Any deficiency in your horse’s immune system means his health is compromised. A healthy, balanced immune system supports your horse’s capacity to avoid disease, rebound from injury and enhances his overall vitality.
Before people knew what a germ was, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors in ancient times knew that the human and animal body needed to defend itself from exterior pathogens. They understood when the vital energy that animates all living beings, called ‘ 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 Chinese medicine concept of the health of the immune system makes a lot of sense. In TCM there’s defensive, or protective, Chi and in Chinese it is known as Wei Chi, which 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 thus susceptible to illness. Supporting defensive Chi is key in the body’s ability to function properly.
There are other ways in which the horse’s immune system can become weak, such as overwork, poor diet, not enough exercise, and emotional stress. The horse’s immune system must be strong enough to withstand internal and external pathogens. Internal pathogens can take the form of being socially isolated or being in a paddock with an aggressive horse, anything that disrupts your horse’s capacity to be in a good frame of mind. 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 to have 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. Part of the mare’s job is to maintain peace within the herd to minimise emotional stress. Horses travel from 20-40 kilometers in a single day in the wild, keeping their bodies well-toned. Their survival is dependent on the strength of their immune system.
Domesticated horses are dependent on how well we, as their guardians, can replicate a natural equine lifestyle. As much as we try to meet our horse’s natural needs for exercise, proper nutrition, exposure to the elements and suitable social interaction, it can’t match the wild horse experience. We need other resources to support our horse’s immune system and acupressure is an excellent one.
Acupressure is based on TCM. The intent of an acupressure session is to balance Chi, life promoting energy, so that it and blood can flow harmoniously to nourish the internal organs and tissues of the horse’s body. When the body is balanced and Chi is performing optimally, the horse’s immune system is defending his body internally and externally.
There are energetic pathways, according to TCM, which run just between the horse’s skin and muscles called meridians. Along these meridians there 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 nourish your horse’s body and promote balance.
Each acupoint affects the horse’s body differently. There are specific acupoints you can use to boost and maintain your horse’s immune system. The Immune System Balancing chart accompanying this article provides you with a way to help your horse stay healthy and perform at his best because his immune system is doing its job.
Remember that your horse has two sides, so stimulate the acupoints on both the right and left side of your horse.
While one hand is performing the point work, your other hand should be resting comfortably on the horse’s body. Your horse may have some energetic releases during the acupressure session that let you know that energy is moving in his body and he is benefitting from the session. A release can be: stretching his neck, yawning, licking, breathing out dramatically, shaking, rolling, or even falling asleep.
This article first appeared in Horsemanship Magazine UK – holistic equine specialists.