Why do horses need Equine Structural Integration?
Equine Structural Integration (ESI) is an individualized series of session that can help return your horse's body to its ideal balanced state. It is scientifically proven as a powerful method for restructuring and realigning the body. Sessions unwrap structural and neuromuscular holding patterns in the connective tissue that compromise fluid movement. The effects of ESI are long-lasting because 'we are reprogramming' - not simply relaxing - the connective tissue. One of the outcomes of Equine Structural Integration is the returning of connective tissue back to a more 'original' state, which is both elastic and gel-like. As a benefit, due to this property of connective tissue, ESI is a premier method which can be of aid when rehabilitation becomes necessary. Sessions help horses organize themselves to overcome road blocks which compromise their performance. Your horse will feel, look and move better.
“Your horse moves, looks and feels like the horse you first envisioned he could become”.
When chronic adhesions release their hold, the horse's structure realigns so he can move more efficiently. Flexibility increases as range of movement of the fascial planes increases. When the different layers of fascia are once again able to glide effortlessly over one another, freedom of movement emerges. This translates into your horse having more rhythmic grace. Results also include increased potential energy and power and a willingness to perform along with the rider.
What is connective tissue and what causes reduced flexibility?
Connective tissue (or fascia) is the bodies richest sensory organ. With nerve endings throught, connective tissue is an internal web that permeates and surrounds the entire body. It is found under the skin, encases all of the organs, surrounds all of the bones and and envelops and permeates each muscle. Our tendons and ligaments are made up of connective tissue. Its purpose is to connect the entire system into one working whole. Ideally connective tissue is elastic and gel-like, allowing each muscle and bone to glide by its neighbor, supporting and working in harmony with each other.
Due to its web-like structure, when one area of connective tissue is affected, it affects other areas as well...
Injuries, chronic stress or strain, aging, even normal wear and tear can cause fascia to thicken into adhesions as the tissue repairs itself, often becoming fibrous and glue-like in the process. This reduces flexibility of the joints and prevents muscles from lengthening to their full extent. All horses, even healthy ones, develop inefficient movement habits and accumulate a history of kicks, falls, and bruises. Over time these travel through the horse's body compromising his comfort and movement.
An example of how compromised connective tissue can affect other areas throughout the body: -- A pulled muscle in a horse's left foreleg can cause a horse to favor that leg. Over days or weeks this might cause this horse to put greater strain on the right leg and shoulder. These compensations may further begin to cause the horse to strain his neck on the right side and upper back. The horse now feels unbalanced and is more limited in his movement choices. Clearly this horse can no longer function at its best. Over time this horse's body will begin to rigidify the fascia into a more fixed position to support the imbalance as other parts of its body compensate further.
What is the difference between Massage and Equine Structural Integration?
One of the most common misconceptions about Equine Structural Integration (ESI) is that it is a nothing more than a type of 'very deep massage'. There are many varieties of massage, which are particularly effective for loosening tight tissue, increasing blood flow and detoxing the body to increase the feeling of relaxation and well-being. Since these benefits are also a byproduct of ESI, the general public experiences confusion as to the precise difference between our work and other touch modalities.
Ray McCall, a Certified Advanced 'Rolfing' Structural Integrationist, and a former student of Dr. Ida Rolf (the creator of Structural Integration) has said that, "What Structural Integrationists do can be summed up in three words: "palpation, discrimination and integration". They 'palpate', or touch the tissue, feeling for imbalances in tissue texture, quality and temperature to determine where work is needed. They 'discriminate', or separate fascial layers that adhere and align bones and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury. Finally, they 'integrate' the body, relating its segments in an improved relationship, bringing greater physical balance within the gravitational field.
Other soft-tissue manipulation methods, including massage, are quite good at the first two, but do not balance the body in gravity. Dr. Rolf used to say: "Anyone can take a body apart, very few know how to put it back together!" The true genius of Equine Structural Integration is the art and science of reshaping and reorganizing the horse's physical structure according to clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner.
In addition to skills as structural integrators, we are also educators. The role of teacher is something every Structural Integrationist takes seriously. In each session, Equine Structural Integrators seek to impart insights to their clients to increase their awareness and understanding about the changes taking place in their horse's bodies. Our job is to make ourselves obsolete, by empowering our clients to take charge of their horse's physical health.
What is the difference between what is accomplished in 'performance enhancement' vs the goals of 'rehabilitation' in horses?
Most horses fit into the category of 'performance enhancement', though some chronically impaired horses which need 'rehabilitation', are better seen as project cases who need more long term work. The difference between the two is that with performance enhancement, you get to see what the horse can truly be. In rehabilitation situations, the goal is to bring the horse to a stable, balanced place and help the animal stay there.