The Benefits of High Touch Jin Shin on Horses
High Touch Jin Shin is an ancient Japanese healing art that was rediscovered by Jiro Murai, and brought to the United States in the 1960's by Mary Burmeister. Jin Shin is a combination modality using touch therapy with energy work to allow the body to heal itself (Dayton 1998). The purpose of this research is to determine a likely course of sessions to best influence lameness in the horse. There are three groups being studied: once a week, once every other week, or once a month. After six months of using Jin Shin on eight different horses it was determined that sessions at closer intervals had an overall change sooner than those with sessions spaced out more. All horses benefited in some way from regular sessions, and the experience brought confidence, along with more questions on the art of healing.
Equine Jin Shin Points
Introduction to Jin Shin
A passion was born when, at the age of fourteen, my Grandfather took me to my first riding lesson. It was a small riding stable with ten horses. They had just built a beautiful indoor arena and were still finishing the classrooms upstairs. The first horse I would ride was a small 14 hand Morgan-cross named Channel, an ex-barrel racer. My first time getting to touch Channel was shocking. I had always dreamt that they all felt like smooth silk, not rough and course like Channel did. But I was hooked.
When I turned sixteen, and acquiring a car, I began working at that stable and I learned so many amazing things. I decided right then, that my life would evolve around horses and I would make a career out of it. It was when I was seventeen that I was first exposed to alternative medicine.
Herniating L4 and L5 (lower lumbar region of the back where the lower back meets the hips) I was told that I would be lucky to walk again and riding horses was never going to happen. My only option was immediate surgery to prevent further damage. That is when I met an amazing man who used low impact and Palmer-specific chiropractic techniques. These unique adjustments did not twist or contort the body, but gently prodded muscles to give way to the bones. This amazing technique allowed me to return to horses.
Moving to Colorado lead me to become the proud owner of two beautiful horses and introduced me to a wide range of other, non-invasive therapies. Through my travels of the equine world and my own health issues, I began to realize that there had to be another path. Traditional veterinarian medicine felt more like my Doctor telling me I was never going to walk again, and a small fear had crept inside me that would prevent me from training horses. Right around this time is when I discovered Jin Shin.
Witnessing the amazing healing power of this touch-energy therapy led me to wonder if it would work on horses. After many hours of research, and finishing the Practitioner level of High Touch Jin Shin I created a study using eight different horses, two of mine and six others, on how often sessions should be conducted to best help the horse heal from lameness. Each horse had a different degree and origin of lameness within their body.
Horses love Jin Shin!
History of High Touch Jin Shin
Jin Shin Jyutsu is an ancient Japanese art that was developed from the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. When Japan began to modernize in the 1800s, Jin Shin, and many other folk healing arts were lost. It was not until the early 1900s when Jiro Murai rediscovered Jin Shin.
Both Jiro’s father and brother had become acupuncturists, and when they could not cure Jiro of his life threatening illness, he traveled to the family cabin to die. He instructed them to wait seven days, and on the eighth day they could come get his body. Using ancient breathing techniques and hand positions, Jiro began to feel a change in his body. He could not explain it, but continued to experiment by holding different points on his hands and body. On the seventh day, Jiro walked down from the cabin to his home, living for another 34 years (Burmeister, 1997).
During those 34 years, he continued to study Jin Shin, and took on two students, one of which was Mary Burmeister, a Japanese-American. In 1953, almost ten years after starting her training with Jiro, Mary brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to the United States as Jiro had wished (Burmeister, 1997).
Betsy Dayton, founder of High Touch Jin Shin, studied with Mary in 1975. In 1979 she began to teach workshops on Jin Shin, and in 1980 created the High Touch network (Dayton, 1998).
Does the frequency of Jin Shin sessions affect equine lameness? I hypothesize that if more frequent sessions are performed, then there will be a greater reduction in pain.
Jin Shin has shown great results in humans, reducing pain, stress and even helping cancer patients. It has also been found that many therapies that work on humans, such as massage and acupuncture also have influential effects on horses. There is not as much data on Jin Shin for horses as there is on people, but I am confident that the modality will work equally as well on horses.
There were three study groups given a one hour session of Jin Shin over the course of six months. The first group consisting of two geldings and one mare were scheduled once a week. A second group, consisting of one gelding and one mare, were given sessions every other week or bi-weekly. The last group which consisted of two geldings and one mare received sessions once a month. There were two “wild card” horses. These horses were placed into the groups 1 and 2, but were not scheduled consistently on the same day of the week as the others. The horses ranged in ages from 7 years to 20 years old. The breeds were predominantly American Quarter Horses (AQHA) with one American Paint horse (APHA) and one Appendix (Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse cross). Workloads for each horse varied along with the degree of lameness and form of their lameness.
