The Horse’s Prayer, by Unknown
No horse owner wants to deal with a horse that has colic, but it will invariably happen to us all if we’re around horses long enough! Colic is one of the most serious health issues that can happen in horses and is life threatening! Treatment can be very expensive if the horse requires additional care off the farm at an equine veterinary clinic. This sometimes includes IV fluid therapy and an ICU stay at an equine vet clinic or surgery to resolve a displacement, impaction or deal with necrotic intestines, etc.
Catching colic early and dealing with it aggressively through veterinarian treatment can make a significant difference in how the horse recovers! Being prepared and knowing how to handle a colic situation is essential.
Generally, the word colic refers to abdominal pain. When dealing with horses, it’s vital to remember that each individual will react differently and may not show the same signs in a subsequent episode of colic.
Signs of Colic
- Increased respiration rate
- Refusing hay, grain, grass
- Kicking/biting or looking at sides
- Stretching out
- Laying down (may vary from laying quietly to thrashing)
- Flehmen (flipping top lip up)
- Subtle signs: reluctance to move, standing up against a wall, slightly “off” or listless behavior, playing in water bucket
Any time there is a sign of colic, it is critically important to take the horse’s vitals, look at their surroundings for signs of pawing, lying down, etc. and generally get a big picture look at the situation. Once the vitals have been taken, and it is determined that they correlate with the horse’s clinic signs of colic, call the vet! They will appreciate an accurate account of vitals and description of what the horse is doing–that information will help them determine if they need to drop what they’re doing and rush to your horse, or if they have a bit of time to get there. It is never a good idea to give Banamine or any other pain/other medication until the veterinarian has seen the horse UNLESS instructed by the veterinarian over the phone to do so.
Normal Resting Heart Rate: 24-44 beats per minute
Normal Resting Respiration Rate: 10-24 breaths per minute
Normal Temperature: 99-101 degrees F
*For more on taking vitals, which all horse owners should know how to do in a NON-EMERGENCY situation, click here!
While you are waiting on the vet to arrive, the horse can be hand walked, should not be allowed to roll or thrash about on the ground and kept as quiet as possible. If the horse is lying down, remains quiet and does NOT roll, it is ok to watch them very closely and let them just rest. There are some massage, T-Touch and acupressure protocols for colic in horses. These can be performed IF THE VETERINARIAN IS ON THE WAY!
When the vet arrives, they will re-take all the vitals and complete a thorough exam on the horse. Most vets will probably sedate the horse and then pass a nasogastric tube to check for reflux (to make sure the feed matter is not blocked in the stomach as horses cannot vomit). They will leave the tube in place, and usually also do a rectal exam looking for signs of gas distention, impaction or displacement. Once this part of the exam has been completed, a game plan will be established. Often they will give oral fluids and electrolytes through the NG tube and may also give some other medications.
Any horse that is being treated from colic should not be allowed to eat for a veterinarian-prescribed amount of time and should be watched very closely for several hours post-treatment. Often, when the medications and sedation wear off, the horse will remain painful and might require additional treatment.
There are many causes of colic, but it’s critically important for horses to have access to fresh, clean (thawed) water at all times to maintain proper hydration. Make new feed changes slowly so as not to disrupt the good gut flora that the hind gut fermenting horse depends on to keep digestion moving along in their digestive tract. Know what is normal for your horse and know what your horse’s normal vitals are, as well as how to take them confidently. These few things can help make a colic situation less scary and hopefully help with a quick recovery!
Colic is the leading cause of premature death in domesticated horses. The reasons horses colic vary, including diet, activity, dehydration, exposure to toxins, emotional distress and the list goes on and on. The severity of colic can be as simple as minor digestive upset to severe digestive upset requiring surgery, and the most severe causing death. One major reason the early onset of digestive upset is not usually as serious in dogs, cats and humans, is that they all have what I like to call beneficial rebellious chi, commonly referred to as the ability to vomit. Horses CANNOT vomit, therefore when a horse has a little digestive upset it cannot be relieved by vomiting.
If you own a horse you know the most common “talk at the water trough” is sharing ideas on how to prevent colic . Diet is probably the most common discussion. Realistically, colic prevention requires a holistic approach, including making good choices regarding your horse’s diet, exercise, housing, hoof care, and good overall physical and emotional support. I believe, based on my own experience, massage and acupressure on a routine basis for your horse is very beneficial for horses to maintain optimal health.
You can perform acupressure to help prevent colic. I routinely perform acupressure for colic prevention on my horses and my clients’ horses. It will take you less than 5 minutes a week to use these Colic Prevention points on your horse.
1st: Tonify ST36, which is located at the head of the tibial crest on the lateral side of hind leg, near the stifle. Rub this point with your thumb gently clockwise on the right side of the horse until it displays a release of energy*, such as a licking their lips, chewing, dropping of the head, passing gas or moving away from your touch. This point is the Master Point for the gastrointestinal system and helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Repeat on the left side.
