More horse owners than ever before are embracing alternative therapies to treat their animals. These treatments range from ancient Chinese practices like acupuncture to more modern chiropractic techniques. Another form of therapy that many owners have found beneficial for their horses is reiki, a holistic practice that originated in Japan in the early 20th century. Reiki focuses on using universal life energy to promote healing. Although it was developed as a treatment for people, it can be used on horses as well.
The Benefits of Reiki for Horses
Reiki can benefit horses in a number of ways. The treatment is noninvasive and is similar to massage—it simply involves laying hands on the horse to move healing energy into it. Reiki may be particularly helpful for horses that have behavioral problems. When horses have experienced a rider accident, neglect, or abuse, they may struggle with the trauma and act defensively or aggressively. Reiki can encourage healing from such trauma. In addition, by promoting relaxation, reiki helps with behavioral issues that stem from stress, anxiety, or nervousness.
Horses that are in the process of recovering from an injury or illness can benefit from reiki as well. While the practice is no replacement for conventional veterinary medicine, the complementary therapy may speed up the healing process and make the horse feel calmer and more comfortable.
While reiki as a practice dates back almost 100 years, its application to horses is fairly new. However, some practitioners have seen incredible results, which they largely attribute to the fact that reiki promotes extreme relaxation in horses. Body language like closed eyes and twitching muscles show that the horse is deeply relaxed while being touched. Some horses lower their heads all the way to the floor as a sign of relaxation.
The Theory Behind Equine Reiki
Like human reiki, equine reiki is based on the idea of chakras. Reiki practitioners think of the human body and the horse body as being divided into different sections known as chakras. Each of these chakras has a center with its own importance for mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Practitioners place their hands either on the body where these chakra centers are located, or in some cases, leave their hands hovering a few inches above the skin. Some of the primary chakras in the horse include the forehead chakra, the crown chakra, the heart chakras, the solar plexus chakras, and the root chakra. Practitioners learn how each of these chakras affect the overall health of the animal and channel healing energy into the areas most connected to the source of distress in the horse.
A large part of reiki involves trust and communication between the horse and the practitioner. Some equine reiki practitioners have posited that behavioral problems in horses stem from miscommunication between horses and humans. Reiki addresses these miscommunications by encouraging the horse’s trust in humans.
What to Expect from an Equine Reiki Session
Before engaging a reiki practitioner, horse owners should speak to their veterinarians to get approval for the treatment, even if the horse is in good health. If the horse has a specific problem, it’s even more critical to discuss with the veterinarian beforehand to see if reiki might be used as a complement to traditional medicine. Before agreeing to provide treatment, a good equine reiki practitioner will ask extensive questions about the horse and its behaviors, history, and health. A treatment consent form is standard procedure.
The actual treatment should take place in an environment that is safe and relaxing for the horse, with access to hay and water. Furthermore, owners should not schedule the treatment in the middle of a normal routine, which could cause the horse to become stressed. Usually, the practitioner and the owner will meet to decide on the ideal time and place and discuss any concerns or expectations concerning the treatment.
The session typically starts with the practitioner forming a bond with the horse. This process proceeds at the horse’s pace. Since every horse is unique, the exact length of a treatment can vary, but about an hour is what owners should expect. During treatment, the horse will likely chew, lick its lips, or lower its head, all of which are signs of relaxation. Some horses even lie down and sleep.
After the session, owners should plan to let the horse rest for at least 90 minutes. Some horses may need the rest of the day to rest. While reiki is not physically exhausting, this rest is necessary to continue the healing process that the treatment initiates. Ultimately, owners should pay attention to the cues from their horses and refrain from pushing them if the horse is not yet ready for activity.