Records were kept of time and date of each session, along with what flows were used and general reactions to each point on the flow. Progress was recorded on the individual logs for each session. A survey at the end of each study was given to note owner’s thoughts and gauge lameness scales. The scale was numbered 1 through 10, 1 being no visible sign of lameness and 10 being unable to walk without pain.
One possible change in this study would be to have the owners fill out a survey after each session to monitor progress along with using a pain scale in each survey. Another possible change would be to get more detailed information on the specific injuries, what they had tried before, and what they’re veterinarian was recommending.
Works Well on Injuries Too!
Application of High Touch Jin Shin
Betsy Dayton (1998) described Jin Shin as treatments that followed the ancient principles of oriental energy therapy, sharing many of the same concepts upon which acupuncture is based. There are 26 “acu-points” that lay along meridian lines on the body. Soft, non-invasive touch is applied to points in a pattern referred to as a flow. Individual points can also be held to help with anything from fevers to depression. Leas (2004) stated that disease and disharmony are caused by what is not released, not by what is lacking.
To find individual flows that the body may be asking for, Jin Shin practitioners take pulses, similar to the way acupuncturists’ test to find which points need to be worked. A practitioner will lay their fingertips gently on both wrists waiting for what feel like pulses to come in, which will indicate the side that needs to be worked and what meridian lines that are calling for work (Dayton, 1998).
After the pulses are taken, the practitioner uses the High Touch Jin Shin books to discern what pattern has emerged. The pattern will indicate a flow that will show a series of points to hold and follow along the body (Dayton, 1998). Some modifications are made using these flows on horses due to their size and the inability for most practitioners to reach the head with one hand and the rump with the other. For example, if the flow indicates to hold a point near the head and another toward the tail, I move the head closest to the head to either a more recently used point, or a point that is easier to reach on the body near the tail.
The first subject was a 17 years old AQHA gelding named “Senator” who was in group 1 and one of the wild cards. Senator was a rodeo horse and then a trail horse before his current owner acquired him. He is now a light arena work riding horse. He was listed as having mild arthritis aggregated by the cold with a left shoulder injury that caused sweating when stressed. He was also reported as having a mental imbalance displayed by being over reactive and untrustworthy under saddle. On the 3rd week, Senator’s movement appeared to be improving with some minor stiffness in his hind end. He also displayed a tucked under pelvis and short choppy steps. By week 6 Senator was showing obvious signs of discomfort due to his arthritis, unable to stretch out his right hind leg and unwilling to move into a trot on a lounge line. A decrease in health is typical in touch-energy work because now the body is being shown that it needs to rest to improve. This is also known as a “healing crisis” or we must get worse before we can get better. The following week, the 7th week, Senator had put on some weight with increased energy. He was also progressing well in his trust exercises under saddle, standing relaxed out in the pasture as his owner was able to mount bareback with little to no reaction. This, according to the owner, is a huge step for him. By week 11, Senator was relaxing into his sessions becoming increasingly more playful and less reactive to sounds. His owner reported that he had become much more relaxed, allowing her to climb onto his back off of objects without even flicking an ear, something he had never been able to withstand before. She also stated that he was able to rationally work through his fear, such as exposure to tarps, instead of just reacting. Overall, lameness scale went from a 4 to a 2.
The second horse in group 1 was a 20 year old AQHA gelding named “Cutter”. Cutter was a trail horse for many years and was retired three or four years ago due to complications with an old injury. Suffering from a fractured right hind leg, Cutter is reported to suffer from acute arthritis, possible calcification of his right knee along with surface scarring, swollen joints, and a tucked under pelvis. His walk is stiff and his demeanor is that of an animal in severe pain. The most noticeable change was seen by week 5 when Cutter came up from pasture on his own just before his session. This was remarkable for the owner because he usually did not come up to the barn unless it was feeding time. He was tight through his lower back and hunched up with his back legs wide at hips but narrow at the base. His hind hooves firmly planted well under his belly. By week 9, he was able to stand more relaxed and was starting to pull his pelvis back, dropping his lower back into a more natural position. Week 12, his hips were even more relaxed and his lower back was not nearly as locked or tender as it had been previously. He was also beginning to show more expressions, interacting with the practitioner. The following week, week 13, the owner mentioned that she had seen Cutter standing in the sun with all four feet completely square, meaning he was fully able to drop his pelvis, which he had previously been unable to do. On week 16, he was fully of energy, cantering through the field and tossing his head. He was also trying to buck, and being mildly successful at it. His owner stated that he has been unable to do both in quite a few years. Week 17, cold weather settled in and Cutter began to show signs of stiffness again. He was still able to move fairly well. Week 18, his owner reported that Cutter was able to gallop down one of the pasture hills for the first time in a very long time. Cutter’s owner also noticed that the horse’s demeanor toward its pasture mate had greatly changed; he was less aggressive and hostile toward the other horse. Cutter did not show the “healing crisis” as severely as Senator did, I think this is due to full pasture time with no riding in between sessions. His lameness scale went from 8 to 3.
