Acupuncture can be used as treatment and also as a diagnostic tool for practitioners. It all sounds very interesting. Has anyone ever had acupuncture done on their horse before? What did you think of it? ~Declan
Equestrian Bits: Acupuncture benefits horses, too
Jan 26, 2013 As posted on lohud.com
A horse rests with needles near his hoof after an acupuncture treatment. / Gannett News Service
The use of alternative health care is growing in this country, but it’s not limited to humans. Equine veterinarians are starting to realize the benefits of combining Far Eastern medicine with modern veterinary care.
Acupuncture has been practiced on humans (and horses) for more than 3,000 years in China; it is now gaining acknowledgment with professional organizations.
Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners now recognize acupuncture as a “valid modality” in the field of equine health.
The theory of acupuncture is that there are meridian points throughout the body that correspond to various organs and structures; if the flow of energy along these meridian points is blocked, pain and illness can result. Acupuncture opens the flow and restores the proper balance to the systems of the body. In the West, the prevalent theory is that stimulation of the meridian points act on the hypothalamic-pituitary system via the central nervous system to release natural painkillers such as endorphins. Consequently, the application of acupuncture in this country is primarily for purposes of pain relief.
When you think of acupuncture, you think of needles, and this is the traditional method; sterile dry needles are inserted into meridian points and left for 20 to 30 minutes. The needles may be attached to an electrical device that delivers mild electrical pulses to the points for added stimulation; this is often referred to as electroacupuncture. Meridian points may also be injected, often with vitamin B, to produce a longer-lasting stimulation of the area.
In an interesting combination of ancient and modern, non-invasive lasers are sometimes used to stimulate the points without breaking the skin. Another non-invasive technique is acupressure, massage that focuses on the points.
Practitioners of acupuncture use it not only as a treatment, but as a diagnostic tool.
By applying pressure along the meridians and gauging the horse’s reaction, a trained expert can often tell where the horse is experiencing pain and discomfort. Acupuncture is also used as a preventative; performance horses seem to benefit from regular maintenance, and some trainers use the technique as part of their regime. Several European equestrian teams have a practitioner who travels with them for this purpose.
It seems like a horse wouldn’t be very amenable to being poked with needles in this fashion, but most accept it surprisingly well. There are many reports of horses dozing off while under treatment.
I have witnessed acupuncture once on a horse that was having back pain; he reacted very little to the application of the needles and was, in fact, quite relaxed during the process.
It is important to seek conventional treatment first for any health problems your horse may experience; the best course of action is to augment modern veterinary treatment with traditional medicines and techniques such as acupuncture.
Your veterinarian can recommend a qualified practitioner if this type of treatment may benefit your horse.
The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society is a good source for finding a practitioner or verifying credentials. Visit www.ivas.orgto access this organization.
Mary Keating is an equestrian professional who has ridden and owned horses in the Hudson Valley for more than 35 years, earning a degree in Equine Studies at Johnson & Wales University. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of every month.