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.

Horse Chakras

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.

“I’M NERVOUS”

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.

“I’M NERVOUS THIS BLANKET WILL EAT ME”

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?

21 Comments

  1. Holly

    Interesting. I’m pretty dubious unless there’s science to back it up, but I’m also of the mind that if it’s not hurting me or costing me… I’ll try. I have a neighbor who needed some people for case studies while she finishes her studies in Craniosacral Therapy so I said, “Sure, why not?” We’ll see. I’ve also long believed in chiropractic for my horses and dogs, but realized recently I never gave it a second thought as “real” for humans. I actually just booked my first appt on Wednesday, so we’ll see!
    On a semi-related note, my trainer does a yoga on horseback clinic! I get really tight muscles while I ride and she has the best stretches that help me out.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      I’d definitely like to hear about your craniosacral therapy adventures! And more about that yoga on horseback!

      Reply
  2. Amanda

    Sigh. I had a previous trainer get suuuuuuuper into reiki, and we spent literally an entire lesson trying to get me to halt Tristan through one of my chakras. Or my energy flow. Or something really fucking stupid like that. I was very young and trusted her very much. After I left that barn (work-related move), she got really into animal communication and tried to get me to sell Tristan because of what he was telling her. It kind of broke our relationship, which is still a source of sadness for me.

    Which I guess is the long way of saying: if this is what people want to do and spend money on and it works for them, sure, why not. But I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from how it was used to make me feel shitty.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Wow, that’s very weird and very shitty! My neighbor has used an animal communicator, and I’m even more skeptical about that than I am about reiki.

      Reply
  3. Allison C

    I have someone that does acupuncture on Juice who also practices reiki, in fact I won a reiki session with her at an equine charity event and that’s how I got to know her. I have her do a combination of both on him a few to several times a year depending on what’s going on. He has some anxiety issues on the ground as well as surrounding food, and I feel like she helps center him a little. Her presence is very calming and warm, so that’s something at least. Additionally the acupuncture helps with inflammation on a spot on his hip that he bumps against the wall with when he wants attention (I’ve put up a stall mat to absorb some of the shock. Super productive, horse). Some may think I’m silly, but considering that it’s not very expensive and she brings a nice energy into the barn, I feel it’s worth it.

    Forgive me if you’ve written about it and I missed it, but have you considered/tried any herbal calming supplements for Candy? I’d probably try the alternative therapy route first before messing with a horse’s diet if it were me; just wondering!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      I have tried a couple of different calming supplements (but I haven’t written about it).

      Several months ago, I had her on Perfect Prep Training Day for a couple of months, which seemed to help her a lot. She was noticeably less spooky and seemed to be less anxious and more focused overall. It was expensive, even with my employee discount at work, so I took her off it.

      Last fall, I got about a month’s supply of SmartMare Harmony pellets from a boarder at my neighbor’s barn whose mare wouldn’t eat them; Candy ate them and seemed marginally calmer, but I didn’t want to keep her on that product because it contains chamomile and passion flower, which are prohibited for USEF competition. (Candy isn’t competing at USEF competitions right now, but I would hate to have to switch products in the future.)

      She started SmartCalm Ultra pellets in December, and they seemed to help reduce her overall spookiness/reactivity, especially under saddle. I don’t think they work as well as the Training Day, but they’re less expensive and very convenient.

      I’ve also used Perfect Prep Gold and Perfect Prep Extreme at shows and hunts, but haven’t seen a significant difference.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Interesting. I have a friend whose horse (a gelding, though) is a lot like her and she decided on smartcalm ultra after trying a few as well. I used to lease him and the perfect prep would make him feel lazy for an hour then he’d go back to normal.

        Reply
  4. L. Williams

    One of the equine massage therapist I talked to at a horse show mentioned something about “fixing horses energy” I wonder if she meant reiki. Either way I hadn’t called her to work on Dante (but I haven’t called anyone yet). I’m really interested in trying kinesio tape, my ex used to use it on himself (Studying physical therapy and he was an ultra marathon runner) I kinda forgot about that stuff until I saw it for sale at the tack store.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Oh, I hope you do try the kinesio tape soon- I’d love to read about it!

      Reply
  5. Stacie

    I’m a skeptic like you. I found the back on track stuff to chill Jampy out. I don’t know why, I think it’s voodoo. Or placebo by proxy maybe? I’ve never tried horse reiki, but if there was a chance it could chill out a nervous horse, why not give it a try? Especially if it’s free!
    I kind of think the chill feeling after yoga might just be exhaustion. Yoga is hard!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      I feel like Back on Track makes all of my horses insane! They’re like, “I FEEL SO GOOD TIME TO GET THE BUCKS OUT YO”. While that’s kind of funny when Moe does it, it is also not ideal for useful work lol

      Reply
  6. Emma

    I mean, the price is certainly right! Personally I’d probably be going for some stronger chemicals in a mare who struggles relaxing and is high strung…. Considering there are a few that are kinda commonly accepted as good mare drugs. And better living thru chemistry and all that. But then again it would be really great to help Candy chill out for less dollars with with out any chemical treatment too!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      The price is definitely right lol

      I’ve thought about putting Candy on Regu-Mate, which certainly might help her. I don’t notice a lot of changes in her behavior on the ground or under saddle when she’s in heat, but she is much more obvious about being in season than Gina ever was.

      Reply
  7. Carly

    The massage lady the barn uses is into the reiki stuff, too. She’ll say she’s asking the horse permission to work on a spot through voodoo hand magic or something, I don’t know. She’s actually good at the body work at least.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Yeah, I was kind of side-eyeing Yoga Instructor when she’d say, “She doesn’t want me to work on this spot right now”, but what do I know? I haven’t had the reiki training!

      Reply
  8. Allie-Rocking E Cowgirl

    Hm. I guess I don’t buy it. How can you touch and move a horse’s “energy” when you’re not even touching them in the first place? Little too hocus pocus for me. I’d totally be like you, though, and experiment for free.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      It is definitely on my “…sure, whatever you say” list, but it’s free and not going to hurt the horse, so I’m willing to give it a try! 😛

      Reply
  9. Liz

    The reiki I’ve seen piques my interest, but doesn’t squash any of my skepticism; hand hovering to move energies is something I am still super skeptical about. Acupuncture? Okay. Similar lines alone the body but physical prodding of them.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Agreed! I am skeptical about how the energies are moved by like…the power of suggestion or something?

      Reply
  10. Genny

    I’m really skeptical of this, but it’s an interesting thought. And I love free stuff soooo interested to see how it works over time.

    Reply
  11. CruiseninStilettos

    Both my girls love the Masterson Method and visibly relax whenever I do it! It’s easy to learn and worth a try too!!

    Reply

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