2nd: Tonify Ki 3, which is located at the thinnest part of the hock on the medial aspect of the hind leg. With your thumb, rub this point gently clockwise on the right side of the horse until the horse displays a release of energy*. The Kidney Meridian governs Water and balances hydration and water metabolism. Repeat on the left side.
3rd: Tonify ST25, which is located on the abdomen approximately one and one half cun lateral to the umbillius. A cun is the width of your horse’s last rib. With your thumb, rub this point gently clockwise on the right side of the horse until the horse displays a release of energy*. This is the Alarm Point for the Large Intestine, and helps with movement of energy in the intestinal tract. Repeat on the left side.
*Note: If the horse does not have an obvious release of energy, stimulate the point for 30 seconds, and move to the next point.
To help students, practitioners and horse owners, Colorado renowned artist, Tara Seren, and I collaborated to create an amazing and informative Equine Acupressure Chart. You can purchase her chart at http://www.rmhhai.org/shopping/instructional/equine-acupressure-chart-8-5-x-11/
You can use these same points on dogs with digestive upset. RMSAAM offers an excellent a Canine Acupressure Book http://www.rmsaam.com/product/canine-acupressure-workbook-laminated
If you want to learn more, Rocky Mountain Holistic Healing Arts Institute offers acupressure and massage, dowsing, chakra balancing, essential oils, and many other healing modality courses for animal owners. http://www.rmhhai.org
If you are interested in becoming a Certified Animal Acupressure and Massage Practitioner, Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage offers programs to become a certified. http://www.rmsaam.com
Sitting down with coffee in hand at your computer, you realize that you really want to work with animals in some capacity. Actually, you decided this a while ago but now you are ready to make the commitment to do some research on the topic. Working with animals…think harder…okay, you want to help them feel better. What different avenues are there to help them feel better? After exploring the possibilities you land on the one that really reels you in: massage. Having your hands on the animal, being part of the team that helps keep them happy and in good quality of life, sounds ideal. So…what now? What is involved with getting from here- sitting on my comfy couch with coffee, to running my animal massage business? Furrowing your brow at the computer, you realize being educated on the topic is probably a good idea.
Taking the plunge to begin a career in the animal massage industry can seem a bit overwhelming, whether this is your first time envisioning a career for yourself or changing from one you are already pursuing. There are many different options to consider: what species do I want to work on? What schools specialize in those areas? What kind of time commitment am I willing to make? These are the questions the logical side of our brain starts firing off. On the other side of our brain we get questions like am I too old/young for this? My background was never in this subject area…what if I don’t understand it? What if I start out loving it and then decide it’s not for me?
Let’s think about the latter conversation with your brain. This industry is made up of people from all areas of the age spectrum; so long as you want to be passionate about your life and career and are excited to learn, age is just a number! The beauty of institutions that teach animal massage is that they are comprised of founders, instructors, staff, and workers that come from all backgrounds and walks of life. This means that there is going to be someone, at least one out of that whole matrix of people, that you resonate with and can easily learn from. Many people had zero background in this subject area before beginning their own journey, as is natural with anything in life. Should you decide to pursue a career in animal massage, you might realize while doing so that it isn’t the career for you. The incredible thing about an experience like that is that you know what you don’t want to do, which is just as important as the opposite! There may be something you covered in class that really resonates with you, and that’s the avenue you decide to explore instead; awesome!
Now back to what your brain was first thinking about, the more logic-based questions. In regard to what species you would like to work with, some people are very comfortable with dogs and some with horses, and some prefer both. That’s a question you should be able to reason through pretty quickly, as both dogs and horses have their easy aspects and more difficult ones as far as massage is concerned. Make a list of the pros and cons for working with a species if you are not sure about it, but remember that comfort level and skills will grow in time. This means that you may want to work with horses down the road, but while building your skillset you feel comfortable just working with dogs for the time being. Totally doable. The next question is also easy to answer, as a quick internet search will readily show you what schools are available that teach the program you are interested in. Some schools focus on one species or modality, and some have a wide range of offerings.
Deciding how much time you can commit to the education process is also key in making the decision for what school you’d like to attend. As the nature of massage is hands-on, many people opt for on-site programs where they have many opportunities during the duration of the class to have their hands on animals. The length of program varies by school, as well as when the courses are offered during the year. There are a variety of locations of schools around the country (and world), and many schools have satellite locations. Animal massage programs are designed to teach you a marketable skill, and are not typically set up like standard higher education institutions. One course may last a week, and you travel to the location of the school and stay in that area while you complete it. Many schools help students find affordable lodging nearby to make their stay easier. This can be a great option for those that are able to take a week or so off from current jobs or be away from home. It can be a way to see some areas of the country that you may have never been to before!
