A Two-Day Equine Acupressure Clinic with Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis

In a lovely country home at Manderley Farm in Pennsylvania , one of the most beautiful and natural horse farms I have seen, we convened to begin the two-day class entitled "Introduction to Equine Acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine". The instructors, Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow , came all the way from Larkspur, Colorado to teach this eager class of 15 how to help their horses naturally with their very own hands. Coming from as far away as Michigan , the students were of various horse backgrounds and experiences.

Nancy (R) locates a point on Hollie while Amy (L, seated) explains its significance to the class.

DAY 1, Saturday

The day began with friendly chatter and tasty snacks. We leafed through our workbooks and looked at the available books and charts until class began. We then briefly introduced ourselves in turn, as did Amy and Nancy, who explained the plan for the two days. We were excited to learn that we would be working on the horses a good part of both days, applying our knowledge as we learned it.

When we registered in advance for the class, it had been suggested by the instructors that if we hadn't done so already, we should read some of the chapters in "Equine Acupressure - A Working Manual" before attending the class so that we would all be on the same page, and we all seemed to be. Nancy and Amy briefly explained the brilliant system of Traditional Chinese Medicine and pointed out that for healing work to be effective, change must happen, and it must be both structural AND energetic for it to stay. They addressed issues of compensation, and how everything about the body is connected. Some comparisons to human anatomy were made. They talked about chi, the life force, and we did some exercises - some inside and some outside on the lawn - to wake up and experience our own chi.

After a brief break, we discussed the differences between Eastern body-mind-spirit medicine and Western evidence-based medicine. Acupressure and other whole-istic modalities have a way of looking at health and the body that is different from the approach of Western medicine. Acupressure is health-oriented and provides balance and an environment for healing, setting up the body to heal itself, whereas Western medicine is disease/ diagnosis-oriented, manipulative, and micro-managing. Acupressure involves gentle and non-invasive bodywork, and is considered energy medicine.

Nancy (L) guides an assessment of the horse's back.

For the next segment of the day we learned what to do in preparation for an acupressure treatment, such as choosing a suitable location (and time), preparing ourselves for giving a treatment, introducing ourselves to the horses and getting their permission, and assessing them. Assessment involves four examinations: visually observing the horse, listening to and smelling the horse, checking the history of the horse, and physically feeling for temperature and texture variations all over the horse's body. Our handy workbooks provided checklists and charts for noting and recording all this information, so we grabbed up our manuals, teamed up with other students in groups, and went to our horses.

Assessing the horses was fun - the workbook's list of details to observe was very helpful, and hearing about the horses' histories from their owners was quite interesting. The horses were cooperative and very accepting of us and enjoyed the hands-on. Each horse was different, and we individually discussed our assessments with the whole class before planning treatment. We learned the importance of the Opening (the beginning of the treatment) and what it tells us, and practiced tracing the Bladder meridian on each other before doing it on the horses. The workbook showed both a dorsal/ aerial view and a side view of the horse's Bladder meridian. We learned about the Association points and learned the different techniques of applying pressure with the thumb.

Pre-marked color sticky-dots were supplied for us to place on the horses' coats to mark the locations of points. Our work was checked by Nancy and/or Amy, who knew exactly where the points were, on every horse, even though each horse is different and the locations of points will vary slightly from horse to horse. If we were slightly off, Nancy and Amy showed us the right spot, and we could then feel that point and its activity under our touch. We also quickly found out that fly spray can interfere with the dots sticking, and so can a swishing tail, but we did get the point of the exercise!

We learned about excess chi and deficient chi - how to recognize each, and what to do for each. We learned about observing the horses' reactions to our work. The Closing meridians were discussed and located, and we completed our treatments.

Back at the house, yin, yang, and balance were explained and discussed along with the Five-Element Theory, Zang-Fu organs, and the meridian system and its times (of day) and direction of flow. Questions were answered and class ended for the day.

DAY 2, Sunday

Amy locates a point along the Bladder meridian.

The morning began with doing more fun and energizing exercises and a review/ quiz of Day 1. We learned about Discerning Patterns (the synchronous occurrence of the different phenomena that form a particular pattern) - the 4 Examinations and the Eight Guiding Principles: yin, yang, cold, hot, interior, exterior, deficiency, and excess. We learned more about the 5 phases of transformation, the Five-Element Theory (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). We learned more about treatment plans, meridians, and choosing appropriate points - Source and Connecting Points, and Host and Guest Point Combination (combining Source and Connecting Points). We learned about Ting Points and Master Points too.

All this may sound confusing, but it is a very systematic and well-organized interactive mapping of the body's energy. There's so much information it can be mind-boggling, so taking it a little at a time was what I did. If nothing else, one can remember that there are a lot of powerful points located in the hock and knee areas of the horse, and along the back parallel to the spine. Having a chart is extremely helpful, if not a must, for the beginner. Nancy and Amy's beautifully-made colorful and durable chart of the meridians and the points is available to anyone (see contact information at the end of the article) as are their acupressure books.

It was fun feeling for and finding the Master Points and other new points we learned. Feeling them on different horses helped us get a better feel for them too. Practice will surely enable us to get almost as accurate as Nancy and Amy someday! The horses were appreciative of our efforts, and responses of yawning, sighing, licking and chewing, relaxing, stretching, and dozing verified that our hands were accomplishing something.

Nancy and Amy are excellent teachers and incredibly nice people. They always took the time to be sure that we students understood the material and found the points. They really know their acupressure and TCM, and taught us well. They say there is still much more that they have yet to learn. What we came away with was plenty, however - it was enough to help our horses at home, and perhaps even family and friends. For an Introductory course, we sure learned a whole lot!!

Nancy leads the exercises to stimulate chi. Bringing up one's chi is important for an effective treatment.

There are many important and powerful points surrounding the hocks and knees.

About the instructors:

Nancy Zidonis and Amy Snow are the authors of "Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual", "The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide To Canine Acupressure", and "Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure". They own Tallgrass Publishers, which offers Meridian Charts for horses, dogs, and cats, plus "Introducing Equine Acupressure", a 50-minute training video. Tallgrass Animal Acupressure provides training courses worldwide. To contact them: phone: 888-841-7211; web: www.animalacupressure.com; email: acupressure4all@earthlink.net

For more information:

Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis
Tallgrass Animal Energy Work

4559 W. Red Rock Drive
Larkspur , CO 80118