It's not massage. It's not chiropractic. Just what is Rolfing?
Equestrians of all disciplines recognize the need for a multifaceted approach to the care and maintenance of their four-legged companions. Many riders investigate complementary therapies to aid in injury recovery and prevention and to enhance athletic performance. Rolfing® has long been used by human athletes, from baseball stars to flying trapeze artists, to keep their bodies sound and to perform their best. Now Rolfing has been adapted for the equine athlete as well.
Myriad modalities exist within the realm of holistic equine therapy. Most people are familiar with traditional maintenance massage therapy, which treats stress and muscular tension caused by challenging athletic endeavors. Equine sports massage is generally administered prior to competition to increase circulation as well as activate proprioception (perception of the body in space), in readiness for performance.
The drawback to massage is that it does not correct musculoskeletal imbalances that can be the underlying cause of tension; thus, tissues quickly resume their previous level of tonus to support the body. Continuous applications are helpful in maintaining the benefits of massage.
Many equestrians turn to therapies founded on the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Chief among these are Acupuncture, Acupressure and Shiatsu. By stimulating pressure points along specific energy pathways called meridians, these treatments seek to restore the flow of life force, or ?chi,? in the body, the balance of which is essential to health and well-being.
To remove energy blocks, Acupuncture uses fine needles, while Acupressure and Shiatsu rely on pressure from fingers or thumbs. Shiatsu differs in that it involves some stretching and rotation of the limbs and relies not on information gathered from the owner but rather on the horse?s own responses to direct sessions. TCM-based therapies are highly effective for treating stress, fatigue, and digestive, circulatory, urinary or reproductive organ disorders.
Usually categorized as a form of massage, Rolfing® theories are more closely related to chiropracticmedicine
Both Rolfing and chiropractic deal with the concept of alignment, which chiropractors address through manual spinal manipulation, utilizing the application of controlled force. The purpose of such treatment is to restore mobility to restricted or subluxated (partially dislocated) joints.
HOW DOES ROLFING WORK?
Rolfing changes skeletal alignment through manipulation of fascia, or connective tissue. Each muscle, bone, tendon, ligament and organ is wrapped with this formative tissue, and it shapes our bodies. Consider this: if you were to put a skeleton together with no glue or wires and try to stand it on the ground, what would happen? It would fall down in a heap. That?s why bones are wired together and hung from a hook (think back to the dusty skeleton lurking in the corner of your high school biology classroom).
Bones are spacers in the body; they give tendons something to attach to and act as levers for muscles to pull on, creating locomotion. Rolfers lengthen the tissue pulling on the bones and the skeleton adjusts in response, restoring alignment and functionality.
- The body's innate intelligence will always lean toward healthy alignment
- Once balance is restored, changes tend to be long lasting
- Rolfing can be applied on an as-needed or tune-up basis
Minor injuries that have seemingly healed can plague a horse for the rest of his life because they create pulls and strains in the fascia. Progression of pain can be prevented or slowed by decreasing pressure on the compromised area of the body through Rolfing.
Susanna Baxter, a graduate of The Rolf Institute for Structural Integration (the sole certifying body for Rolfers in the United States) has more than 15 years of horse experience and a desire to deepen the connection between horse and rider. She lives in beautiful Western Washington with two cats and a Quarter Horse mare, Belle, traveling to many areas of Washington and California to work with equine clients. To learn more about Rolfing® and how it can help you achieve your goals, contact Susanna Baxter, Certified Rolfer, at (206) 407-4932.