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Student Horse Case History:
Acupressure and Moxa helps Mare with Neck Injury

Gina Pardini and DollyExperienced horse woman Gina Pardini of Boonville, California, brought her 14-year-old quarter horse Dolly to my Acupressure Level One course in October, 2016. Gina described her mare as tense and “somewhat standoffish.” She assured me, however, that Dolly was kind and well-trained and that she would be safe for students to touch as I instructed them in how to find acupressure points and work on them.

As it turned out, Dolly enjoyed almost all of the points the students touched, breathing deeply and resting a hind leg in response. The posture of her upper neck and head, however, remained stiff. She insisted on facing forward, rarely turning her head and eyes left or right to look at her handlers or the environment. She clearly did not want to be touched on her head and upper neck. Her stiff posture reminded me of a person with a painful neck injury who wears a cervical collar around their neck to keep it still.

When I talked with Gina about Dolly’s muscle tension, Gina explained that Dolly was injured eight years ago when the barn blew down around her during a violent storm. Gina tried to help Dolly with massage and chiropractic care, but the mare would not allow her neck to be touched. Gina explained: “Dolly can be very guarded and tense around the poll area at the top of her neck. I knew this wasn’t right and I’d been looking for a solution for quite a while.”

Dolly's Movement Improves with Acupressure During Class

Acupressure during the first three days of the Level One class helped Dolly’s muscles and mind relax. The movement of her head and neck improved and she became more trusting. When it was time to for me to teach the students how to use moxa I decided to use Dolly as my demonstration horse.

Moxa is a mixture of Chinese herbs. I apply moxa with an indirect method that involves burning a stick of the herb several inches above the skin. This creates a deep, yet non-invasive, heating effect. I use it to activate acupressure points and increase the circulation of qi throughout the body. It’s also very effective at warming cold, stiff areas of the body and increasing blood flow to the muscles. I find that horses who don’t want acupressure or massage directly on top of tight or sore areas of their bodies, often allow moxa’s gentle, yet powerful, heating influence.

Click here to read more about Moxa and see photos of it being used on a horse. You can learn how to use it over an acupressure point called Governing Vessel 4.

DollyI hoped Dolly would accept the moxa directly over the tight areas of her neck. This should relax the muscles and, in time, result in greater range of motion of her neck, head, and shoulders. Gina held Dolly while student Jane Winslow, who had been doing acupressure with Dolly during class, used the moxa over the muscles of the mare’s lower back.

Dolly enjoyed the warming sensations of the moxa on her back so Jane moved the moxa to the base of her neck. In response, Dolly lowered her neck, closed her eyes and quivered her lower lip, signs of complete acceptance and relaxation. During the next five to ten minutes, Jane used the moxa over a great deal of Dolly’s neck before the mare let us know she had received enough. It was a wonderful first session.

After the class was over, Gina used acupressure and moxa on Dolly several times at home with what she called “great results”. Here are her comments:

What are Dolly’s favorite acupressure points?
“Dolly is very receptive to acupressure. She seems to like all of the points. Gall Gladder 21 is the acupressure point I’ve used the most on her. I’ve mostly been using moxa, though, as I find its benefits have been amazing.”

Click here to see charts and photos showing the location of Gall Bladder 21.

How has Moxa helped Dolly?
“Dolly used to pull back when approached too quickly around her head. She wouldn’t allow any rubbing or massage on the sore, tight muscles of her neck because it caused her too much pain. Moxa is non-invasive. It doesn’t cause any pain as it works so Dolly can relax. With the moxa I can work all over her neck including the poll area at the top of her neck, just behind her ears.

“When I use moxa over her neck, Dolly relaxes, lowers her head, and her eyes get really soft. It has been great to see her finally let go of that tension. We have a ways to go and muscles to build, but now I feel like I have the tools that will help that happen and keep Dolly more comfortable in the process.”

What changes do you see in Dolly’s physical and emotional behavior as a result of the acupressure and moxa?
“With the work we did with Dolly during the Level One Class and then what I’ve done at home, the tense guarded look that I could always see in Dolly’s face is better. Her eyes seem softer and brighter and her head is starting to actually swing a little while walking.

“I must say the biggest change after the class was her behavior at feeding time. Dolly had ulcers in the past and she can be incredibly impatient and demanding in the mornings at feeding time. She strikes the stall door hard with her front hoof and becomes really agitated as she waits for her food. Well, since I have brought Dolly home, that behavior is all but gone – amazing! This was a very unexpected change.”

Session with Tamara Yates Further Helps Dolly:
Encouraged by the acupressure and moxa results, Gina brought Dolly to my farm after the Level One class for a session with Tamara Yates, a professional equine body worker. Tamara uses myofascial release, acupressure and a number of other gentle hands-on methods to improve movement. To Gina’s surprise, Dolly was able to accept Tamara’s hands-on work on her whole body, including the muscles and joints of her neck. Tamara was able to further release the tight muscles of the mare’s neck and help her rediscover healthier range of motion.

Do you see any changes in Dolly’s performance?
“With the weather and Christmas coming we’ve been doing mostly ground work and that has definitely improved. For instance, I’ve been doing some work over ground poles. In the past, Dolly would just about fall over the poles. I’m not talking about a whole line of poles, just two or three poles at a time. She would trip on a pole, take a ½ step in between them, or rush over them. We would work and work on this with little improvement.

“Dolly is now stepping clearly over the poles, usually in stride without a step in between them. When I’ve gotten to ride her, she seems to have a lot more energy and the ability to lengthen her trot. She is moving with less of a choppy “sewing machine trot” and her lope is rounder, not all strung out.”

Any other comments about how Dolly is doing?
“Dolly is doing great. I love that she is not so guarded when you reach up to pet her. I hated that she acted like you were going to smack her when you reached for her head. I know we have a lot of work ahead to keep her going in the right direction but I like knowing she is a lot more comfortable.”

How would you describe the Equine Acupressure Level One class? Are you able to use the information on your horses at home?
“The Level One class was amazing. I came away with so much knowledge, way more than I thought I would. I had no idea acupressure could help so many things. It’s actually quite overwhelming, but Diana does a great job of breaking it down into a simpler, more understandable topic. I loved how she gives reasons and uses for the points not just the points. There is also great detail in where the points are located, which I feel is important. Diana’s instructions are more direct and beneficial than just laying your hand over the general area.

“At home after the class, I’ve had a great time playing around doing acupressure on points on my other horses and dog seeing what changes or reaction I get. My husband has even let me try moxa on his neck and shoulders a couple times. He was quite skeptical but was pleasantly amazed when it helped loosen things up. I’m looking forward to finishing up my Level One class externship study, working with Diana on horse cases, and taking the Level Two acupressure class.”

Related Links

Click here to see charts and photos showing the location of the acupressure point known as Gall Bladder 21.

Click here to read more about Moxa and see photos of it being used on a horse. Learn how to use moxa over an acupressure point called Governing Vessel 4.

Click here for details on the May, 2017, Equine Acupressure Level One Course