Zen Cows, Horse Massage Therapists, and Blind Acupuncture

March 2014:
A suit filed against the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Board challenges a requirement that animal massage therapists must be veterinarians.
As this article from Beef Online explains, veterinary acupuncture, based on scientific research and measurable results, has proven to be beneficial and profitable across the country.
In an earlier blog (below), I consider the techniques of…

A Midwest Veterinarian Who Sticks Pins in Bulls and a Blind Japanese Acupuncturist

Roy Schnell must be one cool character—he adjusts the bones of bulls that have neck injuries, and he sticks needles into horses. The Nebraska veterinarian uses chiropractic and acupuncture techniques, along with the usual vet medical treatments. He says these exotic methods don’t replace traditional medicine, but he maintains they can be a huge benefit.
Veterinarian Roy Schnell using acupuncture on a horse
I remember the adages I grew up with on the farm: Never stand behind a horse—let alone stick a needle in it; and never get in a pen with a bull—especially if he is suffering from neck pain.
But Schnell is trained in both chiropracty and acupuncture, so he knows how to apply pressure and adjust vertebrae to improve an animal’s comfort zone. He believes that by targeting specific points and nerves, even the immune system can be favorably stimulated. I don’t know if Schnell ever uses the word “zen” to describe the type of preventative acupuncture he advocates, but he does speak of sending electrical impulses through the needles to stimulate nerves and reduce stress in livestock.
Schnell performs most of his acupuncture on horses, but he thinks it will also benefit cows. I agree, although I have to say from personal experience, I empathize with any horse or cow that feels spooked when a man with a needle approaches.
Eighteen years ago, while I was teaching in Tokyo, I pinched some nerves in my neck and shoulder, so I asked the school nurse for advice. Atsuko knew the local medical scene, and when she recommended a chiropractor, I ignored my irrational fear of an Igor neck snap (or is it Eye-gor?). The chiro was good, and I didn’t hear any ominous crunches, but the treatments didn’t end my shoulder discomfort.
Atsuko was also a trusted friend, so when she next made an appointment for me with a famed acupuncturist, I said—with fear and foreboding—OK. Atsuko added, “Oh, by the way. The acupuncturist is blind. But he is very skilled. Nothing to worry about.”
She was right, of course. The doctor had an assistant, but he located the pressure points by sense of feel—and maybe some type of inherent samurai intuition. I was lying face down with needles going into my neck, shoulder, and back. At first I was as high-strung as a horse near open flame, but soon I relaxed and decided the experience was more zen than pin cushion. Speaking of fire, the doctor also used a technique called moxibustion. A few special needles had cups on top, like inverted thimbles. He placed a moss-like herb in the cup, and the assistant lit it. The heat radiated through the needle into my nerves. At least I wasn’t worrying about my shoulder anymore.
A week or so later I was fine—or at least that’s what I told Atsuko. I was not going to find out who she would recommend next. Both my treatments had probably helped in some form.
Whatever the case, Doc Schnell, the chiro-acupuncturist vet, has my admiration. If he can get a horse to stand still while it goes under his acupuncture needles, he is gifted. If he can adjust a cantankerous bull’s aching neck, he must be brave. Now if he pulls out the moxibustion and starts lighting moss on that bull’s neck, I want to be there to see what the bull’s idea of zen really is. by dan gogerty
Check out Stephanie Smolek’s article about Roy Schnell; her article and the photo above come from the Cattle Business Weekly.

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