When Gary Severson comes to my barn to fit saddles, the first thing he does is check the horses’ backs. If they are sore, or tense, he will often do some body work to help release the tension. He’s the only saddle fitter that I’ve worked with who helps “fix” their backs when he fixes the saddle and it seems to yield very positive results. I’m always watching him to learn techniques that I can use in between his visits.
One of the coolest things he does is something that reminds me of the “Vulcan mind meld” that Spock used to perform on Star Trek. He uses acupressure on the bladder meridian points behind the poll to perform what he calls an “energy transfer.”
According to Wikipedia, “A procedure known as a mind-meld involves physical contact with a subject (though instances of mind-melds without contact have been seen), making it possible to share thoughts, experiences, memories, and knowledge with another individual.” Truly, it seems that when Gary does this, he sends his own energy and calm feelings to this sensitive area of the horse.
Okay, so it sounds pretty new age age and out there. But I’ve seen it work on my horses and on other people’s horses several times. Just last week when he was at my barn he felt that both Freedom and my friend’s horse, Fortune, had tension in their backs. Freedom was just tight all over, but he was also slightly reactive to pressure in his loin area.
While often the horse is initially resistant, (certainly, Freedom needed some reassurance from Gary before he would stand still and relax), but then their eyes soften and the begin to lick and chew. Remarkably, when you check the horse’s back after this, they are soft and no longer react to pressure. In addition to releasing tension over the loins and point of the hip, you also see a release in the poll. Gary showed me another point, midway down the neck that helps to release tension in the area that lies under the saddle.
In oriental medicine the meridians are the pathways by which energy or Ki (also called Chi) travel through the body. If the flow of energy is disrupted or blocked, this can cause tension or other problems. Through acupressure, or acupuncture techniques, the flow of energy and balance can be restored.
The bladder meridian in the horse has nothing to do with its ability to urinate and a lot to do with maintaining the comfort of your horse’s back muscles, hindquarters, hindlegs, and pasterns.
There’s an excellent description of Equine Shiatsu by Kristina Fritz from which I’ve excerpted below.
It is the largest meridian found on the horse. It starts on the face and runs all the way back to the hindquarters ending on the coronary band. Like all meridians there is one located on each side of the horse. (It also has an additional branch found below the main branch.)
It also helps to maintain the flow of Ki energy through the poll and neck area. It is perhaps the most useful meridian on the horse. Reestablishing a proper flow of Ki energy on the bladder meridian can help alleviate many problems. Maintaining a proper flow of ki energy will help to maintain soundness and proper movement.
Seeing your horse respond to the body work is inspiring; learning the techniques has opened up a whole new range of possibilities on how to help keep a horse comfortable.