The new ACU-Horse: A Guide to Equine Acupressure by Nancy Zidonis & Amy Snow, founders of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, is filled with how-to narrative, charts, and photographs and serves as the Tallgrass’ text book for all of the Institute’s equine acupressure courses.
Chapter Nine: Assessing Your Horse
Horses can be tricksters. Hardwired not to exhibit any weakness, they’ll do their best to stay up with the herd. When a horse is ill or injured in the wild, she’s left behind to fend for herself because the leader can’t allow the rest of his herd to become compromised. Her survival instincts dictate that she won’t reveal she’s in pain until she’s desperately in pain. For you as a horse guardian, this predicament means you don’t know your horse is experiencing pain during the early stages of a problem unless the situation involves an obvious traumatic event or sudden illness.
To add to the horse’s predisposition to not show pain, repetitive injuries affecting the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are often difficult to detect because of their gradual onset. Suddenly, you’re surprised to find your horse is lame. When this occurs, you’ve lost the opportunity to address the damage when it began and when it would have been much easier to resolve.
Then again, maybe your horse did give you subtle indicators he was not 100 percent sound. Watch for a change in attitude of any sort, which is often the first sign of a physical problem. The horse’s inability to do something he did easily last week is not usually a case of needing more training or discipline; it probably means something hurts. Stumbling, shortness of breath, trouble turning, poor recovery from exercise, and, of course, any lameness are other tell-tale indicators that something’s wrong.
Don’t dismiss even a slight decline in your horse’s performance. Even if it seems minor, pay attention to the hints your horse gives you. Tossing his head, refusing a jump, raspy sounding breathing, not being able to settle down while tacking up—any of these behaviors could mean something.
Many issues can affect equine performance. Every anatomical system has the potential to break down, whether it’s from genetic problems, wear and tear, or stress. Issues of the musculoskeletal system aren’t necessarily traumatic in nature. Degenerative joint disease (DJD), navicular syndrome, and various degrees of muscle soreness tend to have a gradual onset.
Traditional Chinese Medicine primarily involves preventive care. The intent is to avoid a pattern of disharmony and maintain a healthy, harmonious flow of chi and blood to enervate and nourish the horse’s body. However, things happen—and not always what we want to have happen. Horses get injured. They get sick. And sometimes, it isn’t clear exactly what’s going on with your horse; you simply know he isn’t quite right.
Chapter Nine goes on to discuss how to assess your horse from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. For more information and to order your copy of the new ACU-HORSE:A Guide to Equine Acupressure, visit the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute website.