Category: Cranio Sacral Therapy
I was in the barn. Quietly working on a client’s horse. Two women were having a conversation down the isle. I wasn’t trying to eaves drop but I couldn’t help but over hear. “Susan is great, she has gone to Fill In The Blank School and my horses are always better after they see her. She’s only good for massage though. If you need anything else, you better try Jeramiah” said the one lady. “Oh really” said the other, “My friend told me that Jeremiah was better at massage and to see Dr. Nix for other body work”. “She said that Susan was not very educated.” “I heard that Kathy was great at energy work although you can’t tell what she is doing.” So on and so forth.
First, I know that there are good and bad trainers, good and bad therapist and good and bad farriers. While I may have an opinion about another practitioner’s work, I keep it to myself. In reality, no one person is perfect. You have to find what works for you. Honestly, most people making the judgements about a particular practitioner being good or bad usually don’t even know enough to make that decision anyhow. Some practitioners are really good and know a lot but aren’t good at expressing it. Some practitioners don’t know as much but have a great bedside manner. Even others are great with horses and not with people. You get the drift?
The women meant well and were only trying to share their experiences. However, I know each of these practitioners and while it is true that each has their strengths and weaknesses, they all are good. Public perception is the key to having a good business in the horse world. As we know, the public can be quite fickle in how they make “rational” judgement. In fact, there are books written on how little we actually remember the facts when things happen. Usually we remember how we felt. Why am I saying this? To discredit these women… no. To make people sound like flakes…no. Just to open our eyes that sometimes we make decisions and we just aren’t qualified to do so.
Where Am I Leading You?
There is something you don’t realize. Each practitioner out there doing bodywork or energy work is tapping into the same universal life force (or qi) to help your horse. Each one has their twist/name/language but that is only where it differs. How do I know this? Let me explain. Let’s start with definitions.
Massage: using manual techniques to release restrictions in muscles, fascia and soft tissue.
Chiropractic: using manual techniques to re-align structures such as joints and the spinal column.
Acupuncturist: using needles to regulate the qi of the body to allow the horse to heal itself.
Craniosacral Therapist: using their hands to feel changes in the craniosacral rythym and release restrictions.
Reiki Practitioner: using their hands to channel the universal qi to facilitate healing
QiGong Therapist: another type of energy work based on chinese medicine.
And so on…
Each of these modalities uses some type of touch or hand work to interact with the energy of the horse. It is all energy work. I don’t believe in splitting hairs here. You can take a practitioner from each school and ask them to evaluate your horse. They will all find the same thing but will describe it differently based on their education. They will all be right and they all can help. Anyone who tells you any differently is being competitive!
I speak from experience. I do acupuncture, acupressure, craniosacral therapy, massage and reiki. I cannot tell you where one begins and one ends. Once I put my hands on the horse, I use all those modalities to give me feedback about the horse and use all those modalities to facilitate the horse healing itself. I could describe what I feel either from an acupuncturists school of thought, a CST practitioners language, a massage therapist vocabulary or a reiki practitioners consciousness. While there are many differences in each of these modalities and each of them takes many years of learning and practice to master, they all deal with the universal life force that exists in every living animal.
So next time you try and decide what modality is best, stop trying to kid yourself. Unless you are a master of all, you won’t really know. Give each practitioner a chance to help your horse. And dismiss any practitioner that tries to tell you why they are best.
New Massage Techniques
Over the past couple months I have been studying and practicing a new kind of massage called the Masterson Method. This work is based on the techniques and the life work of Jim Masterson, a renowned equine massage therapist who has worked on many international horses. For more information on the Masterson Method read this article.
What’s so great about this kind of work? It falls in line with a host of other techniques I use everyday. Jim’s special twist is a combination of massage, cranio-sacral therapy and myofascial release. Although that’s not how he advertises it, that’s what it is. Having studied craniosacral therapy, positional release and myofascial release, Jim’s techniques made total sense to me and to the horse (you could tell by their reaction). The Masterson Method added some cool ways to help me unlock tension in key junctions of the body from head to tail. I am happy to now offer this work to my clients.
