From Head to Tail: Balanced or “Stuck”?
While attending an instructor clinic several years ago, a spontaneous educational event occurred and fascia was first explained to me in a barn. I was fortunate to observe cranio-sacral work on a horse “stuck” in its movement who had some tight spots, especially in his TMJ, which affected his stride. Sure, all the parts are connected; we know that the origin of physiological problems may be somewhere else on the horse’s body. But I was fascinated to see how this “melting” of the problem area changed the movement of the horse in a completely different place.
Fast forward a bit, to a nurse practitioner suggesting I try cranio-sacral therapy for myself. And then came good fortune: to have the previously mentioned equine practitioner work on my horses. To see – and feel – the changes that took place amazed me. Even better, he taught me to utilize a specific technique; this was the first recognition that a new adventure, already begun, had been jump started into something way larger than I had anticipated
Fascia, or myofascia, is the elastic, connective tissue in our bodies that surrounds every organ and cell. It holds us together, stabilizing the organs and muscles, and determines our flexibility. Considered “self-directing” and “self-intelligent”, fascia determines the extent and ease of our movement, ensuring our vital parts communicate with each other. Fascia has recall memory; a holding pot for emotional trauma and tension, any fascia release can produce both physical and psychological healing for human or equine (or dog, cat or other living creature!).
One practitioner described fascia as a “big sheet of plastic wrap that surrounds everything; when it gets crinkled, it needs to be ‘melted’ so it can straighten out”, which it does from the heat of our hands. An equine chiropractor, also a vet, explained that in vet school they learned about fascia: it was “the stuff you had to cut through to get to everything else!” Now our knowledge about what it actually does is great; surely the rising interest in fascia release work comes partly from the results of experiencing it! Ever see the white stretchy film on a chicken breast? There it is; that’s fascia in the flesh
Last fall, when presenting at Equine Affaire, I became fixated on attending a workshop by Margret Henkels, who had studied extensively the role of fascia, with significant experience working on horses. Margret had a book signing (Is Your Horse 100%?) and I went to meet her. A fascinating conversation ensued; she had desired a Centered Riding Instructor to connect with, and I hoped fascia release work could address an equine body issue.
Margret had developed Conformation Balancing, a program integrating the many facets of equine bodywork she had invested years in studying. We eventually created and presented a workshop entitled “Soft Riders, Soft Horses”, our coordinated effort to facilitate softening the multiple areas of tightness affecting both horses and their riders; we have presented this twice so far. I have completed her course, becoming certified to work on equine bodies. And what a fantastic journey…
In some circles, fascia is considered to play an important role in just about everything. If it gets “stuck” we may have issues somewhere within the body: movement, pain, anxiety, tension, tightness, and flexibility, to name a few. Because it surrounds and connects all organs and systems, each part is affected by the whole; an entire network (Margret Henkels calls it internet-like) impacts each minute and large piece in our structure by directing, recognizing, reacting, compressing, releasing, remembering, and feeling. That’s quite a system, and no doubt works better than my computer!
Articles are available on the effects of tack on a horse’s nervous system and fascia. We need not avoid using tack; perhaps our practices will change somewhat as we consider fit and purpose in a new light. Personal observations from horses I’ve worked on have implicated pressure points from horse clothing, tack, equipment, injury, trauma, riding, or inactivity. Certainly, this list is not exhaustive; many physical and environmental factors can impact fascia.
The good news: our horses can be helped and they do tell us where the issues are. This is non-invasive work; strategic placement of our hands, on specific points of the horse, changes the temperature of both our hands and the horse’s body, ultimately changing the fascia. Horses do the work themselves, going deep inside and allowing the changes and releases. Any areas they don’t need, or aren’t ready for, are places they resist, directing us to those spots most productive and helpful to them at that time.
Of course, none of this precludes the need to consult your vet for health issues of any kind. But it is nice to know there many ways to assist our horses to optimal health and functioning!
Dorothy Crosby is certified both as a Level III Centered Riding® Instructor/Clinician and CHA Instructor for both English and Western riders. Dorothy manages a small farm in Stoddard, NH, where Equi-librium is based. Most recently, she has added fascia release work on horses through Conformation Balancing. Her joy is in teaching humans and equines of all ages and levels of experience. http://www.crosbyequi-librium.com
Learn cranio sacral releases for your horse-.
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Perfect for stiff horses, high strung horses.
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