In the early 1900’s, an osteopath named Dr William Sutherland discovered that when pressures were applied to the bones of the skull, the sacrum and pelvis were affected and vice versa. However, whereas traditional osteopathy focuses on the individual bones themselves, craniosacral focuses on bringing balance throughout the skeletal and muscular systems with specific focus on the individual bones of the skull, spine and sacrum.
Craniosacral therapy was originally developed by osteopaths for people. In the late 1990’s US-based Maureen Rogers started developing the technique for use on horses and other animals. The technique is a very gentle hands on therapy which encourages the horse to release the restricted movement of the bones of the skull, spine and pelvis.
Through Equine Craniosacral work, issues which are very often seen as conformation issues have been shown to be postural issues. As a therapy it offers an excellent an extremely effective alternative to more conventional therapies such as massage and physiotherapy, especially for nervous and anxious horses.
Krystyna Monks works with horses from all disciplines, from top level, high performance competition horses to children’s ponies. Many horses are forced to retire from injuries and wear and tear caused by lack of preventative care and treatment. Equine Craniosacral therapy can help horses combat the physical stresses and strains imposed on them (competing, hacking, or even just pulling back when tied up) and allows them to rebalance their bodies so they are able to perform more effectively and comfortably over a longer period.
Equine craniosacral therapy helps top level competition horses maintain peak performance and competitive edge and is gaining popularity in many disciplines, especially eventing.
Equine craniosacral can help horses that suffer from head shaking, lameness, hindquarter injuries, head traumas, tempromandibular joint (jaw) dysfunction and many other conditions.
CranioSacral is an energy-based therapy where the therapist uses light contact on specific parts of the body, not just the cranium, spine and sacrum. There is no physical manipulation of bones or tissues and the body is allowed to readjust at its own pace. The therapist applies specific hands-on techniques to the horse’s body to release restrictions in its musculoskeletal system and fascia (a web like tissue which is present throughout the whole body and which acts like a protective cling film around tendons, joints and ligaments).
CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle, non-manipulative but effective therapy; it encourages the body’s natural self healing mechanisms.
Equine CranioSacral Therapy can help to treat many conditions, both chronic and acute, including:
Facial nerve paralysis
Hock or stifle issues
Lumbar or sacroiliac problems
Head injuries and traumas
TMJ/TMD (tempromandibular joint disfunction)
Blocked tear ducts
Unexplained behaviour – bucking, refusing, rearing, shying, spookiness
Difficulty in making transitions, flat in work
Difficulty with breathing
Grinding teeth or difficulty chewing food.
Before a CranioSacral therapist can treat your horse you must obtain your vet’s permission. It is illegal for anyone to treat your horse without your veterinary’s consent.
A treatment usually takes around 1½ hours. This includes a thorough assessment of your horse and the treatment itself. After the treatment it is ideal if the horse can be turned out, or at the very least, led gently in hand for 15-20 minutes and then given the following day off.
Since most restrictions or problems have probably built up over a period of time it is not realistic to expect just one treatment to resolve everything. Although it is possible to see some change after just one treatment, the number of treatments needed will depend entirely on the individual horse itself. Usually 2-3 treatments at weekly intervals should see a significant improvement in the horse’s condition.
Equine CranioSacral Therapy is a holistic treatment and following detailed discussion with you as the owner/carer, all treatments are tailored to individual needs.
The way we keep our horses, the way we ride them and what we expect of them – all of these things expose our horses to traumas and injuries which often escape our attention. An everyday occurrence such as a horse pulling back when tied up can trigger off a train of events which can cause tension in the head and neck, back or elsewhere in the body, which may then lead to a horse being difficult to bridle, or difficult to ride. Slipping on the road, tight nosebands, bits, poor dentistry, ill-fitting tack can all contribute to ongoing and worsening constrictions in the horse’s musculoskeletal system. Equine CranioSacral can help relieve these constrictions and has even been known to resolve some problems which more conventional therapy has not been able to do e.g. headshaking.
CranioSacral helps to bring balance to the whole muscular skeletal system which in turn contributes to good balanced biomechanics (essential for the general long term health of joints tendons and ligaments) and overall health. When a body is out of balance compensation patterns set in, resulting in the over use and deterioration of muscles, nerves, joints, bone structure and the skeletal system. This often results in problems with hocks, stifles, low back issues, suspensory problems etc. Equine CranioSacral helps to resolve these issues.
