal’s body to die comfortably. You can participate in making your horse’s transition as best it can be by stimulating a few specific acupressure points, also called acupoints, on his body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Kidney organ system is known as the “Root of Life”. Kidney energy, or chi, is responsible for the essence of the body. When there’s not enough Kidney chi to sustain life, death ensues. The last acupoint on the Kidney meridian, or the energetic pathway, is Kidney 27 (Ki 27). This is a very special point on the human and equine body. It connects the chi of the entire body and serves as a calming point. When stimulated, Ki 27 offers the body a choice to either continue with life or else close down and pass on.
There is a saying related to Ki 27: “If the body can, it will live; if it can’t, it won’t.” Chinese medicine has a way of making life and death very clear and simple. If you stimulate Ki 27 then, you are helping your horse choose whether to continue living, or die peacefully.
The other two acupoints often used during the end-of-life stage, to support and comfort, are Pericardium 6 (Pe 6) and Triple Heater 5 (TH 5). These two points can be stimulated simultaneously because Pe 6 is on the medial side (inside) of the front leg and TH 5 is directly opposite on the lateral side (outside) of the front leg. These two points together provide physical and emotional energetic balance.
Your horse has served you and loved you all this life. Helping him transition by using acupressure means you are offering him, and yourself, a parting gift.
Acupressure points for grief
Hospice Ki 27
Kidney 27 (Ki 27) is located on each side of the horse’s manubrium. This acupoint is commonly used in hospice situations because it’s known for calming, and for allowing the horse to choose whether he is able to live or ready to pass on. Place your palm on the dent at the top of the manubrium and count slowly to 30 before repeating on the other side.
Hospice Pe 6 & TH 5
Pericardium 6 (Pe 6) is on the horse’s foreleg just in front of and in the middle of the chestnut, while Triple Heater 5 (TH 5) is on the opposite side of the foreleg between the radius and ulna bones above the carpels. Stimulated simultaneously, these points provide a sense of energetic balance and comfort. Place your thumb gently on the lateral acupoint and your pointer finger on the medial point, then count slowly to 30. Repeat on the other foreleg.
Lung 9 (Lu 9) helps during the grieving process because it supports vital energy and benefits lung health. This point is located on the medial aspect of the horse’s foreleg in front of the accessory carpal bone, on the radial side of the carpus (wrist/knee) between the first and second rows of carpal bones. Lightly place the soft tip of your thumb on Lu 9 and count slowly to 30 before moving to the next acupoints.
Pericardium 7 (Pe 7) is found at the level of the accessory carpal bone on the medial aspect of the horse’s foreleg. Pe 7 calms the spirit and helps with heart function. Heart 7 (Ht 7) is located on the opposite (lateral) side of the horse’s foreleg and can be stimulated at the same time using your thumb and pointer finger to provide the maximum benefit. These two acupoints together offer the horse a sense of calm and grounding.