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What can Myofascial Release do for horses?

What does an Equine Myofascial Release Session look like?

Most horses respond very positively to John Barnes Myofascial Release within the first Release. The work is safe, gentle, and works within the horse's comfort zone.  It is never forceful. And when you don't force your way into a muscle, but allow the tissues to invite you in by being patient - You'll never injure the tissue, but just release what has been restricted.  In the worst case scenario, you just take the body through a range of motion - thus the work is completely safe when a therapist uses the principles of being present and listening to the body.  That being said, Jenna places an important emphasis on communicating with veterinarians and encourages owner's to trust their intuition.  If something feels "off," Jenna encourages owners to reach out to their veterinarian.  Jenna also welcomes opportunities to speak with the professional team that's involved in a horse's care.  Trainers, vets, farriers, and chiropractors can all provide deep insights that look at the horse as a whole and aid in appropriately treating the horse for the most efficient result and optimal performance.

Jenna begins most Equine Myofascial Release sessions by observing the horse's walk or movements.  She watches for areas of restricted movement -- and often starts where there's the least amount of movement, or the biggest fascial restriction.  But before she begins any hands-on work, she assesses the alignment of their pelvis by standing them up square.  First time horse-client's often find it difficult to stand square for longer than a few seconds, but once Jenna begins to release the body, a horse will naturally step into a more balanced and square position without being asked. 

Jenna loves to involve owners with the assessment and teach them what to look for.  Owner's are the best defense for sensing or observing when their horse needs help and what that help might be.  Is one hip stuck up high? Is there less rocking on one side? Does one leg twist inward? Is there a lack of bend around a circle -- and where do you see (or as an owner, FEEL) that bend is most restricted?  Maybe it's more of a behavioral change you're seeing - or your athlete isn't able to do the task you're asking.

After deciding where to start, Jenna will begin a technique, which is held a minimum of 3-5 minutes, often much longer.  The slow and sustained pressure, or time component, is what differentiates John Barnes Myofascial Release from other forms of massage and Myofascial release.  It's after 3-5 minutes, that there's an anti-inflammatory response (interleukin 8 is released). A horse sense the reorganization of the fascia and exhibits a release: their breathing may start to change, their eyes will drop, lips will quiver, a horse may lean in for more depth (not necessarily more pressure), they may stretch while under her hands, they may shake their neck or sway, or you may observe muscles quaking or sweating in other areas of the body that Jenna's not working on. What's happening is that the body is lighting up like a Christmas tree -- telling Jenna what's connected through the fascial body or matrix - to what she's doing, and where she may need to treat next.  Once a horse understands what's going on, they may even gesture and point to exactly where they're feeling it, or what needs to release.

At the end of a session, Jenna will again, assess the pelvis and observe the walk for changes.  She communicates what she felt with the owners, trainers, or vets and farrier's.  Her goal is to treat what she sees and FEELS, let go of the outcome and create the most optimally functioning body possible. 

Changes from the work are fairly instantaneous, but it's not uncommon for the body to continue shifting days after the work.  Jenna knows this from receiving the work herself -- it's not uncommon to return to an activity of daily living and realize she's approaching it from a new angle or able to do it with ease (something as simple as walking up the stairs without leg tightness). With increased and prolonged myofascial work, the changes may more subtle, but it doesn't mean it isn't just as profound.  And without work for a prolonged period of time, Jenna noticed that she'll feel "gummed up," and that's her sign that she's waited too long in between sessions or self care.


After MFR, you may find your horse more calm and happy, have the ability to pick up more difficult leads (the first time you ask), have an easier time bending, have a decrease in cribbing or grinding, they may accept the bit more readily, have more lift, be more supple and in general, have more flexibility and strength now that their muscles can fully lengthen and contract, ability to stand square without being prompted, bigger movements, decreased back pain... there's some benefits, that only you as the owner may notice as you observe their daily routine.  For example, they may now be able to roll over completely, verses doing one side and then the other.

The changes in your horse may be so profound, that you may start to wonder what this work could do for you!