Ayurveda, an ages-old therapy, focuses on each equine as an individual.
“What is Ayurveda?” This is the number one question I get asked, and answering it is particularly special to me. Treating horses “naturally” (the essence of Ayurveda) is a practice that’s gradually resurfacing as horse-loving men and women embrace the fundamental values of alternative medicine, treatments and training.
A new age for equine therapy
With these values, we head out of the Piscean Age, which ruled for more than 2,200 years, and into the Age of Aquarius, marked by the Mayan calendar. Yes, folks! The much-touted “end of the world” was not some great apocalyptic event, but merely the transition from one astrological house to another.
The Piscean Age represented money, power and control, while the transition into Aquarius highlights the values of love, unity, integrity, and a “back to roots” approach to nature. Thus, our progress is marked not just by improvements in science and technology, but by a use of alternative approaches as well.
This new age is a rather exciting journey for those of us who are horse enthusiasts. It’s like shopping in a new catalogue of goods. This “catalogue”, if you will, led me to the path of Ayurveda, a complete ages-old medicinal system established in India more than 5,000 years ago.
Ayurveda can actually get quite complicated, so let me condense it slightly. Simply put, Ayurveda supports the balance of mind, body and soul via plant-based medicine; a touch component such as massage, acupuncture or Reiki; and nutrition.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the key word is balance — between body, mind and spirit. Health, therefore, is defined as soundness of body (sharira), mind (manas), and self or soul (atman). Each of these must be nurtured if the individual, human or animal, is to enjoy health.
The fundamental goal of Ayurveda is to help each person discover a personal knowledge of wellness and longevity through physical, emotional and spiritual balance. The term Ayurveda was derived from Sanskrit — Ayur means life or longevity and veda means knowledge or wisdom.
The three doshas
According to Ayurveda teaching, there are three primary forces or biological humors in the body called “doshas”. The doshas bind together the five elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. The tri-doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Many people understand the concept of following a nutritional system and lifestyle based on their body type, personality or even blood type. Animals are no different, and according to Ayurvedic principles, these “types” are separated into three (or a variation of the three).
There are substantial differences between Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas, from physical characteristics to their accompanying personalities. Each dosha represents specific areas of the body and is governed by its own functional, structural and mental energy.
How Ayurveda works
If you decide to pursue Ayurveda for your horse, an initial assessment is done — a practitioner would evaluate a few factors, such as heart rate and tongue characteristics. Upon identifying the horse’s dosha, a wellness plan would be implemented to maintain balance; or, if there is an existing issue, the source of the ailment would be identified and a course of treatment undertaken. Treatment addresses nutrition specific to the horse’s dosha, as well as herbal medicine and a form of physical therapy (i.e. massage, Bowen).
The benefits of Ayurveda over other therapies is the realization that we are individuals. For example, Pittas are very hot by nature — internal temperatures rise, and they can get fiery-tempered as a result. Cold foods and herbs like peppermint and chicory are great to extinguish the “heat”. Vatas and Kaphas are cold by nature, prone to circulation issues, and warming herbs and hot mashes are welcomed and of huge benefit.
This is a very simple description of the Ayurvedic medical system. However, this introduction will hopefully open your heart and mind to what is renowned as a scientific, clinically proven, natural health system.
Neachai Equine Ayurveda is the only Ayurvedic-specific company for equine health in North America (neachai.ca)
Theresa Gilligan has been involved in riding and training horses for 25 years, including racing and breeding Thoroughbreds. She also has over 14 years in the financial industry and a bachelor and graduate degree in International Business. She has dedicated the last five years to research in alternative medicinal practices, with a specific focus on Ayurveda. Neachai (Neachai.ca) is the first Equine Ayurvedic-specific alternative practice in North America.