Newer on the horizon are schools that have seen great success in their onsite programs and are now also branching into long-distance or correspondence programs. Students might opt to do one level or class on-site, and then future classes or levels through correspondence after their confidence and skill set has begun to grow. Or there are those that are great at working on their own in a self-paced manner. Correspondence programs offer interaction with the instructors through email, webinars, videos, tutorials, video chats, and more to ensure that students studying from a distance feel as part of the school and learning process. Students are also typically able to travel to the school if they so desire for one-on-one time with an instructor.
Send an enquiry email with your questions to the schools you are interested in. They have awesome people with the answers to your questions, and answers to some you may not have thought of! They can make sure you have the most updated information on their courses so that you are able to make the best decision for you to find what is the best fit. Check out their websites and social media pages to see what other people thought of their experience at the schools.
With so much information out there, it can seem overwhelming when you are looking into attending an animal massage school. A final question that pops up is ‘do I really need to go to school for this? Can’t I just figure it out as I go?’ Great question: why attend school to become an animal massage therapist? Legality, scope of practice, and knowing what lies beneath the skin are the heavy-hitting answers
First let’s think about legality. What an animal massage therapist is legally allowed to do varies state by state. In some states only licensed veterinarians may perform massage therapy. Others allow massage therapists to work under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Others allow for legal practicing so long as the massage therapist has obtained a certification from a recognized school. If you were practicing against the laws of your state, you could be assigned a cease-and-desist, meaning you are shut down. It is very important, therefore, to understand how the laws of your state work, and how being certified keeps you on the happy side of the law.
Scope of practice is a huge area of concern for massage therapists. This is also an area where cease-and-desists can be issued by the state veterinarian board. The term “scope of practice” means that we stay within our area of knowledge, legally and morally. Massage therapists do not treat, diagnose, prescribe, or cure illnesses. They do not replace the care of a veterinarian. This may seem very simple in concept, but the more you become immersed into the language and actions, lines may begin to blur. How you write up a report can be a breech in scope of practice. How you interact with a client, or the client’s veterinarian, can be a scope of practice issue. Going through the education process with a recognized school means that you will learn the “do’s and do not’s” for being a massage practitioner, and help you to be confident that you are staying well within your scope of practice.
Finally, knowing what lies beneath the skin may appear obvious, but the body is a very complex thing. Reputable schools offer in-depth anatomy and pathology portions of their courses so that anatomy pros and newbies alike can benefit from the modules. It is imperative to know and understand the systems beneath your hands, for it is possible to cause damage if you are unaware of the situation. Knowing when it is and is not okay to massage, based on anatomy and pathology, is something clearly learned through the education process. Also important to learn is how to interact with the client’s veterinarian when the client has certain conditions. When should I consult with their veterinarian? Is it okay to just go ahead and massage? This is an imperative part of animal massage.
So as you finish up the last bit of coffee in your mug, you look at the pad of paper or Word document where you’ve been taking notes and feel much more confident in your decision to pursue animal massage. You have locations, numbers, prices, contact information, and a much better feel about the whole process. What’s left? Taking the reins of your life firmly in your hands and making the decision that is the absolute best for you.
Written by Callie Rulli of Skylark Animal Bodywork, LLC
By: Kym Griffin
I am an equine behavior and welfare researcher, the reason I took this obscure and difficult career path is the same as most people in my field; because I am a horse rider, owner and lover. I want to learn as much as I can to be sure I am doing the best I can for my horse. This is why I get so disheartened when I see how badly horse research is received by the equestrian community on social media. Articles written by non-sciency and often non-horsey journalists for non-horsey readers sometimes make the study seem… well… a bit obvious for those for those who work with horses daily. ‘Why didn’t they just ask a horse person and save all that time and money!’ is a common response. With the rise of social media there is more emphasis on scientists communicating their own research, and who better than the person who understands the science and how it is relevant to the equestrian community, right? I am an avid believer in scientists learning to communicate their research and its relevance effectively. So to practice what I preach, here I try to summarise 3 studies that I find really interesting and that have direct relevance to the equestrian community. Here it goes!
Study 1: Horses prefer to walk across mats that are the colors green, red, brown or grey. Horses do not like to walk across mats that are highly contrasting or (in their vision) colorful, this includes, black, white, blue, yellow. (Hall and Cassaday, 2006)
What does this mean for horse people: What color is the flooring in your horse transport? Most rubber mats are black which makes this small, dark and scary space even more scary! Putting down shavings can be a small way to make a big difference.
