Coughing, drippy nose or eyes, raspy or congested breathing, raised lumps on the neck and/or shoulder, obvious itchy areas – when your horse exhibits any of these conditions, the odds are he has allergies. Unfortunately, allergies can be life-threatening. Severe allergic reactions can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory failure.
Not only do too many horses have allergy issues, there are so many different types of allergies that react to offending environmental substances, called allergens. Though horses exhibit allergic reactions in a variety of ways, there are only five types of allergies: contact, bug bite, food, bacterial, and inhalant. Contact allergies can be a reaction to cleaning chemicals, bedding, and fertilizers. The most common allergen type is inhalant, or atopy (pronounced “at-ta-pee”). Most often, these allergies occur during the spring and fall when tree, grass, and weed pollens are most prevalent. During warmer weather molds and spores can stimulate an allergic reaction in some horses.
Allergies and Chinese Medicine
Allergies are actually a hypersensitivity to a particular allergen. What is happening during an allergic reaction is that the horse’s body is over-reacting to the irritant by creating antibodies to fight the allergen. In other words, the horse’s immune system is over-acting and from a Chinese medicine perspective, the animal’s immune system is not balanced.
The intention underlying equine acupressure is to support the horse’s ability to cope within his environment. The key to health, according to ancient Chinese medicine, is a balanced flow of “chi,” life-promoting energy, and blood so that the internal organs and bodily tissues are well nourished. When a horse’s body is balanced and functioning properly, his immune system can readily stave-off airborne pollens, molds, or any other potential allergen.
Though each horse has his own constitution and may react differently to different irritants, guardians can offer their horses an acupressure session that helps support and balance his immune system in general as part of his grooming regime two times a week.
Balancing the Immune System Acupressure Session
There are known acupressure points, also called “acupoints,” located along energetic pathways, or meridians, that influence the flow of chi and blood throughout the horse’s body. After thousands of years of observation, the ancient Chinese were able to identify specific acupoints that are specifically effective in balancing the immune system. The following four acupoints can support your horse’s ability to cope with allergens in general:
Large Intestine 11 (LI 11), Pond in the Curve – Enhances the immune system overall to create balance; more specifically, this point can reduce itching (pruritus) and benefits skin disorders.
Large Intestine 4 (LI4), Joining Valley – This acupoint is known to affect the immune system while also supporting the respiratory system.
Stomach 36 (St 36), Leg Three Mile – Helps to prevent allergies. This point is used to enhance the movement of energy and blood throughout the horse’s body to support good health.
Bladder 17 (Bl 17), Diaphragm’s Hollow – This acupoint is associated with ensuring the proper circulation of blood maintaining a balanced flow of nourishment and moisture.
Rather than wait until your horse is showing signs of an allergic reaction, you can perform this brief acupressure session year-round so that you are being proactive and possibly avoiding an allergic reaction in the spring or fall – that would be the best for you and your horse.
By Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis Adjunct Faculty at Hocking College, authors of Equine Acupressue,
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