What is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a holistic touch therapy. It is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and incorporates the western knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology. Shiatsu touch developed around 5000 years ago and became popular in the 20th century, so it has a long tradition. The word “Shiatsu” literally means finger pressure. By using finger pressure on the body, combined with stretches and rotations it stimulates the body’s vital energy (Ki) flow. Through touch Shiatsu recreates two of the most basic life experiences – the circulation of energy (information) and the sensation of pressure. Both senses begin at the moment of conception and continue throughout gestation. Energy circulates in our body through a system of meridians (energy channels) that are also closely related to our organs. Shiatsu stimulates the Autonomic Nervous system which engages flight/fight/fright impulses and balances this, helping to reduce stress, pain and tension.
Shiatsu works to relax the body and enable unrestricted energy flow. It gives us support to become more aware of our own bodies, of areas of tension, pain or weakness on either physical or emotional levels. This awareness often leads to personal growth and improvement through exercising, dietary changes and lifestyle changes – for us as well as for our horses and thus healing occurs.  Of course, for healing to work time is very important. Shiatsu is not a quick fix, it takes time…the body is not a machine, if it took years to get out of balance then it will have to take time to get back in balance.

Shiatsu for horses and riders

Horses communicate through touch and energy. For example mares physically stimulate foals by licking, nibbling, nudging and in this way provide comfort and support to their young. Horses in general groom each other as a way of communicating. They read energy from different animals/humans in their environment to know whether to continue grazing or activate their fight or flight response.  
Our daily lifestyles tend to tense us, and our horses too. Horses are prey animals; they walk day and night long distances grazing, in herds. Most domesticated horses are kept in stalls with little movement, no choice of when and what to eat, and sometimes with no interaction with other horses. The life of a sports horse is even more stressful with strict training regimes, lots of travelling and changing environments and maybe even less time off to be just horses. Sounds like a very humanesque lifestyle. So our horses are tense in much the same way as we are, and like us they too develop many negative side effects to that lifestyle. 
As horse and rider together make a team, imbalances in one affect the other. In our experience the best results are achieved when both horse and rider have treatments. Of course as our horses are regularly exercised and we tend to take great care of their nutritional needs, so should we horse owners/riders do the same for ourselves.

Shiatsu works well with other holistic therapies. Shiatsu is not a substitute for veterinary care.

When can Shiatsu help?

  • Before/after competition – as preparation for competition or relaxation after competition
  • With injuries – it speeds up the healing of tendon, muscle or ligament tissue injuries
  • Back problems  – back pain, unbalanced movements
  • Digestion problems – horses prone to colic, horses that cannot gain weight
  • Urinary problems – difficult urination or bladder infection
  • Respiratory problems – helps acute cough, alleviates chronic cough (heaves)
  • Skin problems – speeds up the recovery of skin diseases (sweet itch, mud fever…)
  • After stressful events – competition, moving, weaning, herd separation…
  • Emotional imbalance and behavior problems
  • Old horses – regular shiatsu sessions ease chronic conditions and pain (Cushing’s, arthritis)
  • Changing of seasons – helps with the shedding of old and growing of new hair
  • General improvement and maintenance of a healthy horse

Shiatsu treatment

  • initial consultation: medical history (current and old injuries, any other treatments being received), the type of work you do with your horse as well as personality and behaviour of your horse
  • Shiatsu treatment on your horse includes: a visual assessment, touch techniques – finger or palm pressure as well as rotations and stretches of joints and limbs and massage techniques
  • duration of the session is approximately 60 min

Before the treatment

  • before the Shiatsu treatment please do not ride or work the horse for two hours before the session
  • the horse should be dry and mud free, in stable (if this is his/her comfortable safe place)
  • time of Shiatsu should be a quiet time – not when the horse is expecting to be fed or turned out

After the treatment

  • following the Shiatsu treatment the horse should rest for that day
  • preferably the horse should be turned out into the field so he/she can move freely as this will optimize the effect of the treatment
  • it takes 3-4 treatments for best results