When possible I treat horses in a round pen, where they are free to move around, without a halter on. In this way the horse can choose when and how they receive therapeutic touch, as well as allowing their legs to move as tension resolves in their system. When I begin a CST session, I take the time to settle within myself, to feel into my heart, attune to the horse and owner, and approach very slowly when I am invited by the horse to do so. This allows the horse to settle and develop trust in me, and gives me the opportunity to discover important information about the horse.
Stress symptoms in horses show up in a variety of ways such as eczema; headshaking; apathy; poor digestion; asthma; nervousness; colic and muscular tension - which can lead to lameness and the horse becoming introverted.
Horses vary tremendously in their reactions to stress situations, just like people. Some are tough and some are extremely sensitive. Stress factors include poor quality feed; lack of exercise; poor ventilation in stables; wrongly fitting shoes; badly fitting saddles; riders using their hands for balance; pulling on the reins on a metal bit pressing down on the horses tongue......being asked to do too much; accidents and injuries. Riders may arrive at a stable after a hard stressful day at work angry and tense, and work it out on the horse in the same way. Foals that are abruptly weaned from their mother may have great difficulty being alone, and can easily work themselves into panic.
During a treatment, horses may lower their head quietly in front of you; position their shoulder near your hands; stay close or move away from their owner; walk away; gallop around; roll; scratch their tail on a post; sniff the ground; stand somewhere by themselves and then sudenly walk back to you; re-position themselves; standing still, showing exactly where they would like to be touched. After a while the horse may walk away again and come back to you later.
It is important to respect this behaviour for the healing process, as the horse needs time and space to work through an issue as it resolves. As you take time to reflect and attune to the process, you may feel drawn to suppor the horse from a distance, in the long tide, or simply hold a safe space in stiillness.
Equine therapy treatments are 1 hour long and are given to horses at their stable..
Passionate about horses all my life, with my own horse and years of Parelli Natural Horsemanship training, I have found a way to bring biodynamic craniosacral therapy (CST), to the horse world. Horses often respond very well to CST treatments and may breathe deeply; yawn; stretch their back upwards; exhibit muscular trembling as tension releases; gurgle in their intestines; fall asleep; cough; stretch a leg or snort, during a treatment. Their owners may have similar experiences at the same time. Sometimes tears flow as hearts open - sacred healing moments.
CST can help mobilize the inner health and energy of the horse, supporting the natural healing process. This strengthens the immune system, supports the release of trauma from the nervous system and most importantly, helps the horse relax. Relaxation is fundamental for healing, allowing the body system to let go of unnecessary tension, compression and strain and then to rebalance.
Parelli Natural Horsemanship teaches people how to understand horse body language. Through love, language and leadership, the method shows how to relate and communicate with horses in a safe and respectful manner. Horses mostly use body language to communicate with each other, rather than using their 'voice' as dogs do. Understanding this is essential to being able to 'talk' with horses. Parelli also encourages emotional savvy - how to be calm and neutral with horses instead of expressing negative emotions. As horses are prey animals, they will do their utmost to hide any signs of illness, pain, or injury from possible predators, so working therapeutically with horses requires a deep level of attunement. I find settling into the long tide, becoming very calm and peaceful during the session, is often the most effective method of treatment.