Acupressure for Horses

Diana Thompson

The stallion Max yawns as Diana carries out acupressure on Gall Bladder 21. Yawning is a definite “I’m relaxing” response. It lets Diana know Max is receiving benefit from acupressure on the point.

Acupressure is a gentle hands-on method that relaxes the horse and increases circulation of the qi energy of the body. This influence supports overall health, including the functions of the internal organs, muscles, and joints. It often improves movement ability and performance, eases emotional upset, and calms unwanted behavior. It can help the horse stay relaxed in stressful situations and learn new tasks. Acupressure also increases the bond between horse and handler. This can lead to a stronger partnership and greater safety during handling and riding. Note: Acupressure methods are not a substitute for the medical care of a veterinarian. Horse owners should consult with their veterinarian regarding the health and/or illness of their horse(s).


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a health care system that is at least 3,000 years old. It includes a group of methods that includes acupressure, acupuncture, diet, herbs, massage, and movement exercises such as tai chi, etc. The goal of these methods is to prevent illness by creating the best possible health in each person or animal. This emphasis is found in writings that date back 2300 years.

The TCM system is based on the idea that there are rivers of energy called qi (chee) that move throughout the body in fairly set pathways. These lines of energy (called meridians or channels) provide the life force that activates the internal processes of the body, such as the functions of the heart and lungs, digestive organs, reproduction, and the ability to move, think, etc.


Acupressure points are small areas on the outside of the horse’s body where the qi energy comes to the surface and concentrates.

Acupressure is the process of placing your hands on specific points in order to influence the flow of energy and the functions of the body. When it is done correctly, acupressure improves the flow of qi and supports physical and emotional health of the horse (or person, cat, dog, etc). Note: Acupressure is carried out using the gentle pressure of your hands and fingers. It does not involve heavy pressure. Only two to three ounces of fingertip pressure is needed to stimulate an acupressure point.

NOTE: Acupuncture is the use of a needle to stimulate an acupressure point. This breaks the horse’s skin and is limited by law to a licensed veterinarian.


It’s important to allow the horse to direct the acupressure session. The horse will show you with his or her body language where it is safe for you to touch, what methods he or she likes, how much pressure to use and how long to stay in each area. He will also show you if he is tense and needs you to change what you are doing.

The following horse behaviors, what I call “yes, I like this” body language, show you the acupressure is relaxing the horse and working to support health.

“Yes, I like this” body language may include the horse lowering his or her neck and head, blinking and closing the eyes, yawning, deep abdominal breathing, licking and softly chewing, twitching of the skin and muscles around the mouth and nose, increased jugular pulse, soft and pliable muscle tone and flexible joints.

The following horse behaviors, what I call “no, I don’t like this” body language show you the horse is tense and unhappy. These behaviors let you know you need to change what you’re doing. Here are some choices of how to change: reduce the pressure of your fingers on the acupressure point, work on a different point, move the horse to a location that is more relaxing, take the horse for a walk, allow him to have some exercise, etc.

“No, I don’t like this“ body language may include signs such as the horse tensing his muscles and raising his or her head and neck, opening the eyes wide, holding the breath, moving away from you, turning to stare at you, putting the ears back or tossing the head. The horse may also communicate dislike by moving into you to shove you away, threatening to bite or kick or actually biting or kicking.


Diana’s most important rule is to understand that the horse did not make the appointment. Unlike a human, the horse did not call you up and schedule a body work appointment. In other words, the horse did not commit to relaxing and submitting his body and mind to the methods at a time and place of your choosing. So, to carry out a successful session, you must earn the trust of the horse by listening to his likes and dislikes as you work. The methods and point choices have to be individualized. Have a plan you would like to carry out and then be flexible enough to change as the horse communicates. The most effective session is a unique combination of methods that evolves as you and the horse interact.

Click here to read article: Equine Acupressure Theory: Rivers of Energy

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