Acupressure to the rescue!

acupressure for horses

Acupressure can be a lifesaver for your horse in emergency situations such as colic, shock and/or injury.

Any horse on earth can get hurt, experience colic, or fall victim to any number of other emergency situations. Some of these health events are a matter of life and death, whereas others require immediate attention but aren’t as dire. Acupressure can help calm and stabilize your horse while you’re waiting for help to arrive.

Equine emergencies

1. Colic is the number one cause of death in horses. No matter what, call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your horse is about to colic, or is already in some stage of colic. There are many different types of colic and your veterinarian needs to diagnose and treat it promptly. The early signs include lying down more than usual, lack of appetite, resisting activity, lack of gut sounds, standing “camped-out”, changes in manure (less, dry, loose or decreased quantity) and possible weight loss.

If the colic progresses and the abdominal pain becomes more severe, horses tend to paw the ground with their forelegs, kick or bite at their flanks, lie down and get up repetitively, exhibit rolling, sweating or groaning, and present with elevated respiratory and heart rates. Hopefully, your veterinarian has arrived before your horse’s condition reaches this level of severity.

2. Colic is only one of many dangerous situations horses can experience. When feed obstructs the horse’s esophagus and he is unable to swallow, he will desperately try to choke up the obstruction. This causes green fluids to pour from his nose and mouth. It is scary to see a horse choke. Thankfully, the fluid helps dislodge the feed bolus from the horse’s throat so this situation is less likely than colic to be life-threatening.

3. Injuries can occur at any time. Punctures, lacerations, tendon or joint injuries, and over-exertion are just a few; all need immediate attention although are rarely life-threatening. Learning first aid techniques is a good idea, especially in the case of excessive bleeding. Having a dry bandage available so you can apply direct pressure to the wound to stem blood flow would be smart. Your veterinarian can evaluate what further treatment is necessary when s/he arrives.

Acupressure for colic

Colic is potentially fatal, but performing a brief acupressure session on your horse while waiting for your veterinarian to arrive can help him. Though acupressure is not a substitute for veterinary care, there are acupoints known to relax the gastrointestinal tract and move toward balancing and restoring the natural internal activities of your horse’s bodily functions.

After following any instructions your vet may have given over the phone, and while waiting for him/her to see your horse, take a deep breath and continue to breathe evenly so you are calm and confident. Also, please remember to protect yourself if the horse is extremely anxious and violent. Your safety is important — do not attempt to offer acupressure if your horse may injure you. The horse needs to be relatively calm to benefit from an acupressure session.

To perform the point work shown in the “Acupressure for General Colic” chart on page xx, see the hands-on instructions at the end of this article.

Acupressure for other emergency situations

Acupressure can help your horse remain calm in any emergency, as long as you won’t be putting yourself at risk. The acupoints shown in the “Acupressure for Emergencies” chart can help support the horse’s respiration and heart rate as well as reduce fear and enhance calm. These acupoints have been used for horses in emergency situations for thousands of years.

Hands-on acupressure session

One hand performs the acupoint work while the other can rest comfortably on the horse to feel any reactions and help ground him. Place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint indicated at about a 45° to 90° angle and press gently. If the horse exhibits any adverse reaction, stop pressing immediately. When your horse is calm, continue to the next acupoint. Stay on each acupoint for a slow count of 20, then move on to the next point. Repeat this procedure on the opposite side of your horse. All the acupoints shown in the charts with this article are to be stimulated on both sides of the horse’s body.

Don’t panic!

Even though an emergency with your horse is scary, it is very important that you don’t panic. Once you’ve called your veterinarian, you can practice this acupressure technique to help you stay calm until he/she arrives.

The acupoint Large Intestine 4 (LI 4), (He Gu in Chinese, known as “Adjoining Valley” in English) is located in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Place your thumb and forefinger on each side of the webbing on the opposite hand while taking three deep breaths in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth down to the bottom of your breath before taking the next breath. Repeat holding Large Intestine 4 on the opposite hand while performing deep, slow breathing three more times. Now you are ready to offer your horse help.

When it comes to horses, the possibility of colic and other injuries is always present. It’s up to you to be ready to handle what happens in the best manner possible. Learning basic first aid and practicing hands-on acupressure techniques are good ways to be prepared.

Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis are the authors of Acu-Horse: A Guide to Equine Acupressure, Acu-Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure and Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass, offering books, manuals, DVDs, apps, and meridian charts. Tallgrass also provides a 300-hour hands-on and online training program worldwide. It is an approved school for the Department of Higher Education Vocational Schools through the State of Colorado, and an approved provider of NCBTMB and NCCAOM Continuing Education courses.303-681-3030,,

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