Uncommon Pursuits: Mikahla Insalaco Jestes

Insalaco says that when it comes to acupuncture, animals aren’t that different from humans. Acupuncture is based on the idea that illness is caused by disruptions in the flow of the body’s vital energy, called qi. “Animal anatomy is of course different from people’s, but the same meridians are present,” she explains. She often gives racehorses acupuncture to bring their bodies into alignment for a race. (In some states and some other countries, acupuncture is seen as an unfair advantage and is prohibited on race day.) She says it also eases soreness and relieves stress, and can address what’s called obscure lameness, a subtly abnormal gait that doesn’t have a clear cause. “A vet might say something’s off, but [the cause] hasn’t quite revealed itself,” she says. “That’s where acupuncture can dovetail so nicely with Western veterinary medicine.” She also uses myofascial release, a type of massage, on horses. “Just because they are big doesn’t mean it takes brute strength to shift stuck muscles and energy in their bodies.” In 2018, to enhance her practice, she developed a line of CBD tinctures, balms, and gummies called Purity CBD. Since animals have an endocannabinoid system similar to a human’s, she offers a formulation for pets, as well. The products are derived from a hemp extract from Colorado; this year, she and her husband plan to grow it on their farm.
Insalaco has ridden horses since she was 4 years old. She came to FIT to study merchandising after working as a buyer for a Maryland retailer that specialized in horse equipment and equestrian fashion. While contemplating a career change, she came across a description of acupuncture that resonated with her. “I was fascinated by the concept that the body has the ability to heal itself.” After three and a half years of study, she received a master’s degree in acupuncture and a certification in treating animals. Her experience with horses gives her special insight into their maladies. Along with a veterinary diagnosis, sometimes riding a horse can give her insight into its needs.
“One cool thing about treating animals is they’re unbiased,” she says. “There’s not a placebo effect as we have with people. Either the treatment is helping, or it’s not.”