Tui Na, or Chinese meridian massage, has been continuously practiced in China for at least 4000 years. The name Tui Na comes from the nature of the hands-on healing techniques. “Tui” means “to push” and “Na” means “to grasp” connoting two of the techniques used to promote the movement of vital energy.
The hand techniques range from being rather vigorous deep massage and manipulation to soothing, gentle superficial massage. In the Tui Na techniques, the intention is to resolve any obstruction of the free and harmonious flow of chi, life-promoting energy, which flows throughout the horse’s body.
BLOCKAGE CAN BE PAINFUL
Horses are as prone as humans to have tight muscles and fascia that obstruct the natural and necessary flow of chi and blood. Blockage or stagnation of chi and blood can be painful. If left for any length of time, the horse tends to compensate to avoid pain. Within days, the entire body can be thrown off balance and become compromised.
Tui Na is an effective, hands-on therapy that works with energetic pathways, or meridians, within which chi and blood flow. The meridian network is really one continuous, connected channel; if there is a blockage along one meridian, it will ultimately affect the entire channel system. This is why it’s important to resolve blockages as soon as possible. Even better: provide your horse with a Tui Na session regularly as a preventive measure.
Acupoints are pools of chi found along the meridian pathways. When pressure is applied to an acupoint, it stimulates the chi to move along the meridian pathway and helps to remove blockages and stagnations. Tui Na techniques work with both meridians and acupoints to yield a particular therapeutic effect. Once the flow of chi and blood is restored, the pain is resolved and the tissues are again being nourished and activated.
TWO TUI NA TECHNIQUES
The application of pressure along a tight, restricted muscle can help release the flow of chi and blood back into the muscle. A few hand techniques entail simple pressure. The Thumb Pressure Technique is used in sensitive areas where greater or more diffuse pressure could be harmful such as on the horse’s neck. This technique can help relieve limited muscle and tendon movement in the neck.
Crossed-Hands Pressure is another Tui Na technique that can relieve restriction and stiffness of larger muscle-mass areas. This technique is used along the horse’s shoulder and hindquarter.
TRY TUI NA YOURSELF
[The techniques described here can be safely used by those with no special training. Additional Tui Na techniques should be performed only by those trained for that purpose.] When performing these hands-on techniques, observe your horse carefully to be sure that you are not causing him further discomfort or pain by applying too much pressure.
Using the Thumb Pressure Technique shown in Photo 1, begin near the base of the horse’s ear, using the soft tip of your thumb with gentle pressure initially. You can increase pressure slowly until you feel a level of resistance in the muscle. Slowly lift your thumb away from that point and move down the horse’s neck about two inches and repeat the thumb procedure on the next point. Continue down the horse’s neck to the scapula and then begin again at the top of the neck, completing 3 passes. You should find you can apply a little more thumb pressure with each successive pass. After the third pass go to the opposite side of the horse and repeat the procedure. Remember to observe your horse for any indication of discomfort; there is no need to press too forcefully.
To apply the Cross-Hands Technique on the shoulder (Photo 2), start toward the top of the scapula (shoulder blade) and work downward to the level of the point of shoulder. You are working along the Small Intestine Meridian. Overlap your hands and press down with the heel of your hands. Start pressing lightly and then increase the pressure until you feel resistance, then release slowly. Use your body while applying pressure so you are offering firm, steady force. Once you have worked one place, move about one hand-width down and repeat the cross-hands technique.
When you reach the lower section of the horse’s shoulder, go back to the top and repeat the procedure three times. After the third pass, go to the opposite side of the horse and perform the same technique three times. With each pass, you should be able to press a bit more firmly, but be careful not to go beyond the resistance layer and cause the horse more discomfort.
Your intention is to enhance the flow of blood and chi to muscles and release any constriction that may be limiting the horse’s mobility and energetic balance.
Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow are the authors of Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual. They founded Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute which provides hands-on and online training courses worldwide including a Practitioner Certification Program. They own Tallgrass Publishers, which offers books, DVDs, and meridian charts for horses, dogs, and cats. 888-841-7211, www.animalacupressure.com, firstname.lastname@example.org