The last horse in group one was a 16 years old AQHA mare named “Snickers”. Snickers’ was being used as a barrel racer for a seven years old daughter of the owner. Snickers’ owner reported the mare as unable to be pastured with most horses as she was extremely aggressive toward some, her first few sessions the mare was extremely docile and lacking energy. She was reported as having a poor appetite, generally not interested in grain, with stiffness in hocks and stifles. She was receiving weekly Legend injections, a Hyaluronate sodium solution used to treat arthritis in joints. During the first week’s initial session the practitioner noted a hunter’s bump, this is caused by the pelvis rotating downward and pulling away from the spine, common in long backed horses that are not taught to engage their hind quarters properly. Her coat was dull and extremely thick considering the warm fall weather Colorado was having. She was also reported to crossfire behind and may have stomach ulcers. By week 2 she was showing signs of increased energy and her owner had stated that during a warm up in the arena Snickers had “run a way” with the daughter. Meaning the mare had an unusual amount of energy her rider was not used to and was having difficulties getting the mare to pay attention to ques. The owner also reported increased movement with left hock and stifle. On week 3, the owner’s veterinarian found fluid on the left stifle, but Snickers had performed extremely well at her race the previous weekend. The exertion did leave the mare completely lame for nearly a week though. The mare was showing more signs of being engaged and less dopey. The following week, week 4, she was starting to fully relax into her sessions. Week 5, she was lame again before her session, but she was able to move out better afterwards. She was showing signs of being tight through her upper back and shoulders. In week 7, she had increased appetite and was eagerly eating her grain. Week 9 was showing signs of extreme gas along with muscle contractions along her hip muscles and she was not settling into her session as well. By week 13, however she ran her fastest race to date, clocking in at 16.1 seconds. The professional barrel racers winning races clock in at 14 seconds, while the average is 15 seconds. A time of 16.1 seconds is very impressive for her condition and the skill level of her rider. She was also very energetic during her session. In week 20, she had another great race the previous weekend. Her owner also stated that during their trail ride earlier in the week, Snickers was very energetic, prancing and dancing during most of the trail ride. Her owner also stated that she kept forgetting to give Snickers her Legend injections, showing that her improvement was not due sole to the drug therapy. Unlike Senator and Cutter, Snickers would backslide and then improve repeatedly. I believe this is due to the amount of strain being placed on her body in between sessions. Her lameness scale went from 7 to 3.
In the second group, and also one of the wild cards, was an 8 year old AQHA mare named “Moka”. Moka suffered minor intermittent lameness from an old knee injury she acquired as a yearling. Upon the initial session, Moka’s knee was noticeably swollen, but she was healthy, alert and playful. By the 3rd week, Moka suffered a severe laceration to her front left foot around the cornet band. A veterinarian was called to assess the injury and determined that no bones, tendons or ligaments were severed in the injury. Moka was put on antibiotics for five days and administered Bute, a type of NSAID for horses for two days. In conjunction with Jin Shin sessions, the owner gave the mare homeopathy for trauma and Rescue Remedy for the initial trauma. Following days the owner used herbal supplements for inflammation and pain management, along with essential oil soaks to clean the wound removing the horse from all prescription drug therapies. The first day Moka was at a lameness scale of a 1, unable to bare any weight on the injured foot. Within a week she was able to place weight on the foot again, and by week 4 she was able to trot out. Week 6, she was functioning without the assistance of herbal supplements and just the Jin Shin sessions. Week 7, complications with her knee injury caused her to be lame at the trot. By week 8, she was able to move fairly evenly with some favor still shown to the injured foot, but was returned to back out to pasture. A slight scare is seen on her left foot, but the tissue is still healing. Her owner also reported the mare seemed to have increased energy being ridden after the foot injury had healed. Reportedly in the past, the mare was well known for being stubborn and having more “whoa then go”. Her owner stated that Moka now seemed much more willing to move out. Lameness scale 10 to 2.
