How to Do Acupressure
Don't worry about being perfectly on the site of the acupressure point. Acupressure does not have to be extremely precise – use several fingers (see photos) or your flat palm in the general area of the point and you will be able to stimulate it.
Once you locate an acupressure point (I would recommend starting with GV 24 or Yin Tang) hold the flat pads of your fingers on the general area and press down slowly. Once you find a depth of pressure your horse is completely comfortable with, remain still for 30 to 90 seconds to allow the horse to adjust to your touch. Once your horse begins to quiet, you may begin to move the skin and tissues below the surface around in slow circles.
Plant your fingers as you circle and move the skin and hair gently with your fingers; do not slide over the hair. If your horse holds his breath, raises his head, fusses, moves away from you or paws, reduce your pressure and just hold gently on the point.
Alternate your massage between simply holding steady flat-fingered pressure and slowly circling. If your horse does not like the circles, only use the gentle, steady pressure. Remain in contact with the point for one to three minutes or longer. With some horses, the longer you stay on one of these points, the deeper they relax. Other horses will enjoy several minutes of contact and then become restless –this is their communication that they have had enough input on that point so you need to remove your hand.
Signs your horse is benefiting from the work include deep breathing, a lowered head posture, closed or droopy eyes and overall quietness and relaxation. You can use these points repeatedly throughout the day or working session to calm your horse. Some horses will enjoy acupressure on all of these points; some horses will only respond to one or two or them. Follow your horse's body language and use the points which bring him calming.
REMEMBER: If your horse holds his breath, raises his head, fusses, moves away from you or paws, reduce your pressure and just hold gently on the point or try one of the other points. Have fun !!! And let your horse's actions guide you as to how hard to press or how long to stay on each point.
I have never met this horse before this photo session. I pet him and walk him around the arena and then begin to work. When I start applying acupressure to Governing Vessel 24, the horse is looking away from me with his head up. He has a lot of tension in his neck
As I continue to massage the point, the gelding moves his head to face me and relaxes his neck. The acupressure is beginning to take effect.
Now, the acupressure point is really working! The gelding has lowered his head, half-closed his eyes and decided to take a nap. Elapsed time between photo one and three was approximately one to two minutes.
Yin Tang is on the Governing Vessel midway between the eyes. I place the flat fingers of one hand on the point and hold the side of the horse's halter lightly with my other hand.
To be technically right on the point, I should have my hand up approximately ½ inch higher. The horse's relaxed posture is telling me, however, that this location is working just fine!
Acknowledgement: parts of this text are excerpted from Diana Thompson's article "Touching The Top Line" published in the August 1999 issue of The Whole Horse Journal. Reprints of this issue of the magazine can be purchased from Belvoir Publications, Greenwich, Connecticut, at 1-800-424-7887. Photos by Nancy Kerns.