Study 2: Horses don’t like to be patted! Researchers investigated the behavior of horses from video footage from the dressage at the 2012 Olympics games. They found most horses reacted by accelerating (a flight response) when the rider patted their neck (Hancock et al., 2014, ISES conference proceedings). Alternatively, scratching the horse just in front of the wither has been shown to directly reduce heart rate which is probably why we see horses mutual grooming at this area! (Feh and de Maziéres, 1993)
What does this mean for horse people: Scratch don’t pat! It can be hard after a good ride, when the adrenalin is pumping, to resist the urge to express your enthusiastic gratitude to your best team mate! But a scratch on the wither or a stroke on the neck is a much better thank you than a pat from the horse’s perspective.
Study 3: Horses look at scary or threatening objects with their left eye or sniff with their left nostril. This is because information from the left eye/nostril feed into the right hemisphere of the brain which is where information relating to negative emotions is processed. Novel objects that are neutral are explored with their right eye/nostril, the left hemisphere of the brain is involved in the categorization of novel object with neutral emotional value. Positive objects (like a bucket!) are usually explored by horses with their binocular vision which uses both eyes in order to better assess the 3D characteristics of the object, so no side is preferred. (De Boyer Des Roches et al., 2008)
What does this mean for horse people: When introducing new objects to your horse, introduce it on the right side first. If your horse is investigating an object with their left eye/nostril, be cautious! Try to soothe the horse with a wither scratch (see study 2) and soft tone of voice, don’t push them to get closer, and be prepared in case they decide to make a break for it!
About the Author:
Kym Griffin is an academic associate at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, working towards her PhD regarding sleep patterns in horses and what influence that has on performance. Originally from Australia, she started on her journey of academia by studying Zoology in her undergraduate program. Kym then went on to obtain a Master of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare from Queen’s University in Belfast, IRL. She is very active in the areas of animal behaviour and welfare, with particular focus on equine learning and training, and is an avid supporter of Equitation Science. In the past she was very involved in Pony Games, as well as eventing. Kym spent several years retraining rescue horses for rehoming and has been very involved in academia since, but she is looking forward to getting back into eventing when life permits.
We have all heard the expression an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and, as animal acupressure practitioners, this is very important to remember. We are most often called by new clients when their animals are sick. While that is certainly a foot in the door, as massage and acupressure trained practitioners, we should try to educate the owner about the importance of routine preventative massage and acupressure. Your goal should be to help maintain a healthy animal and to prevent acute illness and disease. In my own business, I provide a discounted rate to clients who hire me to perform massage and acupressure on a weekly basis.
I recommend you perform a preventative acupressure session on your healthy clients at least once a month, weekly if the owner will agree.
For example, ear infections are a common health problem in dogs. According to WebMD: “ear infections can be caused by allergies, yeast, ear mites, bacteria, hair growth deep in the ear canal and more.” Symptoms that indicate your dog may have your dog may have an ear infection include head shaking, ear odor, redness of the ear canal and more!
Keeping your dog’s ears clean will help to prevent ear infections. Additionally, using common acupressure points can help! In order to help prevent ear infections with acupressure, perform the following point work monthly. If your dog currently has an ear infection, in conjunction with veterinary care, you can perform the following point work daily until infection has cleared.
1st: Tonify Ki 3 with your thumb by rubbing the point gently clockwise on the right side of the dog until the dog displays a release of energy* such as licking, yawning, barking, stretching or moving away from touch. The Kidney Meridian governs the ears. Repeat on left side.
2nd: Tonify ST36 with your thumb by rubbing the point gently clockwise on the right side of the dog until the dog displays a release of energy. This point promotes overall wellness and movement of Qi. Repeat on left side.
3rd: Tonify LI11 with your thumb by rubbing the point gently clockwise on the right side of the dog until the dog displays a release of energy. This is an excellent point to support a healthy immune system. Repeat on left side.
*Note: If the dog does not have an obvious release of energy, stimulate the point for 30 seconds, and move to the next point.
You can also use the same points on your horse.
Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage offers programs to become a certified animal acupressure and massage practitioner! Please visit our website for more information!
The special bond that humans share with both equines and canines originated thousands of years ago. Deepening our understanding of that bond can help us to become better animal guardians as well as better animal bodyworkers.
Both dogs and horses have undergone a process of domestication, although some will argue that horses have not been domesticated, but rather, simply tamed. Regardless of this distinction, the relationship that humans share with both horses and dogs is a relationship that is deeply complex, with roots extending thousands of years. In our upcoming Human-Animal Bond webinar, we will discuss this rich history, as well as the depth of the bond we share with them today.
This webinar will be presented by RMSAAM webinar instructor and digital media & marketing specialist, Emily Tronetti. Emily also owns Heal to Howl, a canine massage, Reiki and photography business that focuses on the human-canine bond. Emily is currently a graduate student in the Anthrozoology program at Canisius College. Anthrozoology is the study of the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals. Emily is excited to combine her anthrozoology education with the knowledge she gained in RMSAAM’s canine massage program in this brand new webinar!