The last horse in group two is a 15 year old Appendix gelding named “Jag”. His owner reported him having navicular disease, an inflammatory disease that attacks the sensitive bone within the hoof called the navicular bone. He was also reported to suffer from Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in his hocks along with PSSM or Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, a genetic disorder that causes a form of tying up or locking of the muscles that prevents movement. His first week he displayed extensive joint pain, but was bright eyed with a nice coat. Week 3, he had increased energy and was able to move without limping. He was even beginning to canter and buck while rejoining the herd. Week 5 his owner reported that the farrier had been out the previous week to trim Jag’s feet and was amazed when he didn’t lean or fall over during trimming of his hind hooves, a frequent occurrence for him in the past. He was mildly lame on week 5. On week 7, he was of good energy and was quite exuberant returning to the herd, able to canter for several strides before returning to a more comfortable trot. His owner joked that if he continued to improve as he was, she might have to start riding him again. In week 11, he was calmer with his session, his owner administering Bute for his mild lameness when she arrived at the barn. Jag also had a farrier appointment that same morning. There was also a change in weather that week. Week 13 he was back to moving well again, calm, but alert. Week 17, there was no signs of lameness. Week 19, however, he was unable to put full weight on his front feet again and his last session at week 21, he was also lame at the walk. His owner believed that the change in weather was partially to blame. Jag was kept on 120 acres of pasture with well over 20 other horses. This had direct influences on his ability to heal. It also took Jag longer for him to trust the sessions and truly relax into them, allowing the therapy to truly work. Though he still had great improvement, it took Jag longer to start the cycle of healing, and falling back then group 1 did. Jag’s lameness scale went from 8 to 2.
The last group had three horses, the first was a 7 year old AQHA gelding named Niko. Niko was by far the hardest horse to work with. He was not aggressive or disrespectful; he just wanted nothing more than to play during each session. His owner reported that he suffered from stomach ulcers, especially in the winter which caused him to crossfire behind. She also stated that he frequently carried himself in a “sucked-up” fashion, or holding the gut tight to the body. The second month, he was noticeably calmer during his session, but no other improvements had been noticed. By the third month, his owner reported that he had “run a way” with her during her ride one morning. Though the owner contributed this behavior to the alfalfa he was being fed, this food source would not help his stomach discomfort, but increase it due to the increase in sugar. His “good spirits” were more likely related to the sessions he was receiving. By month 4, Niko’s energy levels had increased even more and during another ride in the arena his owner reported him bucking. His owner also mentioned that he was becoming quite explosive if left for too many days without a way to release his pent up energy. Though his owner contributes her gelding’s changes to the possibility of him being fed alfalfa, hay type forage well known for producing extra energy in horses, I do not believe that the food is the complete cause of the gelding’s changes. His lameness scale stayed at a 1.
Another AQHA gelding in group 2, Taz was a 14 year old gelding suffering from right hock stiffness. His owner reported that his right hock was more sore than his left and while riding he would lean his head out while going to the right. He would also be unable to stop from a trot while on the bit (a form of collection used in dressage), but was able to perform the maneuver on a loose rein. Observation of the gelding was a listless horse, tall with hardly any muscle to his frame. He did not engage with people or other horses, and had little interest in food. His coat was dull and oily. Month 2 Taz showed signs of arthritis and the owner’s veterinarian recommended that his activity level be decreased. Taz also had sunken eyes, dropped belly and increased lack of appetite. Month 4 Taz had increased energy. He was also actively interacting with his owner and the other horses in his enclosure, which I had not witnessed before. He generally stood by himself with his head low and eyes droopy at previous sessions. In month 5, there was an even greater improvement in his energy level and increased engagement with the other horses, following one horse right up to the gate. He’s appetite had also increased, showing great interest in grain not previously seen before. He had also noticeably put on weight. By the last session in month 6, there was a very large improvement in the animals overall appearance. He was engaged and active, expressing himself with his full body. He had also been placed on muscle relaxers by the owner’s veterinarian after the veterinarian realized that it was not hock pain the gelding was suffering from, but back pain. Taz’s owner does not believe that the Jin Shin had a great effect on her gelding, but she might possibly be unable to see the subtle improvements that someone that does not see the animal everyday would see. Lameness scale stayed at 2.
