Alternative alternative therapies
These days, I think most people readily accept “alternative” therapies for horses: acupuncture, chiropractic, massage. They’re pretty mainstream, and it seems like many people see real results from the addition of these practices to their horses’ routines. But what about more out-there sorts of remedies?
A few weeks ago, as I was leaving one of the evening yoga classes I attend, I joked to my instructor that I wished my horse could come to yoga and experience the calm, peaceful feeling I always have after class. She mentioned she’d just completed reiki training and would be glad to come practice on my horse if I’d be interested.
Reiki is a form of alternative medicine developed by a Buddhist in Japan in the 1920s. Practitioners use their hands to direct energy to their patient, which encourages emotional and/or physical healing. It’s firmly in the realm of pseudoscience, and clinical research has not shown reiki to be effective as medical treatment for any medical condition. The consensus of the medical community seems to be that while it’s not an effective treatment, it’s generally harmless as long as it’s not being used as a substitute for science-based treatments. Positive benefits are attributed to the placebo effect.
Now, I’m not much of an out-there kind of person. I’m skeptical about the benefits of essential oils, herbal remedies, magnets, and Back on Track products. I seek advice from qualified medical professionals when I have a problem. I suspect the feeling of calm and well-being I experience after a yoga class can be attributed to spending an hour in a semi-meditative state.
However, I do wish Candy could experience that same calm feeling. She’s a horse who’s anxious all the time. I’ve tried to help reduce her anxiety: she’s turned out 24/7, she has other horses for company, she has been checked for medical issues by a veterinarian, her tack has been evaluated for fit and comfort, she is ridden regularly in and out of an arena, she eats plenty of high-quality forage, she is on a calming supplement, she is handled in a fair and consistent way. But Candy remains anxious, much in the way I imagine some people experience a high level of anxiety. Unfortunately for Candy, her options for treatment are a bit more limited than a human’s.
So I told my yoga instructor she was welcome to come out and try her hand at equine reiki. She was really excited about it, as she’d never practiced on a horse before.
She arrived shortly after the horses finished breakfast, so I pulled Candy out of her stall and into the barn aisle. Candy was politely interested in Yoga Instructor and sniffed her hands and pockets to double check she hadn’t brought any treats. (She hadn’t.) Yoga Instructor seemed delighted by Candy, commenting on how beautiful and soft and friendly she was. (Her only experience has been with her sister-in-law’s barrel horses, who apparently bite her every time she visits them. So I imagine Candy was quite an improvement over that, haha.)
Watching reiki performed wasn’t ultra interesting- there were no big, dramatic motions or surprising reactions. Yoga Instructor noted that she felt cold spots under Candy’s jaw and on her sacrum; cool spots indicate energy blockages. Candy seemed relaxed and pleasant through the treatment. She stepped away Yoga Instructor a couple of times, despite Yoga Instructor not actually touching her. (Yoga Instructor kept her hands a few inches away from Candy’s body throughout the session.) Candy yawned and chewed a few times, but didn’t seem exceptionally relaxed either during or after the session. I turned her out and kept a casual eye on her for the rest of the day. She seemed a little less manic than usual- I didn’t see her pacing the fenceline much, and she seemed to spend most of the day quietly eating her hay and napping.
Yoga Instructor recommended monthly reiki sessions for Candy; since she’s not charging me, I don’t see a downside to letting a person come and hang out with my horse for half an hour every month. If she’s able to move mystical energies around and help Candy feel calmer, all the better!
Have you experimented with alternative or totally out-there therapies for your horse? What did you think? What did they think?