Shiatsu for Horses - The Stomach Meridian
The last few articles have been looked at the various Meridians (channels through which the essential life force, or energy flows) and how the Japanese healing system called Shiatsu can help your horse. The associations between the meridians and the part of the body that they help balance can often be confusing for the layman. For example the Kidney Meridian which can help circulation. This meridian it all becomes very easy to understand as we focus on the stomach meridian.
The physical associations relating to the horses stomach meridian are fairly obvious: colic, digestive disorders, flatulence, overeating or poor appetite, bad breath and sinus congestion. It involves the transformation and distribution of food.
Many of the meridians are associated with the elements of fire, water, wood, metal and earth. The stomach meridian is associated with the earth element type of horse. these horses need stability, routine and exercise in life. Suspect an imbalance in the energy in this meridian if your horse thinks of food a lot! This is the horse that at mealtimes is really put out if he isnt the first one to be fed - and always eats ravenously and then go looking for more in his pasture mates manager if possible. He will often insist on treats and become nippy. This horse may take advantage of less experienced riders and often may become cranky simply because he really does need movement to stimulate his metabolism and circulation. It also helps with the mental energy as work provides him with stimulation that prevents stagnation and depression. This really is the kind of horse that will plod around a riding school wearily with beginners and then, when ridden by someone with experience who does perhaps some jumping or lateral work, becomes a totally different horse.
The opposite imbalance can occur. When there is to little energy or stagnant energy in this meridian the horse is underweight and a worrier. He doesnt seem to make the best use of his feed and performs poorly when under pressure, for example at a competition. This horse needs regular exercise to get rid of excess nervous energy and, by keeping him relaxed, you will assist his digestion and maintain weight.
For either type of imbalance (the sluggish horse or the worrier) massage on the Stomach meridian will help by balancing the energy in the pathway of the meridian. Use the diagram as a road map but remember that the meridians are slightly different in each individual horse. By using a few fingers in the area indicated and your intuition you should be able to begin work on this meridian. Use your fingertips to stroke or press gently along the meridian. You may like to use the palm of your hand on larger areas, feeling for hot and cold areas, gritty or spongy muscular areas. Note the different textures of the body. Remember to breath and stay calm and relaxed focusing totally on the horse. If you feel safe enough working with your horse you can close your eyes - this can help the Shiatsu novice find Chi energy more easily but please stay alert in case your horse moves suddenly.
Work along the whole of the meridian to encourage the stomach meridian and earth element to balance and, after a few sessions you should notice changes in the horses behaviour and attitude to life. There are specific points along this meridian which are referred to with numbers by trained shiatsu practitioners and these can help with specific problems. For example ST2 and ST36 can help a horse suffering with colic whilst waiting for the vet to arrive.
ST2 is nestled in the junction of two prominent veins that run just below the eye and the location of this is seen best when the horse is relaxed as the two veins dilate and press through the surface of the skin. ST2 is also a good relaxation point for muscles, tendons and the body in general and it relieves pain as well. This point is also used for eye disorders and facial paralysis.
ST36 can be found by locating the stifle joint. one hand width below the joint you will find a small bony bump. This is the crest of the tibia and ST36 is just below this crest and in a small valley. ST36 is commonly used in shiatsu to stimulate digestion in colic but can be incredibly useful for other stomach meridian conditions like stifle problems, diarrhoea, constipation, fever, fatigue, lethargy and exhaustion. It also can enhance the immune system by stimulating the over all energy of the body, building up the chi. Massage on this point can also help counteract fatigue after a long days hunting or hacking.
Please remember that shiatsu is not a replacement for veterinary care. Your vet should be your first port of call and should always be consulted if you have any doubts about your horses health. However ST2 and ST36 may be useful points to massage whilst waiting for a vet to arrive if you horse has colic. They should help calm the horse and relieve pain until qualified assistance arrives.
To massage the points place two or three fingers softly on the point and rest for a moment while you tune into your horse. Then press gently and slowly down onto the point and move the skin and tissue below in small deep circles.
Regular shiatsu on the stomach meridian will help the energy in the path of the meridian become more balanced and thus affect your horses outlook not only on food but on life as well.
If you feel that you would like to know more or need some help with your horse then do give us a call. Contact Nicholas Goody on 01622 738102 .
For areas outside Kent and Sussex Nick may be able to put you in touch with a practitioner near to where you and your horse live.
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Updated: October 2005.