Equine body therapist Sherry Seals uses reiki, deep tissue massage and stretching to diagnose a range of health problems and treat pain in horses.

Image: Everett Dennison 

Hands-On Healing

Sherry Seals, a Parrish-based equine body therapist, once had a horse that threw a fuss at the sight of electric clippers. (It’s essential that a horse have a good haircut before a show.) Her job? To figure out why.

A lifelong horse enthusiast, Seals was an experienced vet tech who pursued holistic disciplines after seeing Dade City-based veterinarian and equine acupuncturist Dr. Peggy Fleming successfully treat one of her own horses. Seals is now certified in a variety of alternative therapies, including a range of stretching and body work, from reiki to deep-tissue massage. She also works closely with other local horse professionals, including veterinarians, farriers and trainers, to make sure her clients get the care they need.

Seals works by touching the horse all over, feeling for abnormalities in the skin, muscle tissue and fascia, as well as an assessment of posture and even lifestyle.

In this case, Seals noticed that the big thoroughbred, a regular client, had soreness in his hocks, the area halfway down the back legs. Hunter-jumpers are susceptible to leg injuries, and they can suffer from repetitive-motion maladies like any single-sport athlete, “no different from a tennis player who gets tennis elbow or a golfer who gets a bad back,” Seals says.

“His weird behavior was because he didn’t want to put weight on those hind legs,” she explains. “When you come at him with a pair of clippers, all he knows is that it’s uncomfortable.”

Seals referred the horse to veterinarians, who performed a full evaluation and were able to treat the affected joints.

One month later the thoroughbred competed in two shows in one weekend, taking first in his class at both. The owner sent Seals a photo of the triumphant horse, standing tall with his ribbons, sporting a fresh haircut. Hannah Wallace

What Your Horse Can’t Tell You, a Psychic Can

If you have sometimes wondered what’s on your horse’s mind, energy reader Vickie Emanuele says she can tell you. “I sense how they’re feeling, because I feel it in my own body,” says Emanuele, who works bicoastally in Florida and California. “I’m a medium; I can read the horse and balance its energy field with the shifting of my hands.” The reading, she says, ultimately helps with pain, balance, behavior and even food allergies.

That’s especially important with high-priced performance animals—say, a jumper that balks or a barrel racer that, in his horse heart, really wants to do dressage. (Emanuele says she worked with a horse and its owner on that very issue.) Emanuele’s session price of $125 for a 15-minute long-distance reading (working with a photo of the animal online) or $250 for an hour-long face to face may sound reasonable to an owner desperate to get their horse back to work again.

“I don’t have any clients who are skeptical, or they wouldn’t call me,” Emanuele says. But she adds that owners are sometimes amazed at the difference before a reading and after. Case in point: “I had a horse that didn’t want to go into its barn, because he was seeing the ghost of a horse that had been put down there,” she says. Moved to a different stall, the horse was “very happy.”—Kay Kipling

Poking Around

Horses respond to acupuncture treatment just like humans do. Some get excited when the needles come out, and some just plain hate it.

But according to animal acupuncturist Wendy Ying, even if an animal doesn’t like the procedure, acupuncture can help a horse deal with back and muscle pains, lameness and even conditions like anhidrosis, which prevents animals from sweating normally and can be a serious danger during Sarasota’s hot and humid summers. “A lot of people think acupuncture is just for musculoskeletal pain,” Ying says, “but it also helps balance energy in the body and can be used for nerve pain, organ problems and the immune system.”

In addition to acupuncture, Ying’s practice, Holistic Veterinary House Calls, offers chiropractic adjustments, herbal remedies and other traditional Chinese veterinary techniques. An introductory appointment costs $250, while follow-up visits are $200.—Cooper Levey-Baker

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