The eyes have long been considered the windows to the soul; iridologists use them as the avenue into the body. Applied to human health analysis for centuries, iridology is now being used as a tool to support equine health.
OW, THERE’S A FINGERPRINT IN MY EYE!
The iris is a completely unique and individual body part, much like a fingerprint. This uniqueness can be applied to a variety of uses, including iris recognition identification software. Iridology practitioners use those patterns to assess an individual’s internal status and determine any constitutional weaknesses; it’s a modality that’s catching on.
International Iridologist Practitioners Association (IIPA) President Polly Heil-Mealey, MEd, CCI, says IIPA members are seeing an increase in acceptance of iridology, driven mainly by individuals seeking alternatives to traditional (allopathic) medical treatments. “Most people are intrigued by the practice of iridology, and are often amazed when the analysis confirms what they already know,” she says. As horse owners are becoming aware of iridology, it’s only natural they would seek to incorporate the assessment tool into their equine health program.
SEEING SPOTS...AND SPECKS AND FIBERS, TOO
As for how it works? The late Dr. Bernard Jensen, a well-known chiropractor, author, and proponent of many natural and alternative healing methods, felt that iridology provided a method for determining status of and changes in bodily tissues through examining the eye and noting the appearance of nerve fibers from the body that ended in the iris.
Markings that show up within the iris nerve fibers are then compared to charts or ‘grids’ that have been mapped out to show areas of the eye and their connection to corresponding physical systems. Iridologists often take photographs of the iris to aid in this comparison process.
While iridology has also been referred to as ‘iridodiagnosis,’ it’s less about diagnosing specific ailments and more about identifying areas for further evaluation, according to iridologist, author, and international lecturer Mercedes Colburn, ND, PhD.
LOOKING HORSES RIGHT IN THE EYE
At her Animal Iridology Center facility in Salinas, CA, Colburn sees client horses, and teaches webinars and in-person courses in iridology via Through The Eye International Educational and Counseling Center. Trained as a human iridologist, she made the switch to animals-only after losing two horses of her own in the early 1990s. She then worked with a veterinarian for a decade to map out an equine iris grid and prove which markings correlated to which equine body conditions, and where they would show up in the eye.
Colburn says she’s usually looking for cloudiness, or light or dark spots, and that all the markings have meaning. “Light spots usually indicate an acute phase of injury, something that might be new or very ‘hot’ or inflamed, while darker markings can show older or more chronic issues. Extremely dark markings can be indications of inherited problems,” reports Colburn. “With cloudiness, the iris is showing me that the liver might not be doing its job optimally, which could mean that the horse might be having trouble assimilating his food.”
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
In human iridology, a variety of tools are used, including penlight flashlights, magnifying glasses, slit-lamp microscopes, and cameras, plus the all-important grids or charts of the physical systems correlating to various points in the iris. Humans can be instructed to sit still during the iridology exam, but with horses, Colburn says it’s better to get in and get out. “When you’re trying to look at the eye of a stallion, or a horse that’s nervous, you want to get a clear look or capture an image without upsetting them or getting injured,” she says.
To that end, Colburn had cameras designed and built specifically for photographing the very dark equine eye. “I now use digital rather than film cameras, and upload images directly to my laptop in the field,” she explains. “The hand-held cameras use about a 400 ISO film setting, and a high shooting speed in order to capture an image.”
WHAT CAN, AND CAN’T, BE SEEN
Colburn reports that while equine iridology is still in its infancy, it can still tell horse owners a great deal. “We can alert horse owners to damaged tissue, inflammation, or toxicity within the body, but what we can’t do is identify specific ailments or diseases; that’s why you still need to work with your veterinarian,” she says. “However, iridology can be a starting point and can indicate areas for further diagnostic testing.”
Iridology can also be incorporated into a pre-purchase exam protocol. “The whole health history of a horse is in his eye,” says Colburn. “It will show us inherited strengths and weaknesses from that horse’s ancestors, or possible areas of genetic abnormality. For example, if a horse’s iris patterns indicate a weak structural system in the legs, that’s not the horse you’d want to purchase to race.”
SEEING EYE TO EYE WITH YOUR HORSE
If you’re curious about iridology, Mercedes Colburn says that with a few safety precautions, interested owners can look at their own horse’s iris. “Never, ever shine a light directly into the horse’s eye, and don’t use your point-and-shoot camera, since it won’t capture a readable image. Plus, you could spook your horse or damage his eye with the flash,” she advises. If you have a higher-end 35mm SLR or DLSR camera that has manual settings and can photograph without needing flash, that can be used; another method is to take a penlight flashlight, such as those used by doctors, and place it at the outside corner of your horse’s eye, shining the light across the eye to view the iris patterns. Of course, you’ll need an equine-specific grid or chart to interpret your findings.
To truly understand what you’re viewing requires study and experience. “Iridologists study for a long time to know what they’re doing,” says Colburn. “Not as long as a veterinarian, but the people who do this kind of work are very sincere and dedicated.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The squiggles and markings in a horse’s eye can seem mysterious, but Colburn says through iridology, they can aid us in assisting our horses to a higher level of health. “Iridology systematically decodes and interprets the complex eye structure, revealing the health of the horse and areas needing attention,” she advises. “It can be a tremendous resource for when you’re trying to help your horse.”
Lisa Kemp helps equine business owners reach their ideal clients through improved communication efforts. An award-winning writer and marketing strategist, Lisa’s writings have appeared in both print and online equestrian media; she blogs at www.nobizlikehorsebiz.com