Ellie is the last horse in the study and in group 3. An 8 year old APHA mare, Ellie’s owner reported that she suffered from chest pain along with sore hips. She had previously had a chiropractor work on her, but after an adjustment left Ellie worse off than she was before the adjustment, which made her decide not to invite the chiropractor back. Upon the first session the mare appeared to be tired, unenthusiastic in general. She also was extremely uncomfortable with my hands near her 15 point and repeatedly kicked out. In month 2, her owner reported that she had not been riding because Ellie’s health seemed to be decreasing. Her fetlock joints were noticeably swollen, known as stocked up, but the mare showed great energy when turned out into the arena. Her owner also reported that Ellie “holds onto things”. This was evident that whenever she was getting ready to release a point she would step forward trying to avoid it. By month 3, Ellie was moved out to pasture and her owner noticed increased movement, along with the symptoms of stocking up diminished. Month 5, the mare was very energetic, bright eyed and alert. Her owner also stated that she also became unruly for a short time during the ride in the arena before the session. The owner also stated that she saw huge improvements in the mare on an emotional level. Ellie seemed more willing to let go of things, along with better movement. Lameness scale went from a 6 to 3.
Results of Horses
Cutter: 8 to 3
Moka: 10 to 2
Ellie: 6 to 3
Snickers: 7 to 3
Jag: 8 to 2
Nikko: 1 to 1
Senator: 4 to 2
Taz: 2 to 2
Before and After PicturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Betsy Dayton’s High Touch Network workbooks I and II are the basis for the type of Jin Shin being used in this study. It gives a great history into the art, along with Betsy own journey. Both books show the flows and guidelines into depths, pulses and connections with the five element chart.
The Touch of Healing: Energizing body, mind, and spirit with the Art of Jin Shin Jyutsu by A. Burmeister and Tom Monte dives into the history of Jin Shin. A. Burmeister is Mary’s daughter. The book gives great examples of the different ways Jin Shin can help the body heal in humans.
Leas book Jin Shin Jyutsu for Companion Animals is another workbook similar to Betsy’s. Great diagrams comparing the 26 points on dogs, horses, rabbits and birds versus the human point system. It also demonstrates the power Jin Shin has on animals.
Nancy Camp is a horse trainer and High Touch Jin Shin practitioner. She has been working with horses most of her life, and founded Whole Horse Training in 1995. She has had great success with Jin Shin on horses, publishing several articles in various magazines. High Touch Jin Shin Energy Balancing for Your Horse is a brief overview of Jin Shin and how to apply it to horses. It also gives a simple self-help guide to release neck and back tension.
Equine Jin Shin Jyutsu: Opposite Hooves by Carolynn Conley is a great article on the effectiveness of Jin Shin on pain. Her horse was out to pasture and began to show signs of pain. She used simple techniques to combat the issue. It also helped lessen the severity of the actual cause, which was an abscess to the foot.
The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care is an outstanding book that touches on a wide range of topics from nutrient to different healing modalities. It gives a reader a great place to start in a holistic minded approach to caring and maintaining animal health.
High Touch Jin Shin is a non-invasive therapy using acu-points to help rebalance the body so that it may heal. A case study using Jin Shin on equine lameness was conducted over a six month time period on eight different horses. Though all participants showed great improvement, those in group 1 at once a week intervals had the quicker results.
After this study, I conclude that a moderate approach should be taken to heal lameness that has been in the body for long durations such as navicular and older injuries to prevent the “healing crisis” back slide that many of the once a week horses showed. Acute injuries such as that with Moka in group 2 should be given weekly sessions instead of bi-weekly to stay on top of the injuries normal course of healing. The once a month session is a great maintenance level for those who suffer genetic disorders and the like.
Burmeister, A., Monte, Tom. (1997). The Touch of Healing: Energizing body, mind, spirit with the Art of Jin Shin Jyutsu. New York City: Bantam.
Camp, N. (2002, September 1). High Touch® Jin Shin Energy Balancing for Your Horse. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.wholehorsetraining.com/
Conley, C. (2014, November 7). Equine Jin Shin Jyutsu: Opposite Hooves. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://jinshinjyutsuisnj.net/2014/11/07/equine-jin-shin-jyutsu-opposite-hooves/
Dayton, B. (1999). High Touch Jin Shin Workbook I Eighth Edition. Friday Harbor: High Touch Network.
Leas, A. (2004). Jin Shin Jyutsu: For Your Animal Companion. China.
Puotinen, C. (2000). The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care. Revised edition. New York City: McGraw-Hill.