Acupressure for Horses

Updated March 29, 2024 | By: Andris J. Kaneps, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSR
Acupressure mat for horses.

Acupressure originates from acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat people and animals for thousands of years. While acupuncture involves the use of tiny needles inserted at specific spots on the body (called acupoints), acupressure is a non-invasive treatment that only requires the use of pressure on acupoints.

Both treatments are based on influencing energy pathways, or meridians, throughout the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the flow of energy is referred to as Chi. Certain acupoints along the body's meridians are thought to communicate with specific internal organs.

The anatomic locations of acupoints have been found to be filled with nerve endings and blood vessels. When these spots are triggered, it causes neurotransmitters (like serotonin) to be released. This may produce therapeutic effects on a cellular level that can be localized, remote, or whole-body.

Learning and Applying Equine Acupressure

Books, guides, videos, and courses are available to help us understand the safe and effective use of acupressure. However, a trained veterinary acupuncturist is your best resource for treating your horse with acupressure.

Veterinarians who have a Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture (CVA) have a deep understanding of equine anatomy, meridians, and pressure points most useful in the horse. Working with a professional to identify the points your horse is most responsive to in a positive way can be very beneficial for your day-to-day care and riding. With this knowledge, you may be better able to incorporate these acupoints into grooming sessions, recognize when your horse is feeling more relaxed, or conversely, when he may be agitated by a certain area.

Benefits of Acupressure for Horses

  • May increase circulation and relax muscles
  • May encourage toxin release

How to Use Acupressure on Horses

  • Once trained on acupressure, it can be applied with your hands or through specially made blankets or pads
  • Practitioners are trained to use a specific amount of pressure with their thumbs and fingers on the acupoints, holding those points for a specific period of time, and releasing.
  • Acupressure products can be worn on your horse typically for 15-30 minute sessions
  • Your horse may be irritated by certain pressure points, so it is important to pay close attention and stop if your horse shows any signs of discomfort.

Examples of Acupressure Therapy in the Barn

  • Used as a pre-or post-training therapy to stimulate blood flow
  • As an adjunct therapy between acupuncture appointments
  • A complementary therapy for Western veterinary medicine

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.