These key junctions include the tmj, poll, withers, shoulders, neck, ribs, thoracic and lumbar vertebra, sacrum and SI joint, hips, stifles, hocks, fetlocks and feet but as you can see, all areas of the body can be treated with this method.
Your Horse Will Tell You
In addition, this kind of therapy you do with a horse not to the horse. As the practitioner, I constantly check in with the horses’ reaction and body language to determine where therapy is needed and how long to stay on a particular body part. If you watch the horse, they will tell you everything. Having this extra piece of communication really gave purpose to what I was feeling with my hands.
Many times I am asked how I feel what I do. It’s all energy. If you practice long enough you can feel where it’s flowing, stuck, too active or deficient. Couple that feeling with a reaction from the horse and you got a great two way communication system to really help horses feel better in their body. Often, just some simple techniques can help a horse unlock and become freer. A full on treatment can really make a big difference.
While bodywork can’t replace veterinary care, it is a great way to accomplish four things:
- help the veterinarian know where to concentrate their diagnostics and work.
- efficiently treat compensatory pain, lameness and bad biomechanics.
- complement what you are doing with your vet and your horse for lasting results.
- address body issues that are keeping your horse from performing its’ best.
I am now including this work in every treatment. The hardest part is finding the time! With so many techniques now in my tool belt, I can’t fit them all in. Luckily, I get to see my patients more than just once. If you’d like to schedule a treatment and experience these new techniques, please call Rebecca today!
What are the benefits of acupuncture for your horse?
With acupuncture becoming widely accepted and veterinarians literally seeing the benefits, no wonder acupuncture has spread to the four legged community. It’s not uncommon to see veterinarians and acupuncturists working in vet offices and clinics supplying a much needed medicine to cats, dogs, horses etc. The vet community even has an organizing body (IVAS) to certify veterinary acupuncturists. States such as Maryland are also certifying licensed acupuncturists to work on animals.
In addition, the FEI has ruled that acupuncture can be used on competition horses without breaking FEI rules. Studies have shown an reduction in anesthesia needed by 31% when acupuncture was used during animal surgery. Effectiveness has been studied and documented in clinical trials.
So what does this all mean to you and your horse? Well, we already know that acupuncture used often and that it’s effective now lets look at some real down to earth examples of how you can experience the benefits of acupuncture.
- Dollar savings. how much does it cost to have hocks injected? $500-$1000. Many horses can forgo hock injections (and other invasive treatments) and be treated with acupuncture instead. Not only does it reduce pain but also treats the underlying cause of why the horses hocks are getting sore in the first place.
- Less anti-inflammatories. This goes along with #1 in saving money too. Acupuncture is so effective at treating pain, anti-inflammatories are not needed. This is even better news considering the link between NSAIDS and ulcers and Corticosteroids and their many side effects.
- Increases performance. This could be just from allowing the horse to be more comfortable when performing. Think of the consequences of making a race horse more comfortable during running. Just shaving a second off their race time can make the difference between 1st or last.
- Less down time. Acupuncture is effective in quickening healing time in muscles, fascia and bone. I have seen it first hand with suspensory injuries with ultrasounds to validate.
- Happiness. Acupuncture treats both physical and emotional symptoms. But lets be realistic, if your horse feels better he will act better. Chronic pain wreaks havoc. Ask anyone.
So here’s a short list of scientifically proven diseases that acupuncture has helped.
- skin conditions
- back pain
- neck pain
- behavioral problems
The question I am asked most often is how frequently should one receive acupuncture treatments. In the US, the common recommendation is one treatment a week for 8 weeks but it really depends on how acute or chronic the condition is. This schedule may be OK if the person is supplementing their treatment with Chinese Herbal medicine. However, I believe the above schedule is more based on economics and the current health insurances recommendations. Therefore it is seriously erroneous.
