DEFENSIVE CHI – A TCM PERSPECTIVE
Long before people knew what a germ was, ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors knew that the human and animal body needed to defend itself from exterior pathogens. They understood that when the vital energy that animates all living beings (“chi”, also seen as Qi and Ki), is weak, the body is vulnerable and not balanced. If this condition remains for any length of time, the odds are the human or animal will become ill.
The TCM concept of immune system health makes a lot of sense. Defensive or Protective Chi is known in Chinese as Wei Chi. It is created and circulated by the Lung and flows just beneath the skin. This type of chi is responsible for keeping environmental elements from invading the body. When wind, cold, dampness and heat break through the body’s defensive barrier, the body becomes imbalanced and susceptible to illness. Supporting Defensive Chi is considered key in the body’s ability to function properly.
There are other ways in which the horse’s immune system can become weak. These include overwork, poor diet, not enough exercise, and emotional stress. His immune system must be strong enough to withstand internal and external pathogens. Internal pathogens can take the form of being socially isolated or in a paddock with an aggressive horse – anything that disrupts your horse’s capacity to be in a good frame of mind. As well, good nutrition and exercise are absolutely essential to maintaining a strong immune system.
HORSES IN THE WILD
Wild horses know how to acquire what they need for a robust immune system. They’re exposed to the elements every minute of their lives. Their natural Defensive Chi automatically builds by virtue of exposure, and functions to protect them. The boss mare knows where to find the best forage and herbs for the herd to ingest. Another part of her job is to maintain peace within the herd to minimize emotional stress. And horses in the wild travel 20 to 40 miles in a day, so their bodies are kept well toned. Their survival is completely dependent on the strength of their immune systems.
Domesticated horses, in contrast, depend on how well we, as their guardians, can replicate a natural equine lifestyle. As close as we try to come to their needs for exercise, proper nutrition, exposure to the elements, and suitable social interaction, it can’t match the wild horse experience. We have to seek other resources to support our horses’ immune systems. Acupressure is an excellent method of enhancing and maintaining your horse’s immunity.
1. Thumb technique – Gently place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint and count to 30 very slowly. Then move to the next point. This works best on the horse’s trunk and neck.
2. Two-finger technique – Place your middle finger on top of your index finger to create a little tent. Then lightly put the soft tip of your index finger on the acupoint and slowly count to 30. This technique is good for working on the lower extremities, because the legs are harder to reach. While one hand is performing the point work, your other hand should be resting comfortably on the horse’s body. He may exhibit some energetic releases during the session; these let you know that energy is moving in his body and he is benefiting from the session. A release can include stretching his neck, yawning, licking, breathing out dramatically, shaking, rolling or even falling asleep.
Acupressure is based on TCM. Its intent is to create balance, so that chi and blood can flow harmoniously to nourish internal organs and tissues. When the body is balanced and chi is performing optimally, the horse’s immune system is defending his body, internally and externally.
According to TCM, energetic pathways called meridians run just between the horse’s skin and muscles. Along these pathways are pools of energy called “acupoints” that we can stimulate to help create the smooth and harmonious passage of chi and blood throughout the entire meridian network. During an acupressure session, you can influence the flow of energy and nutrients that promote balance and nourish your horse’s body.
Each acupoint affects the horse’s body differently. Specific acupoints can be stimulated to boost and maintain your horse’s immune system. The chart opposite provides you with a way to help his immune system do its job, so he can stay healthy and perform at his best.