I happened to be at the barn one day to visit another horse, when I walked by a stall and was shocked by a distraught mare literally writhing in colic pain. Apparently, the cost of surgery was too high, so the horse’s person had decided to “give her one night” to see if she could heal on her own; otherwise, she was to be put down the following morning.

With permission, I took the mare out of her stall and into the arena where she could move around a bit more easily. I cradled her head with both hands as she leaned heavily and miserably on my shoulder. She was unable to stand still because of her discomfort, so we walked together. I felt the Reiki pulsing through my hands, and knew that even though they were on her head, the energy would flow like a magnet to where it was most needed. That is the nature of Reiki. After about 20 minutes, the mare gave a huge sigh and was able to stand quietly. She then passed quite a bit of gas and had a large bowel movement. She clearly felt much better and I carefully led her back to her stall and left her to rest. The next morning, she was back to her old self.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a holistic energy healing system in which the practitioner channels healing energy from the universe through the hands. It works by balancing the energy of the body, mind and spirit, supporting the process of self-healing on all levels. Reiki comes to us and the modern world through the teachings of Mikao Usui, who lived in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally taught as a system of spiritual development for people, Reiki is now taught throughout the world as a system of physical, emotional and spiritual healing for both people and animals.


A basic Reiki course is usually only several hours long. You will be able to use Reiki immediately, but because of its nature as a “practice”, your intention and commitment to daily use is important to deepen your understanding of the healing process.

How can it help horses?

Reiki can help maintain your horse’s health, speed healing of illness and injuries, and even ease the transition between life and death. Reiki is ideal for use with horses because it is easy to learn and use, is gentle and noninvasive, and yet can powerfully address any health issue a horse may face. Because the nature of Reiki is to create and support energetic balance, it can do no harm and can be used safely on its own or as a wonderful complement to other healing therapies, both allopathic and holistic.

Horses love Reiki because they are inherently sensitive and energetic beings who understand its nature. Reiki is a new and special way to deepen our interspecies bond and horses especially appreciate connecting with humans energetically. Reiki also has an irresistibly relaxing nature that just feels good!
Let your equine partner choose

Reiki is different from most other holistic therapies in that it relies on the willing participation of the horse for success. The practitioner “offers” Reiki to the horse in a flexible way, without forcing the treatment and without expectations of the way the session will unfold. Horses are very sensitive and wise to energetic frequencies and will immediately understand the nature of the healing you are offering. Commonly, a horse will come forward and put his nose into your hands as soon as you begin. He will then choose to take Reiki in the way he needs most.

Some horses will actually come and place the areas of their bodies that need healing into your hands. Others prefer to receive the treatment from several feet away.

Normally, a Reiki treatment will consist of a combination of hands-on and hands-off, depending on the comfort and preference of the horse. In rare cases, your horse may choose not to receive a treatment on a particular day; if that happens, try again another time. You will know your horse is open to the treatment by signs of rest and relaxation: licking and chewing, frequent yawning and deep sighs, and/or falling asleep. The average Reiki treatment lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, and ends when the horse wakes up from his “Reiki nap” and moves away. Most horses will even say “thank you” by putting their heads into your hands or nuzzling you before they leave.
My horse Kodiak is a very healthy and hearty young paint who loves Reiki. I often offer it to him while he is relaxing in the pasture. I begin by asking permission and just “offering” the energy in his direction. Usually he will come over and put his head in my hands for a few moments, giving a sigh or yawn as he relaxes. After a few minutes, he will often turn and graze or nap several feet away from me. He prefers to receive a short but intense treatment that is usually done after only ten to 15 minutes. He shows me he’s had enough by rousing himself from his doze, coming over and nudging me gently as if to say, “thank you,” then walking purposefully away.

Getting started

Although many holistic veterinarians around the world use Reiki to help heal their patients, its use is not yet widespread in the veterinary community. The great thing is that anyone who has the desire can learn Reiki to help improve and support their horse’s healing and well-being. It is a very effective yet gentle healing system that animals appreciate and enjoy at all stages of life. To get started, find a practitioner in your area and get a treatment. Once you’ve experienced Reiki’s relaxing effects and powerful healing benefits for yourself, you will be anxious to take a course and learn to share this gift with the horses in your life.

Tips for success

  • Offer the energy; don’t send it.
  • Allow the horse to move freely in the treatment space.
  • Try to let go of your expectations about what will happen: Reiki always works for the horse’s highest good.

Reiki in action

He was an off-the-track thoroughbred who was clearly unhappy in his stall. Extremely nervous and high-strung, he had trouble getting along with other horses and would sometimes run himself ragged in the pasture. One day, he began to kick his stall walls over and over again. People walking by would bark “knock it off!”, but other than that, no attention was paid to him. I was concerned he might hurt himself so I left my own horse, walked to his stall window and peered in. I quietly asked, “Would you like some Reiki, sweetheart?” He immediately stopped kicking and looked directly at me. I took this to mean “yes” and began to offer him Reiki from outside the stall.
He immediately went over to the corner of his stall, lowered his head, and began licking and chewing. Within a few minutes, his head had dropped and he was sleeping soundly. I quietly walked away, ending the treatment after only a few minutes. Later that day, I alerted my trainer to his previous distress and the Reiki I had given. The next day, my trainer informed me that not only had he stopped kicking the walls, but that he had literally slept in the corner of the stall the whole previous afternoon, night and most of the morning, only rousing himself to eat. I assured her this was a good thing, as body and mind heal themselves best when we are at our most relaxed.

Equine Wellness Magazine, September/October 2007

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