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  • Writer's picturesue Falber

The Elements of Influence in Equine Touch

Equine Touch is a holistic hands on bodywork modality in that we look at the whole horse and take in the different elements that may be affecting or have affected the body and mind. Just as the body affects the mind so the mind can affect the body. Is the horse in pain or discomfort when training or are there any behavioural issues? Is a question that must be asked. Pain or discomfort in the body will affect the mind and cause stress. A stressed horse will have a hollow back and a high head with a tense neck and often protruding shoulder blades. Muscles can only be nourished when they are in a relaxed state. Energy comes from building muscle. A horses top line can look wasted despite having never been ridden. If a horse is constantly stressed the muscles will be so tight that they cannot be nourished. Again pain or discomfort in the body will affect the mind and cause stress.

The graphic shows those elements that Equine Touch Bodyworkers take into consideration when working with the horse and owner/rider. As bodywork professionals we cannot and do not know everything and will always have a team of professionals in other modalities that we can contact and refer to. It really does take a village in order that we can look to do the very best for your horse.

So let us consider the elements in a bit more detail :

Teeth & Saddle Fit I always request information on when the teeth and saddle were last checked and the name of the professional that carried this out and if I feel that there is an issue in this area they will need to be addressed again. Simply by palpating key points on the TMJ and the back the horse will show signs if there is an issue - this can be something as subtle as an ear flick and/or tail swish to a head toss to a full on rear or kicking out - signs of discomfort or pain.

Feet No foot - no horse a saying that has been around for decades and research has shown that the hoof affects everything and everything affects the hoof. If there is an issue in the shoulder or the hip it will be reflected in the foot and vice versa. The hoof is living, breathing growing soft tissue and needs to be attended to regularly.

Nutrition Nutrition is a key part of the horse and performance / behaviour. A horse fed on a high sugar and starch diet will show both physical and behavioural issues just as in humans. Likewise soya and alfalfa can cause huge issues amongst mares in the spring time. To repeat muscles can only be nourished when they are in a relaxed state. Energy comes from building muscle. A huge amount of behavioural issues stem from the gut and these can be exacerbated when feeding a high energy feed that has the horse bouncing off the walls and can lead to gut problems (stress) and issues such as laminitis, PSSM tying up, PPID/Cushing’s, equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance. Get the nutrition right and behavioural and physical issues will improve.

Rider and Training Is the horse suitable for the rider and the tasks that it are being asked for them to do or is the expectation of the horse beyond its level ability and level of training? Likewise the rider. An unbalanced or overweight rider can cause physical issues in the horse (One of the reasons why so many Equine Touch Practitioners also look to undertake full training in the human bodywork modality of VHT to be able to address the unbalanced rider who has compensations throughout their body) Asking a horse to compete every weekend jumping in several classes when it has been chilling in the field all week is not exactly in its best interests and is one of the reasons why so many ‘behavioural’ issues occur. Building a horses fitness over time is key. A good instructor or trainer is key to ensuring that the partnership is a success and they should also be able to notice when the horse is unbalanced or lame.

Environment Stresses are always present in the environment. A horse that is out 24/7 in a small paddock and is bottom of the herd is in just as stressful a situation as a horse that is stabled 24/7 on a noisy yard. If your horse is constantly having to change fields and field mates or is being subjected to being left on their own for long periods of time and is getting stressed then you need to act. Likewise if your horse is unhappy in the stable due to interference from other horses or people constantly walking past then you need to change things. It is fully appreciated that good livery yards are sadly becoming fewer and fewer but you need to give your horse a voice and remember you are paying your hard earned cash to ensure that your horses welfare needs are being met.

Obviously this is just a brief snapshot of each element and it needs to be taken into consideration that each element affects the other and is a constantly evolving picture - it is not about the bodyworker blaming the farrier or the saddle fitter or the rider but a coming together of professionals to help the horse be happier and healthier and hopefully gives you an insight into the fact that Equine Touch looks at the whole horse picture and asks the why.

Feel free to share and spread The Equine Touch word.

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