Based on a review of Chinese literature, treatments should be much more frequent to guarantee success. For instance, Wang Le Ting (a Chinese master in the 20th century) treated serious conditions daily for varying lengths of time. The following examples will explain:
- Patient #1 complained of dizziness, heart palpations, headache, poor sleep, poor appetite, loose stools, and painful joints. Treatments consisted of acupuncture every other day for 12 treatments. Afterwards the patient was fine and had no recurrence.
- Patients #2 complained of depression, anxiety, chest oppression, abdominal distention, fatigue, lack of strength and constipation. This patient was needled several times a week for 1.5 months until all symptoms were eliminated.
- Patient #3 had symptoms of insomnia, frustration, anger, outbreaks of crying, spasms in the limbs and worry. Acupuncture treatments were administered every other day for 8 treatments plus an herbal formula for 10 days.
- Patient #4 was diagnosed with acute prostatitis with burning hesitant urination, high blood pressure. He was treated every day for 5 days.
- Patients #5 complained of symptoms of dysmennorhea including abdominal pain, bloating before menses and delayed menstruation that was profuse, dark in color and contained clots. She also had low blood pressure, profuse dreams, loose stools and decreased strength. Treatment was administered very day for 5 days before menses for 6 months.
- Patient #6 had problems with infertility but western medicine could not find a reason. She sought out acupuncture with complaints of irregular menstruation, depression, worry and a cold feeling in the abdomen. Acupuncture treatments were three times a week for 40 treatments. On the 5th month the patient became pregnant and went on to have many healthy children.
With an acute condition, I would prefer to see my patients two to three times per week. On more chronic issues once a week for 8-12 weeks is more realistic.
In the US, we want results instantaneous and often we prematurely judge acupuncture and other alternative modalities. Instead I encourage you to give alternative therapies a fair chance to show their effectiveness. Become aware of the subtle changes in your body that define health and make the necessary life changes that allow the body to heal itself. Look at is this way…
One acupuncture treatment $60-90
Two acupuncture treatments $120-180
Better health, holistically with no side effects PRICELESS!
Do you realize how important regular acupuncture treatment is?
Are you giving you and your horses body enough attention? I find that horses and riders as major athletes are not tending to their bodies enough. Imagine this, you just got off work, fought traffic heading to the barn, you jump out of the car, take a deep breath and go catch your horse. In your rush to get in a ride before dark, you hastily walk your horse toward the light of the barn when suddenly he spooks, jumps right on top of your foot. As you scream in pain, he panics, jerks away and runs off. After your friends help you catch your horse you sit and nurse your bruised toes. Your horse seems fine and your foot is just sore, nothing broken.
But, two days later you notice that you’re still walking with a limp. You go to your doctor only to hear that it will just take time to heal but nothing is really wrong. In the meantime, your horse seems out of sorts too.
What can you do to make sure you and your horse get back to greatness in no time flat. GET SOME BODYWORK!
Complementary and alternative therapies are not meant to be a once in a while kind of treatment. They are meant to keep the body in balance through the ups and downs of everyday life. It is almost impossible for a body to remain in balance on its own. Especially when subjected to stress, wear and tear and the hectic life of today’s culture. Lack of body balance can manifest as a whole host of issues from muscle and connective tissue injuries to insomnia, headaches, digestive upset, organ dysfunction, emotional upset… the list is endless.
There are many ways to bring the body back into balance including massage, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, asian body work, yoga, pilates, qi gong, tai chi, alexander technique, feldenkrais, nutritional therapy and herbal therapy to name just a few.
And yes, I even need to remind myself not to neglect my body or my horses’ body because I run out of time, have too much going on or just too tired. Luckily, my horses are always my best teachers and yet again they have taught me a valuable lesson.
