Let's Hear It For The Horses - A Tui-na Tale
by Signe Beebe, DVM, CVA, CVCH, CVTP
As I boarded a plane from California to Florida this past September 2005, I began to wonder was this trip really worth it. My destination is the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine for the Tui-na course. It is no small thing to travel from coast to coast to attend yet another class in Chinese medicine. I was already weary from months of non-stop veterinary practice, a condition all too familiar among veterinarians in general. You see, I had decided to take the Tui-na course to improve my ability to rehabilitate my small animal patients. I had already taken the Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy class at the University of Tennessee, and I thought I had it all covered. Boy, was I in for a big surprise.
The first day of class, we all gathered together for lecture and then we practiced the Tui-na techniques we had learned on each other. Tui-na, I found is a blend of massage, acupressure, and chiropractic from a Western perspective. It was wonderful to practice on one another, relaxing and invigorating at the same time, a unique class experience to say the least. On day two of the course, we set out for the Chi farm eager to practice what we had learned on the small animal and equine patients that were awaiting us. Dr Xie told us we would be required to practice Tui-na on both horses and small animals. Although I have ridden for years, I have not regularly practiced on horses, and so was not thrilled by the prospect. The veterinary care I have given to horses occurred during my military tours of duty as an Army veterinarian oversees basic vaccinations and worming with some wound care thrown in, was the gist of it. So I began working in the small animal section. After attempting to practice Tui-na on a Bichon Frise who tried to bite me every chance he got for half an hour, I was more than ready to go see the horses when my turn came around.
Fortunately for me, Dr Xie was demonstrating how to do Tui-na on the horses. After watching him scanned a horse for problems I was amazed at how obvious it was to tell what was wrong with her. This horse had a Wood constitution and was none too pleased to be the object of our scrutiny. She was snorting and dancing some and clearly did not want to be touched by us. She certainly made me jump more than once. After diagnosis, I and several other students performed Tui-na for a total of 20 minutes on her. The changes I saw taking place in this animal were amazing, nearly miraculous in nature. Slowly one student after the other approached the horse and practiced their Tui-na. The horse progressively became more quiet and relaxed after every treatment, finally to the point of nearly falling asleep! Even better was after the Tui-na, she was retested for problems, and all of her sensitivities had resolved. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. A resolution of clinical signs after performing Tui-na by veterinarians who were mere novices? I had to see if the same results could be obtained on another horse. The next day at the Chi farm we were asked again what we wanted to do, small animals or equine. I immediately headed straight for the horses!
To make a long story short, I practiced Tui-na on horses for the rest of the course. I actually worked on a horse, that were he was capable of speech was clearly asking me please do more! I was stunned by how effective Tui-na is as a sole technique as demonstrated to me by my horse patients. If I had insisted on staying in my comfort zone and working only on small animals I would have really missed out. If it were not for the horses I would not be so utterly convinced of the value of Tui-na. Since my return from class I have found that dogs are more difficult in general to evaluate than horses. I have performed Tui-na on a few cats, and they have also exhibited a profound response to treatments. This is understandable as cats are a Fire animal similar in nature to the horse. However, because of my Tui-na work with horses, I am much more confident evaluating and treating my small animal patients. In addition, my clients are thrilled to treat their pets at home after being taught a few simple Tui-na techniques. They are so grateful to be able to help alleviate their pets pain and suffering between veterinary visits.
I would just like to say to all of you who may have been thinking of taking the Tui-na class, do it. You'll be glad you did. The class was a lovely and unexpected surprise. Tui-na is a branch of Traditional Chinese medicine that can clearly stand on its own. So let's hear it for the horses.