Hands-on healing: Equine and dog acupressure becoming more common
June 24, 2013
Holistic health has become more mainstream in recent years, so it's no surprise that the alternative remedies we might turn to for our ailments are being shared with our favorite pets and companions – and many say it's working.
Sara Soldevila was ahead of the curve when it came to holistic health care for animals.
She began treating her horses with acupressure and shiatsu massage more than 15 years ago, when courses and certifications were rare and hard to come by.
Today there are dozens of schools that teach the ancient Chinese modality, helping to comfort, soothe and heal all types of animals.
“Back in the day, the way we treated our animals wasn’t very good, but there’s been an emergence in how we treat animals.”
— SARA SOLDEVILA
In addition to treating horses as well as dogs, Soldevila also holds clinics to teach others the basic concepts of acupressure.
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Acupressure seeks to balance the body's energy by applying pressure to specific points along energy channels.
Shiatsu is a similar type of bodywork, but with a more rhythmic flow, akin to massage.
The principles and techniques for animals are the same as those used on humans, just with different pressure points and focuses.
"What you're doing is opening blockages, which can lead to an unbalance in the body, which can lead to disease," Soldevila said. "Acupressure keeps blockages open to keep the body balanced and healthy."
Soldevila, who lives in Penn Valley with her two horses and dog, primarily makes house calls, noting that animals are more comfortable and better able to relax in their own surroundings.
While she emphasizes that her therapy and bodywork is no substitute for veterinary care, she has assisted horses (primarily reining, dressage, jumping athletes) as well as dogs, with a myriad of issues.
The therapy is particularly effective on arthritis and aiding in post-surgery recuperation. It also benefits the immune system.
"Acupressure helps the body heal itself. By applying acupressure the body releases endorphins, which is a natural painkiller."
Most of the horses she sees have back problems, often having trouble turning to one side more so than the other.
Many times she finds it's just a fitting issue with the saddle. Training aids can further aggravate the problem.
She's been called to work on behavioral and emotional problems and even visited homes where no one really knows what's wrong – the animal just isn't happy. Some ailments or issues can be remedied in a session or two, while others can take more time.
"As a maintenance tool, it's good for long-term," she said.
She does offer discounted rates for ongoing sessions.
Soldevila moved to Nevada County six years ago from Sonoma County, where she still visits clients.
She's always had an affinity for animals, particularly horses, having ridden for most of her life. Her grandfather was a large animal vet in England, but she had little interest in the way conventional veterinary schools were set up.
She became a massage therapist and wanted to apply the healing techniques to horses (dogs soon followed).
Since there were no official courses offered for the modality to be used on animals, she took special courses at Equinology in Mendocino County with veterinarians who were "pioneers in the field."
Her father was from Spain, her mother from England. She's fluent in Spanish and travels to Europe occasionally and ties in a clinic whenever she's there.
She notes that homeopathy is more popular in England than in the U.S.
"Back in the day, the way we treated our animals wasn't very good, but there's been an emergence in how we treat animals. They're much more advanced there," she said.
Soldevila teaches "how to" clinics every few months, or as needed.
Though she offers no certification, her attendees get a straightforward, basic class teaching professionals, as well as private pet owners, how to help their animals live a healthy, pain-free life.
For more information, go to http://www.extendinc.com/sarasoldevila or call 432-8274.
Katrina Paz is a freelance writer in Grass Valley.
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