Newly adapted to the equine industry in the last decade, craniosacral therapy is a uniquely efficient way to keep horses in biomechanical balance and maintain skeletal and muscular health.
C raniosacral therapy is also used successfully in treating specific equine conditions such as headshaking, TMJ imbalances, head traumas and facial nerve paralysis.
Craniosacral therapy is highly effective in treating both acute and chronic injuries. What makes this therapy unique is its specific focus to the equine skull and its relationship to the rest of the body.
Originally known as craniosteopathy, craniosacral evolved from the practice of osteopathy. In the early 1900s, Dr. William Sutherland, an osteopath, discovered that the bones of the cranium connect to the sacrum through what he referred to as the “core link.” The core link is made up of the skull or cranium, the spinal cord, the dura mata (the protective sleeve around the spinal cord) and the sacrum. Sutherland noticed that when “pressures” were applied to the various bones of the skull, the sacrum and pelvis were affected; the same principle applied when it came to the sacrum: eventually, pressures applied there would affect the bones of the skull.
These structures are connected, not only by muscles, fascia, ligaments and tendons on the outside, but importantly by the tissues from inside the core link. While traditional osteopathy focuses on the bones themselves, craniosacral focuses on bringing balance throughout the skeletal and muscular systems with specific focus on the individual bones of the skull, the spine and the sacrum.
APPLICATION OF CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY
Equine craniosacral practitioners apply specific hands-on techniques to the horse’s body to release restrictions in the musculoskeletal system and in the fascia, a tissue that weaves the whole body together like a spider web. Craniosacral is an energy-based therapy using light contact like acupressure. There is no physical manipulation to the bones and tissues. While specific attention is given to the cranium, spine and sacrum, treatment is not limited to these areas due to the way the body is connected.
Practitioners are trained to first assess the equine client’s movement, posture and soft tissue. Hands-on techniques release restrictions throughout the body’s musculoskeletal system, restoring balance and fluidity of the biomechanics.
THE EQUINE SKULL
The equine skull is a giant jigsaw puzzle made of 26 individual plates of bone joined together by sutures. Sutures act like joints between the cranial bones and are designed to help disperse the energy from an impact to the skull. All bone is healthy living tissue and has both a blood supply and fatty tissue, giving it a degree of natural pliability. The skull of the newborn foal is made up of more individual plates and develops until 5-6 years of age. Any external pressures or compression from trauma on the young horse’s skull will have deep effects.
Throughout the life of a horse, many pressures are regularly applied to the cranium, from tight fitting nosebands, pressures from bits, improperly fitting bridles or halters, and dental procedures.
Whether the pressures are applied from devices or injury/trauma occurs to the bones of the skull, the natural bone positions of the skull become disorganized and out of alignment. The sutures of the skull can get jammed, affecting the horse’s neurology, sinuses, balance, TMJ function, gait movement, head carriage, poll flexion and overall biomechanics.
TREATMENT How do you know your horse needs craniosacral therapy or may benefit from it?
The body loves balance. It will try to create balance in an imbalanced state via compensation patterns. These compensations cost the body over time and aid in the breakdown of joint function and musculoskeletal health. Many times behavior issues result. Compensation patterns exist for all equine athletes!
Any horse can benefit from craniosacral work especially due to the fact that all horses experience regular pressures to the cranium throughout their lives. These pressures on the skull affect bone position and create compensation patterns in the TMJ function and in mastication patterns, which influence the overall biomechanics of the horse. Retaining or reinstating the integrity of skeletal and muscular systems can be vital in the health of an equine athlete’s longevity, comfort and wellbeing.
It is important to work with professionally trained equine craniosacral practitioner. Equine CranioSacral does not replace traditional veterinarian medicine or care.
Case Study: Craniosacral Treatment Successful in Headshaking
Hektor, a TB gelding, raced successfully for the first four years of his life. He was sold in the autumn of 1990, age 11. Unknown to his new owners, he was a headshaker.
His headshaking was first noticed in the spring of 1991. Hektor was diagnosed as having seasonal allergies and being light sensitive. He suffered a head trauma with compression to the right nasal bone, frontal bone, sphenoid and maxilla. To make things worse, in 1995 he had another head injury, losing his two front incisors, only exacerbating his initial condition. Swelling of the tissues that line the inside of the upper airway affected the head injury. After his second head injury, he shook his head 24 hours a day. His headshaking was so severe, it rendered him unrideable.
Treatments tried prior to craniosacral therapy included antihistamines, steroids, chiropractic and acupuncture, none of which provided much relief. In 2000, 10 years after the onset of the condition, craniosacral treatments began.
A significant change was noticeable after the first craniosacral treatment. After the second treatment, the headshaking nearly stopped. After five treatments, Hektor was free of headshaking symptoms. He remains free of symptoms to this day. Hektor receives regular craniosacral treatments to maintain his overall balance and wellbeing.
-- Maureen Rogers, Equine Craniosacral Consultant Maureen Rogers is a pioneer in the field of Equine CranioSacral therapy and the founder of Equine CranioSacral Workshops, a US-based company that trains others in these groundbreaking, noninvasive methods. She travels internationally for teaching, lectures and private consultations and works in conjunction with veterinarians, equine dentists, trainers, physiotherapists, and horse owners, who seek out her expertise in equine craniosacral work, biomechanics of the performance horse and rehab therapy skills. Rogers is the producer of a 15-minute DVD called Hope for Headshakers. For more information about Equine CranioSacral therapy or upcoming workshop information, visit www.equinecraniosacral.com .