Herd Bound, Barn Sour Horses and Shiatsu Massage

Many years ago, my friend Louis J. Schwiebert, wrote several articles for “Western Horseman”. I was recently revisiting some of his articles and found one in the March 1989 issue that resonated with me. It was about his work with barn sour and herd bound horses. What stayed in my mind was how he handled the horse’s overwhelming urge to go back to the herd. His process involved getting the horse to realize that what Louis wanted the horse to do was more enjoyable than the alternative of being with the other horses. It’s also a concept that is certainly not new, and one that has been highly publicized and marketed in recent years. However, in his article, Louis gave some good ideas and food for thought. It reminded me that Shiatsu massage is also a good tool for getting these types of problems resolved. I want to share with you one of my unexpected learning experiences about how Shiatsu massage actually helped to resolve a dependent and fearful horse’s issues.


Shiatsu can help more than most people realize. It will make sense when I explain what was going on. During one of my off-site school programs this year, I had a student that recently acquired a new horse. It was an Arabian mare and she had several behavioral issues. She was herd bound, agitated and out of control.


On the first day of class, in order for us to work on her, this student also had two other horses tied near the mare. She did this because the mare would not behave away from her buddies. Even when she was with some buddies she was still agitated and spooky. Once we got to work, her whole demeanor changed. She was finally quiet. She went from being an extremely upset horse to one with her head hanging, eyes closed, and she did a lot of licking and head shaking as she tried to stay awake.


After the massage I took her for a little walk away from her friends. During out walk I made clear what I wanted her to do , had her do it, and she became quiet obedient. Then I returned her to the hitching post and what was to come next was interesting. When the other horse tried to love on her a little, she wasn’t interested anymore. When we put them back in the pasture with the herd she went off by herself and grazed a little distance away from the group. This is something she’d never done before. Now being independent and feeling calm for the first time away from her herd, she became quite the elegant lady.

So what was going on in her world? Here’s my take on it:

Stress makes both humans and animals even more dependent on others than might be their natural state. Stress in the body makes us feel insecure, keyed up and chatty. If you are not peaceful within, you seek those without.


On the other hand, when a person feels in charge and dynamic, their life needs nothing and silence becomes their companion. I have seen this many times with my human clients over the years. When I finished working on them they were peaceful. Many reported back to me that while they were social they now also loved the feeling of being alone without the noise, chat and interaction of others. When stress is reduced, so is anxiety and it opens up the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of peace and confidence. It is no different with other living creatures.


I encourage everyone to explore the benefits of Shiatsu massage for both themselves and their animals. If you feel this is something that you would like to learn for yourself, my techniques are easy to learn and apply. It will empower both your horse and you.

Contact Us Today!

Geary Whiting’s Equine Massage Therapy School for Horse & Rider

P.O. Box 1836
Big Sur, CA  93920

Phone No.: 530-410-5270

Email: info@gearywhiting.com