What is Equine CranioSacral Therapy (ECST)?
ECST is no different to human CST, although a horse’s CranioSacral System is more sensitive and subtle than a person is, it is based on the core principles of CST founded by Dr John Upledger.
It is a uniquely effective method utilized to maintain horses in biomechanical equilibrium and preserve skeletal and muscular health.
Treatment with ECST can have a profound calming and rebalancing effect on the state of the horse’s nervous system.
How does ECST work?
ECST is a tissue-based therapy that utilizes light contact on specific areas of the body, there is no physical manipulation of the bones and tissues. Each horse’s body readjusts to treatment at its own pace. It engages with the body’s natural self-healing mechanism.
Due to the fascial connections of the tissues, treatment is not limited to the cranium, spine and sacrum.
What does an ECST treatment involve?
Treatment is carried out outside, away from the horse’s stable or box.
The therapist initially assesses the horse’s movement, posture and soft tissue.
During treatment the horse may need to walk out, this allows their body to adjust to treatment.
The therapist uses CranioSacral Techniques to help release restrictions throughout the body’s musculoskeletal and nervous system, restoring postural balance and fluidity of the biomechanics.
After treatment, it is ideal for the horse to be turned out and given the following day off.
How many treatments will my horse need?
Most restrictions or problems are most likely to have built up over a while, therefore it is unrealistic to expect dysfunctions to resolve after one treatment. Although it is possible to see changes after just one treatment. The number of treatments required will depend entirely on the individual horse itself.
An improvement in the horse’s condition following 2–3 treatments every 2-4 weeks can be visible.
Why use ECST?
How a horse is kept, and ridden and what is expected of them – can expose horses to traumas and injuries which often escape the owner’s attention.
A pullback when tied up – can trigger a chain of events which can cause tension in the head, neck, back or elsewhere in the body. This can lead to the horse being difficult to bridle or even ride.
Slipping on the road, tight nosebands, bits, poor dentistry, ill-fitting tack – these can all contribute to ongoing and worsening constrictions in the horse’s musculoskeletal system. ECST can assist in relieving the restrictions and has been known to resolve some problems which more conventional therapy has been unable to.
ECST aids in bringing balance to the whole musculoskeletal system which contributes to well-balanced biomechanics (this is essential for the general long-term health of joints, tendons and ligaments) and overall health. Compensation patterns set in when the body is out of balance, which in turn results in the deterioration of muscles, nerves, joints, bone structure and skeletal system. ECST helps to resolve these issues.
Which horses can benefit from ECST?
All types of horses, from foals to competition horses to retired horses can all benefit from ECST. Although a horse doesn’t need to have a known, specific problem for them to benefit from ECST.
How often should a horse be treated with ECST?
There is no specific rule as to how often you should treat your horse as each horse is an individual.
• Horses in lighter work benefit from less frequent treatments like 2-3 times per year unless they suffer a trauma like a fall or pull-back.
• Competition horses or those in heavy work benefit from more regular treatments like every 6-8 weeks, because like athletes they are subjecting their bodies to a lot of stress
What to expect during and after an ECST session?
- During Treatment
- Increased gut sounds
- Release of gas, bowel movement
- Lowering/dropping of head
- Softening of eyes / relaxed look
- Licking / chewing
- Breathing changes – decreased rate and sighing
- Lower lip quivering
- Gelding can ‘drop’
- Changes in sweat response
- Zebra striping – lymphatic flushing
- Changes in posture are noticeable
- The horse feels more balanced when ridden
- The horse may be stiff or lame 24 hours after treatment this is how a horse responds whilst adapting to changes as their body tries to self-correct and heal. This is why it is recommended to give them a day off.
Why consider ECST?
All horses experience regular pressures on the cranium (bridles, headcollars etc) and these pressures on the skull can affect bone growth and position. This can often set up compensatory patterns in the muscles (especially in the TMJ, head and jaw) which can significantly influence the overall biomechanics of the horse. An ECST can help either retain or reinstate the integrity of the skeletal and muscular systems of the horse.
Pre and Post Treatment
Before beginning ECST
Obtain VET’s consent for the horse to be treated with ECST.
Always allow a day off after treatment.
With older horses allow a couple of days off