But acupuncture is one of the few alternative therapies that elicits a positive response from most people. It’s use on horses is nothing new, but acupuncture’s therapeutic effects are now being seen in an increasingly positive light by medical and veterinary organisations around the world.
The theory behind acupuncture is that there are meridian points throughout the body that correspond to various organs and areas of the body – if the flow of energy along these meridian points is blocked, then ailments occur. Acupuncture essentially aims to restore proper balance to the body by allowing energy to flow freely. Traditionally, this is achieved by inserting sterile dry needles into meridian points and leaving them for 20-30 minutes.
In the West, medical professionals believe that stimulation of the meridian points act on the hypothalamic-pituitary system via the central nervous system, triggering the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins. Consequently, acupuncture is primarily used for pain relief in the West.
A diagnostic tool
Acupuncture is not just a therapy, it’s also used as a diagnostic tool. By applying pressure along the meridians and gauging the horse’s reaction, a trained expert can tell where the horse is experiencing disease. Personally, I have seen this kind of diagnostic process in action and it’s very impressive. The vet was able to diagnose equine gastric ulcer syndrome in a stallion who was suffering from poor competition performance using meridian points.
What is acupuncture used for?
It can be used to treat almost anything apart from malignant tumours, irreparable fractures and end-stage organ failure. Most commonly, equine acupuncture is used for:
• Muscle soreness – particularly in the neck, back and hindquarters
• Respiratory problems
• Gastrointestinal issues
• Stress and anxiety
• Reproductive problems
• To boost immunity post-illness
Who can perform acupuncture?
By law, acupuncture can only be performed by a vet. For more information, visit the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists at www.abva.co.uk