Jan Wiggert placed her hands on Trapper, a 19-year-old gelding, during a reiki session. Horses willing to accept the flow of energy through reiki will generally stand without restraint during the therapeutic sessions.

When equine reiki therapists talk about a flow of energy, they are not referring to the effort it takes to round up cattle, jump over rails, run a gymkhana pattern or travel over miles of trails. They are talking about a universal life force that can aid in relieving stress and discomfort.

An ancient healing practice used in human therapeutics to relieve stress and promote relaxation, reiki has spilled over into the animal world. Pronounced “ray-key,” the term is Japanese for “rei,” meaning “universal” and “ki” meaning “life force.”

Jan Wiggert, owner of Wiggert Equine Training Center near Holmen, has been attuned to second level reiki and uses the therapy on her family’s show horses.

“I’ve always been interested in reiki,” Wiggert said. “It’s been a lifelong journey. I think reiki is something innate in all of us. We can be a clear channel for the universal life force.”

She and her daughters show their Arabian and part-Arabian horses at regional and national level competitions, and Wiggert often gives their horses reiki sessions before they compete.

Before her daughter, Stephanie Eckelkamp, competed at the Arabian Horse Association’s Canadian National Championship with Fames Harley Girl, the mare received reiki sessions. The horse and rider team returned home with three national championships, three reserve national championships and three top ten placings.

Wiggert also uses the complementary healing technique on the animal patients coming in to the veterinary clinic where she works.

The therapy is administered through the gentle touch of the reiki practitioner who has been attuned to the healing method. A person becomes attuned to reiki through a centuries-old rite that passes the energy flow from master to acolyte.

Those attuned to the energy force generally report feeling a mild tingling sensation in their palms as they rest their hands on the person or animal they are treating. Many will also report their palms become warmer as they administer reiki.

Because it involves a simple laying-on of hands, reiki is a noninvasive therapy. Despite its simplicity, the therapy has been credited with easing tension, promoting deep breathing and stimulating the flow of the person’s or animal’s energy.

In humans, the therapy has been credited with helping people overcome stress, break unwanted habits or conditions such as smoking, overeating and alcoholism. Equine reiki practitioners claim it can have similar benefits for horses. In addition to calming horses, the stress relief provided by the therapy is said to help horses overcome vices such as cribbing and windsucking.

Advocates claim reiki can only help; it can never hurt. It aids the mind, body and spirit in removing various toxins and blockages in the energy pathways. The goal of reiki is to restore normal energy flow to these pathways by dissolving blockages created by stress, resentment, anger and disease. The complementary therapy assists the body’s natural ability to heal.

Practitioners emphasize that reiki isn’t a substitute for skilled veterinary care, but say treatments lowering stress levels, making medical health care more effective.

Administering reiki

Before they begin a reiki session, reiki practitioners ask the horse’s permission to administer the treatment. Practitioners ask permission by approaching the horse’s muzzle with both hands held forward and open to the horse. The horse will indicate its willingness for a reiki session by moving its nose toward the hands or stepping toward the practitioner.

Reiki practitioners will place their hands at specific sites on the horse’s body known as chakras. The seven major chakras or energy pathways in the body are the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, crown and the forehead. While reiki energy can flow to the recipient wherever the practitioner places her hands, most therapists will focus on those vital energy pathways of the body.

The practitioner will keep his or her hands on one spot until the horse indicates a release by yawning, licking its lips or chewing or by lowering its head and eye lids. Some horses might also produce more stomach noises.

Reiki practitioners feel animals tend to be great clients for energy work because they have no preconceived notions or skepticism that can get in the way of the energy flow as can be the case in humans.

Horse owners wanting to become reiki healers can approach a reiki master to receive the attunement and begin their journey along the path of the universal life force.