Sunday, May 2, 2010
Bodywork at Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary
by Jill Deming, M.A - Certified Massage Therapist
Jill is a member of the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork
During my initial bodywork session with each horse, I carefully evaluate each individual. I keep in mind that at this stage in their lives my objective is not to address any dysfunction in the body of the older horse, but simply to help them to be comfortable. This is because many of these horses have dysfunctions in their bodies that they may have been living with for quite some time. They have learned to adjust to these difficulties and their body compensates accordingly. To make any major changes at this point could be catastrophic.
I begin by working at the junction of the head and neck, a neutral non-threatening area of the body, because predators will often attack the head. Initially, I also want to stay out of the kick zone (around the hindquarters), I want to establish that this experience is pleasurable and non-threatening. By allowing the horse to invite me into his personal space, rather than forcing my way in, there is a much better chance of having a successful bodywork session.
For this reason, I use a lot of CranioSacral Therapy and Myofascial Release in my work. CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle and non-invasive modality. The CranioSacral system extends from the occiput (in the area of the poll), down the spine to the coccyx (tailbone) and is comprised of three layers of membranes. The outermost layer is the dura mater which is a tough, waterproof membrane that houses the brain and spinal cord. The next layer is the arachnoid layer, and the inner layer is the pia mater which adheres snugly to the inside of the spinal cord. These membranes are constantly bathed in fluid. This fluid is known as the cerebrospinal fluid. It pulses throughout the life of the horse (also all other animals as well as humans) and influences the movement of the skull bones and the connective tissue (fascia).
Fascia is the layer of connective tissue directly under the skin. When you cut into a chicken, recall the stretchy, translucent layer? That’s fascia. It is similar to a body-stocking just underneath the horse’s skin—-encompassing all the muscles. It extends from the brain to the hooves and everywhere in between. If horses (as well as all mammals) didn’t have fascia, they’d be nothing but a bag of water. Fascia gives us our shape. It also contributes to the health of the horse by increasing transport between the cells, moving nutrients into the cell and toxins out.
In addition to its’ location just under the skin, the fascia extends 3-dimensionally throughout the body, encompassing muscles, organs, bones—in short, all structures inside the body.
Whenever the fascia has been disturbed in the body, it will be felt other places as well, because of the fascia is so interconnected. It is impossible to influence one area without also influencing others.
Because so many of these horses are in such fragile health and some of them have compromised immune systems I don’t try to change the structure of the fascia, as I would endeavor to do in younger, healthy horses. Instead, I work within their energy level.
The previous owner of one of our resident geldings is apparently uphappy that he received a visit from an Animal Control officer shortly after one of his horses was moved to TREES.
In seven years, TREES has asked law enforcement to look into only two situations. For the most part, we feel owners respond better to advice concerning elder management than to any sort of "threat." In addition, we don't want to have a reputation with local Animal Control officials as The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
However......when we take in a skinny lame horse, and when a sanctuary respresentative tells us she observed other thin horses on the property, we get concerned. When a mutual acquaintence says the horse we accepted looked far worse when we got him than when she saw him only a few months before, the concern heightens. And when, after being offered feeding advice, the owner himself tells us he "has no intention" of doing anything differently for the horse, that tips the cart.
In this case, the advice was merely to change from a generic whole grain general livestock feed to any pelleted or extruded complete feed that could be softened for a dentally challenged senior. No recommendations for a "top of the line" formula, just something that this particular horse could actually chew and digest to get some calories into him.
"I have no intention of getting a different feed for this one horse" was the wrong answer. § 3.2-6570 of the Virginia Code states "A. Any person who:............(ii) deprives any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment;......is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor." Knowingly giving an animal something he cannot eat seems to be depriving him of food necessary to his survival.
We understand that horse owners run into hard times and sometimes need to ask for help. We do not understand the declaration "I have no intention" of doing anything different.
No apologies here.