Most of you know how valuable acupuncture and craniosacral therapy has been to my black horse (Indy) that dealt with chronic pain issues. Even me, who sees the results on a regular basis, still tends to forget that energetic work is my best line of defense when things go wrong. But my chestnut (Dancer) has been quick to remind me. In the past, he has received regular treatments because (1) I know how important they are for prevention (2) I see his performance blossom when he gets them and (3) well just because I can! Most recently, Dancer started acting sore behind from starting more collected work. Being the beginnings of an issue, he is not lame (so a vet probably wouldn’t be helpful) but I wanted to act quickly to prevent a major injury. So, I rested him… no help. Tried medication… no help. Finally I went back to his regularly scheduled treatments and viola… Dancer is back to his ole self.
The message… get regular treatments for you and your horse. Your body & your horse’s will thank you. Believe me when I say that some prevention now will be well worth the savings in the long run. I have seen it time and time again with clients, both human and horse.
In my quest to not only become a better practitioner but also a better rider, I am constantly engrossed in journeys to expand my knowledge. Therefore, I feel compelled to share some quotes and notes from my most recent book readings. The following info is applicable to all horse owners but especially those wanting to better understand the physiology of horse movement and biomechanics.
Usually when vets treat musculoskeletal problems they can only concentrate on resolving the changes that have already taken place in the body. For example, treating bony changes in the hock and usually the accompanying hock pain. They usually don’t treat or speculate about the causes that precipitated these changes. Alternative practitioners and riders should be asking what predisposed this horse to these changes. What imbalances in the body or the riding has caused this diagnosis. Sara Wyche states in The Horses Muscles in Motion that “the only way we can ride the horse without causing him permanent damage is by utilizing the way in which he, himself, raises the forehand off the ground: namely by using the muscles of the back and of the hind limbs.” Sara goes on to say that degenerative changes in the bones of the horses back are a sad reflection of the way we ride. Personally in my practice, I have found this to be a major reason why most horses suffer from restrictions in their sacrum, pelvis and lumbar regions. Sometimes it is from past experience and riders but non the less precipitated by humans.
So along this thought pattern, we concern ourselves about the condition of the muscles for they propel the horse forward and are responsible for self carriage, the condition of the ligaments and tendons for they allow the muscles to properly influence the bones, and the bones for they supply the structural foundation. Especially important is the pelvis for it protects the internal organs and is the powerhouse of the horse, being responsible for attachment of large muscles that transfer movement to the spine and forward. Therefore, the pelvis, sacrum and their fibrous junction, the sacro iliac joint , is truly the bottom line and one of the most important structures in the ridden equine.
The psoas and iliopsoas are deep muscles which are important in the horses ability to raise the forehand. The psoas muscle begins inside the ribcage. “Its origin covers the area of the last three ribs, including part of the diaphragm muscle, and the underside of four of the lumbar vertebrae. From here it narrows to insert on the medial side of the ilium. The iliopsoas consists of two parts, one that begins under the lumbar vertebrae and one that begins under the ilium and sacrum. The two parts unite, and insert on the medial side of the femur.” (Taken from the Horse Muscles in Motion by Wyche) The psoas minor and iliopsoas muscles are perhaps the most important muscles in the ridden horse. The successful transfer of power and impulsion from the hindquarters is dependent upon them. In addition, the quadriceps femoris which extends the stifle and is linked to the hock aids in the horses ability to collect. This dynamic interaction of muscles is apparent in engagement of the hindquarters. For in order for the horse to bring his hocks under his body, the pelvis must be lowered and the lumbar spine stabilized. This is in large part the responsibility of the psoas minor and iliopsoas muscles.
This brief description is not comprehensive but allows us to start thinking in a biomechanical way (1) how we ride the horse, (2) how we train them to use themselves and (3) how we prevent injury by encouraging the proper use of self. Maybe next time we will cover rider biomechanics . Until then,