Why should I consider bodywork / manual therapy for my horse or myself?
Manual therapy is a gentle and natural method of helping the body to rebalance itself and return to a more naturally relaxed state. Massage has been a method of restoring health and wellness for humans and animals for many thousands of years. Researchers have found references of equine massage dating back to the ancient Chinese dynasties in 3000 B.C.
When we (or our horses) are chronically stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is operating at a high rate. This is the "fight or flight" instinct that is important for our survival, but is unhealthy when we spend a prolonged period of time in it. Massage returns us to a more balanced state where our parasympathetic system kicks in - when we can 'rest and digest'. Massage is an excellent means of reducing stress, muscle tension, and musculoskeletal pain.
What types of problems can bodywork help?
Horses that begin to show resistance and unwillingness are often letting us know that something is wrong. Massage helps with issues like cold back, stiffness, short striding, resisting the aids, girthy-ness, pain, lack of balance, ease and flexibility. For riders, regular bodywork can reduce muscle tension, spasm, stiffness, and improve flexiblity, balance, comfort and range of motion.
What is massage?
Massage is the educated manipulation and stretching of muscles to reduce tension, pain and stress. As of 2014, the State of Michigan requires massage therapists to be licensed by the state. This is for your protection as a consumer. Massage helps promote the body's own healing capacities. It relieves muscle tension and spasm, promotes natural relaxation and reduces stress. Therapeutic massage can also help release restrictions in the body that diminish function. Improved suppleness, balance, ease, range of motion, flexibility, and relaxation are just some of the benefits of massage for both horses and riders.
What is myofascial release?
Myofascial tissue, or connective tissue is a three dimensional web that gives our bodies structure and support. It is a 3D web that connects every element of our internal body to other structures. MFR, or myofascial release is a specific hands-on technique that trained professionals use to help release restrictions deep within the body. It is a therapeutic form of massage.
What is Cranio-Sacral Therapy?
The CranioSacral system is comprised of a large sheath of myofascial material (connective tissue) that encapsulates the brain and spinal cord. Using very gentle, light touch, the therapist helps the body release restrictions in the connective tissues of the body so that improved function is restored. CST shares many common elements with myofascial release therapy, but often focuses specifically on optimizing the environment and function of the Central Nervous System.
What is Energy Healing or Reiki?
For thousands of years humans have recognized that an unseen life force energy inhabits all living things. The Chinese call it Chi, the Hindus call it Prana and the Japanese call it Ki. Our scientific and medical research communities refer to it as Biofield Energy. When our life force energy is depleted or stagnant, we can experience decreased resistance to stress and illness. Reiki is a technique to help the body rebalance itself by creating improved flow and movement of this energy. This enables us to shed stress and relax more fully and naturally. Many hospitals, hospices, and other healing centers around the world are now using Reiki or other form of energy based healing touch to help assist patients in reducing stress and anxiety. Some people even report their chronic pain is decreased.
I often incorporate Reiki in my work as it helps the client to relax naturally.
What is "Integrated Bodywork"?
It is the educated use of several appropriate methods of bodywork by a trained professional. In client sessions with both humans and horses it is common to use all of the methods above to promote greater comfort, ease and wellness.
How does massage or bodywork help my horse?
Domesticated horses are exposed to many stressors. These range from nutrition and environment to social isolation, and physical performance stress. When a horse is stressed we sometimes observe behavior changes. Horses are athletes and; like all athletes, are subject to overuse, strain and injury. Massage or integrated bodywork is a gentle and non-invasive way of helping athletes feel and perform at their best. Bodywork is a great health maintenance option because it keeps horses supple and willing and often provides early warnings when the body is stressed.
When is the right time to massage my horse?
All horses, regardless of breed, age, or job can benefit from regular bodywork. Bodywork helps prepare the muscles for work, relieves spasms, tension and restrictions that contribute to pain and dysfunction. Different types of bodywork are appropriate at different times. When a horse is in training, on stall rest, coming back to work after a layoff or injury, when a horse is showing discomfort or behavior problems, before and after competition, and as part of a general health maintenance and prevention program. It is important to realize that a chronic longstanding issue will not be immediately resolved with one or two sessions, just as one would not expect a single visit to the doctor or a single dose of medicine to immediately resolve a longstanding or acute soft tissue injury or condition.
When should I not have my horse massaged?
When any acute medical condition is in progress, proper veterinary care is vitally important. Horses that are in shock, running a fever, have untreated infection, bleeding wound, or a cancer diagnosis should generally not be massaged until stablized and given the ok by the attending veterinarian. We don't massage under these circumstances because massage stimulates the circulation of blood flow to various parts of the body. Increased blood circulation is not advantageous for many of these conditions. In the case of cancer where the prognosis is terminal, many health care professionals believe that massage is an appropriate paliative care method to promote relaxation and reduce stress.