According to the Holistic Horse website, Bodywork is “a general term for therapeutic methods that center on the body for the promotion of physical health and emotional and spiritual well-being, including massage, various systems of touch and manipulation, relaxation techniques and practices designed to affect the body’s energy flow.”
While that’s a mouthful, it does reflect the variety of therapeutic tools I use, and my goal – to help horses be more relaxed and happy, so that they can live and move and work as comfortably and smoothly as possible.
My experience has shown horses, as well as humans, respond to different modalities of healing at different times. It is beneficial to have the ability to facilitate the healing of an issue in multiple ways, often during the same session.
I am a facilitator for the horse to be able to heal its own self. While the results can be very powerful and exciting and rewarding, it is the horse who is doing the work. I am an assistant.
The exercises and movements I use are fairly simple, the finishing of each movement is done at a very slow pace allowing the brain and neuromuscular system to reprogram and release the stuck muscle contractions.
Holistic Horseworks Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding
April Battles has developed techniques to create “deep physical body unwinding releasing stuck skeletal issues as well as tight muscle issues not allowing the joints to load correctly causing mysterious lameness issues.” Using physical movement, accupressure points, trapped emotion clearing and energy releases, the horses change their posture to allow relief of discomfort in their body.
Cranial Sacral Energy Work
“The equine skull is made up of 26 individual plates of bone – These are joined together by sutures, which act like joints between the cranial bones, and are designed to help disperse the energy from an impact to the skull. CranioSacral work focuses on restoring balance throughout this structure and the rest of the body.”
When the bones in the head are out of balance the eyes and nostrils often will appear as one is higher and/or shaped differently than the other. I use this process to connect the corrections made to the cranial bones to the rest of the body. I begin with a Bladder Meridian Flow then move to working with my hands on various places of the skull, finishing by pulling the energy from the head to the shoulders, then to the sacral region of the horse.
I use several yoga exercises designed for the horse to increase flexibility and flexion through out the equine body. One of my favorites is the Drunken Horse for it releases tightness through the base of the neck, the withers and the muscles over and under the shoulder.
Those who are familiar with Reiki, the Japanese art of healing with energy, Healing Hands or Jim Masterson’s Light Touch, have a general knowlege of what I do.
“Energy medicine employs diverse methods to modify and manipulate the flow of energy within the body. The intent is to realign, replenish or stabilize the amount and the quality of energy within the human body.”
When one thinks about the body, it is made up of energetic responses creating vibrations. The forks help align and balance the vibrations within our body.
Sound and Vibrational Healing has been shown effective in not only relaxing and balancing the body as a whole, but in increasing and speeding the healing of many injuries, diseases and illnesses.
I have forks to work deep in the physical body assisting the removal of inflammation from joints and muscles. I also, have forks that work on the energetic level opening blockages in the body’s energy centers, chakras.
The Masterson Method
Jim Masterson developed a program of movements to release tension through out the horse’s body. It enables the horse to actively participate in the process of releasing tension. It is something you do with the horse, rather than to the horse. Jim also developed the Light Touch Method mentioned above.
I use the Light Touch with horses who prefer not to have their muscles moved around. This technique is very powerful and yet very gentle for the horse who cannot tolerate much physical exercise or is suspicious of new things.
“Massage therapy is manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) to enhance health and well-being. There are dozens of types of massage therapy methods (also called modalities).”
When massage is chosen, it is to release a particular muscle tightness or knot, that is slow to release, often in the middle of a muscle. The amount of pressure used is dependant on the individual horse.
Somatic Equine Exercises
“Somatic exercises are gentle movement patterns that shift the central nervous system to create new muscular habits. These new habits can alleviate chronic muscle spasms and pain caused by overuse patterns.” These exercises are very simple and basic movements done at a slow pace and repeated a set number of times before moving to the next location.
Essential Oil Therapy
In addition to the spectrum of therapeutic touching techniques, I can also utilize and tailor a regimen of Essential Oils for your horse. Essential oils are very successfully used with my own five horses for situations such as: anxiety when the schedule or routine changes, tight muscles, injuries, building confidence and many more.
100% natural does not mean 100% safe! It’s a common misconception that all natural ingredients are always safe, always gentle and never cause reactions. This is just not true. Many natural substances are highly toxic and irritating. Certain plants are deadly if ingested, some irritating to the skin and some have psychotropic properties unsafe for animals. Some plants are safe only in very small doses. I use Kristen Leigh Bell’s book Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals as my go to reference book.
While many commercial products have coopted the term “aromatherapy” to mean any scented product, true therapy using carefully selected and blended Essential Oils to address specific physical and behavioral issues in horses is something completely different.
Depending on your horse’s needs, I will be happy to determine whether Essential Oils can be a useful part of his path to a freer, healthier, happier life.
If you are in my service area, I will visit your barn, or you can bring your horse to me. I am inclined to have the horse “tell” me what’s going on, rather than being influenced by what you know or have observed. We will talk about your horse’s history throughout the session.
I strongly encourage the horse’s rider, trainer or owner (whoever has asked for the Bodywork) to be present for at least the first session. I want you to share in learning what the horse is expressing. The more interactive this process is, the better.
Our first session is an assessment of the horse. Depending on your horse’s specific issues this generally takes one to two hours. We begin with the energetic side of the process, preparing the physical body to recieve the muscle movements to come.
Bodywork affects the horse’s nervous system. Although there is no strong pressure or manipulation of the horse going on, some horses may not be able to tolerate more than 10-15 minutes initially.
We have to respect this sensitivity and be sure we are not creating a negative experience, lessening the chances of the therapy being effective within a reasonable period of time.
The horse ought not be worked for a minimum of 24 hours after the session.
Timing and frequency of sessions will vary according to each horse’s issues and progress.
This truly changes everything!!!!! You will be changing your horse in fundamental ways, not just addressing the one or two issues for which you may be initially seeking help. As the major issues are identified and resolved, other issues may be revealed, and the horse’s temperament, movement and reactions may change. They will change in a good way. However, those riding or working with the horse ought to be conscious of the changes and adapt to them going forward.