Dr. Rathbone will begin by asking you about your horse and what concerns you would like addressed during the visit. She will then perform an exam. The traditional Chinese medicine exam includes evaluating the tongue, feeling the horse's pulses, and scanning along the meridians to determine which acupuncture points are sensitive. Your horse may react by twitching the skin or moving away from pressure applied to a reactive point. Specific combinations of reactive points correspond to specific musculoskeletal or medical problems.

 A patient relaxing during her acupuncture treatment

A patient relaxing during her acupuncture treatment

With the information gathered from the exam, it is time for treatment. An average acupuncture treatment consists of 10-30 very fine needles, ranging from half an inch up to 4 inches long. These needles are much thinner than those used to give vaccines or other injections. Most horses hardly react as the needles are placed. On occasion, if a point is very sensitive, a horse may temporarily react in an excited manner. If your horse does not like the insertion of acupuncture needles, we can use fewer needles or consider Chinese herbal formulas that may have similar effects. The needles remain in the patient an average of twenty minutes, although treatment time will depend on your horse's condition. During this time, most horses will become so relaxed that they yawn, drop their heads and may even take a nap!

 Dr. Rathbone Placing Acupuncture needles

Dr. Rathbone Placing Acupuncture needles

There are multiple ways to stimulate the acupuncture points. The dry needle technique, pictured to the left, refers to the placement of acupuncture needles alone. Depending on the patient's condition, Dr. Rathbone may recommend the use of electro-acupunture.

Although many owners notice an immediate improvement in their horses, it may take 3-5 treatments to see results. Chronic conditions usually take longer than acute-onset conditions to treat.