All types of horses can benefit from Equine CranioSacral Therapy, from foals and competition horses, to retired horses.
The equine skull is made up of 26 individual plates, joined together by sutures. These act like joints between the cranial bones and help to disperse the effect of any impact to the skull – this includes pulling back, or being jagged on the end of a lead rope as some people do when trying to control a horse. The important thing to remember is that all bone is (or should be) healthy living tissue, which gives it a natural pliability – and it is why broken bones heal.
A newborn foal is even more sensitive to the pressures we place on its head, as it has even more individual plates, some of which continue developing and do not fuse until it is 5 or 6 years old – in the case of some Warmbloods, this can be as late as 7 or 8 years old. Tight headcollars or any significant external pressure on a young horse’s skull may have a long term negative on the horse, which if left untreated, may result in behavioural issues (such as spookiness) or worse still, biomechanical issues which may curtail the long term performance of the horse.
The good news is that Equine CranioSacral Therapy can help resolve these issues!
A horse should not receive Equine CranioSacral Therapy if it is injured and you have not already consulted your vet.
There is no specific ‘rule’ as to how often you should treat your horse as each horse is an individual. However, as a guideline, competition horses and those in heavy work would benefit from regular treatments, say every 6-8 weeks, simply because they are athletes and are subjecting their bodies to a lot of stress. Unless there are specific issues which need addressing, those in lighter work would benefit from less frequent treatments eg. 2-3 times a year, assuming the horse does not suffer a trauma such as a fall or pull back.
No, it is not necessary for your horse to have a known, specific problem for him to benefit from a treatment. All horses experience regular pressure to the cranium (bridles, headcollars etc) and these pressures on the skull affect bone growth and position. This can often set up compensatory patterns in muscles (especially the TMJ – head and jaw) which can significantly influence the overall biomechanics of the horse. An Equine CranioSacral treatment can help either retain or reinstate the integrity of the skeletal and muscular systems of the horse.
Equine CranioSacral Therapy has been known to help some headshakers where some of the bones in the cranium have become compromised and cause irritation and swelling to the tissues that line the inside of the upper-airway. See video:
A horse should not receive Equine CranioSacral Therapy if it is injured and you have not already consulted your vet. Equine CranioSacral Therapy does not replace traditional veterinary medicine or care.
Once your horse has been assessed and treated by your vet, and with his permission, then an Equine CranioSacral treatment will help your horse correct any physical imbalances caused by the injury. The body loves balance!
The visible signs of a horse ‘releasing’ during a session may include licking, chewing, yawning, sighing, moving/shifting weight, softening of the eyes, moving around the stable to adjust his posture etc.
Equine CranioSacral therapy is perfect for those horses which do not like the more conventional and perhaps more invasive forms of treatment. There is no manipulation and the therapist just uses a very light touch on specific areas of the horse’s body, allowing the horse to adjust at its own pace. This holistic therapy is extremely gentle and subtle and works at a deeper, more intuitive level than that of a ‘technique’ such as massage or physiotherapy.
Equine CranioSacral is also worth considering if you have come to a ‘dead end’ in trying to resolve a problem your horse may be suffering; because the therapy is not invasive, it will not harm your horse and it may just provide the answer you are looking for!
I always advise giving at least one day off after a treatment. If your horse is older and/or you can allow the time, then two days off may be beneficial, but I will always discuss this with you at the time of the treatment.
If at all possible you should be present at the first treatment, but as long as there is someone who can lead the horse up for me, then I can treat your horse without you being there. However, my insurance does not cover me for bringing your horse in or turning him out after treatment, so you will have to arrange for this to be done.
I can do some appointments at the weekend and in the evenings – please call me for availability.
All practitioners should be registered with their appropriate school or college.
A full list of UK Equine CranioSacral practitioners can be found at www.equinecraniosacral.com/practitioners-of-ecs.html#uk. In addition to Equine CranioSacral I am also registered with the European School of Equine Bowen Therapy (ESEBT), the European College of Bowen Therapy (ECBS) and the Bowen Therapists Professional Association (BTPA).
To remain on these official registers I must be fully insured, hold a valid First Aid certificate and attend regular training courses every year to ensure my skills are kept up to date.