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Equine Acupuncture Vet

Updated on August 30, 2017

Acupuncture for Horses and Ponies - Traditional Medicine - it's natural and it's good!

Horses and ponies respond amazingly well to acupuncture.

There are a great many chronic diseases of horses and ponies, which do not respond to conventional drugs at all or are just held in check by drugs, with an ongoing risk of side effects (aka adverse effects). The use of steroid (cortisone, corticosteroid) in the horse is particularly risky (steroid-induced laminitis is very serious and can be incurable).

Happily, some of these cases will respond to acupuncture, delivered by a holistic vet with the ability to integrate acupuncture with diet (natural feeding work), with chiropractic manipulation and with internal medicine, such as homeopathy or herbs (herbal medicine).

This article introduces the subject and gives an outline of equine acupuncture, showing its methodology, application and scope.

Three Emperors
Three Emperors


Enigmatic and paradoxical medical art from Ancient China

Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. That ancient medical discipline was extremely holistic, in that it ensured that diet, lifestyle, back alignment etc. were optimised, applying needling (or other point stimulation techniques) integrated with internal medicine, to stimulate the body's innate healing capability. The model of the body and of disease is entirely different from that proposed by modern Western cultures. The Chinese described a life energy (Qi - pronounced Chi) which comprised a balance of Yin and Yang and which flowed through the body in acupuncture meridians or channels. Disease occurs if Yin and Yang are unbalanced and if the energy flow is disturbed or blocked. Therapy is applied by stimulating points on these meridians (acupuncture points), releasing blockage and restoring balance.

In modern developed countries, the holistic methodology is often by-passed, using needling (or other method of point stimulation) alone, without the internal medicine, without the chiropractic manipulation and without sorting diet and lifestyle. This superficial approach to acupuncture diminishes its benefits.

Because of the body's incredible healing capability, acupuncture, holistically applied, can show surprising results, even in cases in which modern drug medicine has failed to provide benefit.

Meridian charts - horse (first cycle acc. C. Day)
Meridian charts - horse (first cycle acc. C. Day)

The Meridians

The body's energy network

On each side of the body are six Yang meridians and six Yin meridians.

These are, starting at the Heart meridian:

Heart (Yin)

Small Intestine (Yang)

Bladder (Yang)

Kidney (Yin)

Pericardium (Yin)

Triple Heater (Yang)

Gall Bladder (Yang)

Liver (Yin)

Lung (Yin)

Large Intestine (Yang)

Stomach (Yang)

Spleen/Pancreas (Yin)

Each 'cycle' of four begins and ends in the region of the heart and its period of especial activity covers 8 hours of the 24-hour day.

In the modern West, we do not recognise the organ 'Triple Heater' aka 'Triple Burner'. In Ancient China, this was a generic term covering the three body cavities (Thorax, Abdomen and Pelvis).

The routes of the meridians in humans have been well-mapped and documented. There is still much debate how those maps (charts) correlate with animal acupuncture, esp. for acupuncture in the horse.

Equine Acupuncture model
Equine Acupuncture model

Conditions that respond

Acupuncture is used in equine veterinary practice for a multitude of conditions and problems. Here are some of the most common of those in which we have witnessed successful outcomes.

Back Pain






Neck Pain

Headshaking - Head-shaking


Navicular Syndrome

Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU - Moonblindness - Recurrent Ophthalmia - Periodic Ophthalmia)



Shivering - Shivers

Wobbler Syndrome

Suspensory ligament

An acupuncture vet should be able to explain the possibilities for you.

Electrical stimulation (electroacupuncture)
Electrical stimulation (electroacupuncture)

Point Stimulation

Acupuncture points can be stimulated by needling, by moxibustion (heat), by electric impulse, by pressure, by LASER, by injection and by implant.

Horses appear to submit very readily to needling and to enjoy the treatment. We do not sedate horses that are unwilling, preferring instead to find a means of stimulus that they do like. Sedation will mask responses and even alter responses, quite apart from drug side-effects.

Your experience

Have you or has your horse received acupuncture?

Your opinion

Should acupuncture be available for horses?

See results


Clever, those Ancient Chinese!


Equine Acupuncture can be a further possibility for your horse, when other medical systems have failed or as a first-line input.

Equine Acupuncture is not harmful.

Equine Acupuncture is usually well-accepted, even enjoyed.

Equine Acupuncture works best when combined with diet and lifestyle improvement, chiropractic manipulation and internal medicine (e.g. medicinal herbs or homeopathy).

The author is independent of commercial interest or sponsorship and cannot endorse any products or advertising material attached to this lens.

For more information, visit AVMC's information website (over 600 pages).

Chris Day - holistic vet - runs the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre in Oxfordshire (AVMC) in Oxfordshire, UK.

Horse dozing
Horse dozing
Horse looking
Horse looking

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    • ChrisDay LM profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisDay LM 

      8 years ago

      @sousababy: Ah yes, I'll have to check I've mentioned it clearly enough on that lens, too. Thanks.

    • sousababy profile image


      8 years ago

      @ChrisDay LM: Thank you, I'm off now to read your lens about laminitis. I obviously need to learn more (don't have a horse, so couldn't partcipate in your duel). Rose

    • ChrisDay LM profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisDay LM 

      8 years ago

      @sousababy: Aye to the risks in humans - mirrored in animals PLUS, in horses, severe risk of steroid-induced laminitis, which can be incurable. Horses & ponies VERY similar from meridian point of view.

      Thanks for deep questions - clearly you have thought very deeply about this. I shall add ref. steroids right now, for clarification for other readers.

    • sousababy profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes, in humans, steroids are usually only a temporary fix that a patient needs to be weaned off of slowly, plays havoc with the immune system and can mask more serious infections. You mention it being "particularly risky" in horses (same reasons)? Also the Triple Heater (aka Triple Burner) being Thorax, Abdomen and Pelvis - sounds parallel to the "strengthening your core" craze of late (only I don't think the modern drug culture has quite caught up to the deeper message of stimulating the body's own healing capacity internally with homeopathic, chiropractic, acupuncture and dietary measures that you teach about). Wonder, how these meridians were determined in horses, do you find it very similar in horses and ponies? Sorry to have so many questions...

    • ChrisDay LM profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisDay LM 

      8 years ago

      @anonymous: They LOVE it! (with extremely rare exceptions, for whom we offer Acupuncture-by-LASER)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is news to me. Acupuncture for animals - "Excellent". I mean great, very good; they too can experience the benefits of this wonderful therapy.


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