Tilly’s Story - Acupressure helps a Mare with Severe Heart and Respiratory Distress
Tamara Yates put acupressure to the test when a 12-year-old quarter horse mare named Tilly collapsed on a mountain trail ride in June of 2012. The nearest veterinary help was a 2 ½ hour drive away from their location at 7,000 foot elevation in Lassen Park in Northern California.
"We had ridden out about a mile from camp when Tilly started kicking with her hind feet,” Tamara described. “We couldn’t figure out what she was doing, and then, her hind legs collapsed and she fell down. Her heart rate and respiration were high and she was having muscle spasms all over her body. Luckily, her owner Jeannie was able to dismount safely. We got Tilly up to her feet and I lead her back to camp from my horse Grayson, although she went down several more times. Once we got Tilly back to camp she collapsed to the ground and stayed down. Her heart was racing. I used a stethoscope to take her heart rate and it was going so fast I couldn’t count it. Her rate of breathing was also really high…way over normal.”
At first, Tilly was lying on her belly on the ground with her head up. Then, she seemed to pass out and fell down flat on the ground. Tamara was so concerned about the severity of Tilly’s condition that she doubted if acupressure would help. Tamara described her thoughts saying: “Even though I’d had a lot of success with acupressure on horses I thought to myself: okay, I’ve read that acupressure can work in this type of emergency but I’m not really sure how it can possibly do that right now.”
Putting her doubts aside, Tamara started doing acupressure on Governing Vessel 26 (GV 26), a point on the horse’s upper lip known for its ability to restart the heart and breathing in situations of cardiac arrest, shock and other emergency situations.
< Photo One shows Tamara’s fingers on Tilly’s GV 26 doing acupressure during the emergency.
She also worked on Governing Vessel 20 (GV 20), a point on the top of the horse’s head that is also known to revive a horse or person who has lost consciousness. Both points also calm the horse’s spirit.
“Within a very short period of time, after maybe three to five minutes of acupressure, Tilly’s heart rate and breathing slowed dramatically and she rolled up to lying on her belly with her head up,” Tamara described. “I remember the moment when the connection between me, GV 26 and GV 20 and Tilly went through…whoosh…all of a sudden the connection was made and I knew she was going to be okay. I’m still amazed at how fast Tilly’s heart rate went down. I get goose bumps just talking about it.”
While Tilly was looking better, she was still so groggy and weak that she rested her nose on the ground in order to support the weight of her head. Tamara added acupressure to two additional points: Conception Vessel 17 (CV 17) and Pericardium 6 (PC 6). Both points have a strong influence on the physical function of the Heart and Lungs. They’re also known for the ability to calm the horse emotionally.
All told, Tamara did acupressure on Tilly for approximately 40 minutes, alternating between the four points. “I calmed down and found a comfortable position on the ground next to Tilly in order to keep working on the points,” she described. “By the time I stopped working, her breathing was normal and her heart rate was only slightly higher than normal.”
At this point, Tamara stepped away from Tilly. “We put two big wool coolers on Tilly and gave her some water with a mouth syringe,” she said. “Then, we let her rest.”
Photo Two shows Tilly resting on the ground after the acupressure session.>
“My husband Chris was there in camp watching me work with Tilly,” Tamara said. “He’s seen me do acupressure on the horses at our ranch so he knows it works to relax the horses and help with some minor medical situations we’ve had. He’s a scientist, though, and he was amazed that Tilly went from looking like she was going to die to looking like she was really tired but basically okay. In the beginning her heart was beating so fast it seemed certain that she might not recover.”
After resting quietly for about 30 minutes, Tilly stood up, drank on her own and started eating. She was given some oral banamine, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. She recovered without any side effects. The cause of her collapse, racing heart beat and respiration is unknown.
Tamara is familiar with Tilly, having done body work on the mare for several years when she was being shown in cutting and reined horse competition. Tamara has also ridden her horses out on a number of trail rides with Tilly and her owner Jeannie Bunt.
“Tilly was physically fit when this happened,” Tamara described. “She’d been ridden up in that area before and since then she has been ridden on trails that went up to 10,000 feet elevation without any problems. In fact, I just went riding with Jeannie and Tilly a few days ago (January, 2014). We rode for four hours, going about 12 miles in an area that is about 3500 feet in elevation.
Photo Three shows Jeannie Blunt riding Tilly in the mountains in September of 2013, approximately three months after the emergency. >
“I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Diana for making the acupressure work so accessible. I was in a very hyper stressed state when Tilly collapsed flat on the ground, but because of the ease of using Diana’s chart book, and the very effective way she presents the information in class, these points immediately came into my mind and I was able to settle myself and help this horse. For me, the bottom line when learning and utilizing different modalities is: Does it work? Is it effective? Acupressure most definitely does, especially as taught by Diana. Thanks again.”
-Tamara Yates, January 9, 2014
< Photo Four shows Tamara Yates riding her quarter horse gelding Grayson in August, 2013.
Tamara Yates has trained and shown horses during most of her life. She showed in Hunters and Jumpers as a youth, then moved into dressage for many years showing through Fourth Level. She discovered reining and Reined Cow Horses and is currently showing “down the fence.”
Tamara is an Integrated Equine Bodyworker, certified in a variety of modalities including structural release, myofascial release and massage. She’s studied acupressure for horses with Diana Thompson for the past three years. Tamara started her business Many Hands Equine Bodywork over ten years ago. She develops individualized bodywork plans for each horse depending on their needs. She teaches her method of body work to horse owners in Northern California, Montana, Oregon and Europe. You can contact Tamara through e-mail at email@example.com.