Hannah was a happy pony after receiving what I now call her "magic staple."

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

At horse shows, it’s not unusual for our horses’ care to differ from that of their daily routine. The workload, stall confinement, and foreign environment all require us to take additional steps to keep our horses healthy.

When my barn goes to a horse show, for instance, we strategically time farrier and chiropractor appointments to maximize their effects either pre- or post-competition. We apply alcohol or liniment to and bandage our horses’ legs nightly. Depending on the footing we might pack their feet at night, as well. Easily stressed horses or those with a history of gastric upset will receive an ulcer medication while at the show. We feed more hay since the horses will be stalled all day, rather than turned out on grass. We take biosecurity steps that we might not at home. We give real bubble baths instead of just quick rinses post-ride.

All these things and more have become ingrained into my horse show care routine. After last weekend’s show, however, I might be adding a new item to that list.

Upon setting up shop at the Kentucky Horse Park the day before the show and taking Hannah out for a schooling ride, my trainer and I both noted how feisty and marish (that might not have been the exact word I used...) Hannah seemed. A chestnut mare at her finest. The veterinarian was dropping by to perform acupuncture on another horse, so we asked if she’d run her hands over Hannah and see if she thought she was uncomfortable anywhere.

The staple supposedly hits an acupuncture point that elicits a calming effect.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

Point by point she worked her way around Hannah’s body with no major reactions … until she hit the so-called “emotional” point between her two front legs. Hannah let out a high-pitched squeal!

We laughed—and tried to elicit the same reaction a second time for video purposes to no avail—but in all seriousness the vet suggested placing a tiny surgical staple in Hannah’s forehead, at the base of her forelock. Apparently, the point it hits—Governing Vessel 24—has a calming or relaxing effect. Human and animal acupuncturists use it to calm the mind and help with anxiety and other brain-related problems. The staple falls out naturally after a few weeks.

I said let’s give it a go, and lo and behold Hannah was as happy and pleasant as she’s ever been at a horse show all weekend. Ears pricked forward, tail-swishing minimal, and squealing nonexistent. I am so trying this again at our next horse show in July and seeing if it has the same effect. And if it does, it’s definitely being added to our horse show care arsenal. I just have to warn the braider about it so my trainer doesn’t get a panicked phone call about a staple in my horse’s head ;)

How do you care for your horse differently away from home?