Benefits of ECST
Relieves stress and pain
Uses a "light touch" technique
Bypasses "fight/flight" response for more complete release
Improves posture, stance and balance
Supports more supple and relaxed muscles
Helps resolve emotional and behavioral issues
Has a calming effect
Helps improve focus
Equine Cranio-Sacral Therapy (ECST)
What Is Equine Cranio-Sacral Therapy?
ECST is the application of light touch on specific areas of the horse's body known to hold tension and stress. It is a gentle, supportive way to help your horse maintain their ideal health and conformation and to help reduce the chances of injury.
How Does It Work?
Spinal fluid serves several purposes, two of which are to nourish the body's tissues and nervous system and to flush them of toxins. To accomplish this, spinal fluid is produced and then dispersed, creating a rhythm of ebb and flow up and down the spine and into and out of the cranial cavity known as the cranio-sacral rhythm impulse (CRI). Though very subtle, the CRI can be physically perceived, as can blockages or interruptions in the flow caused by pain, tension, injury, and misalignment.
Restoring Alignment & Flow
All elements of the equine form prefer to be in proper alignment in order to function smoothly and at their optimal performance. Given the right support, elements which have been misaligned will naturally return to their correct alignment, resulting in a sense of safety and comfort, and a state of good health. ECST provides this support through light touch to specific key areas of the body. Touch attracts the body's attention to that area and can encourage the body to release any pain, tension, or even physical and emotional trauma being retained there.
The Benefit of Light Touch
When someone touches us, we respond according to the quality of touch. If we are struck, grabbed or poked, the response may be defensive. On the other hand, a gentle touch can prompt comfort and relaxation. Horses are no different in this respect.
The beauty of ECST is that the light, sustained touch used in its practice generally bypasses the horse's sympathetic nervous system (more commonly known as the "fight or flight" response) and can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect upon the horse. This is especially helpful in areas of pain, since it encourages the horse to naturally begin to relax those specific muscles slowly and gently, rather than tensing and holding through the pain or pulling away and becoming reactive.
The Results of Relaxation
When a horse slowly and gently relaxes painful or tensed muscles, they release tension, stress, pain, and even emotional or physical trauma, allowing for improved movement, flexibility, harmony and comfort. This is not just beneficial in general, it can also be helpful in preparing a horse when there is need for more in-depth physical work such as massage, chiropractic or medical attention.
Everything Is Connected
It might seem unusual that releasing tension in one spot can relieve pain in an entirely different area or in multiple areas, but even a cursory examination of anatomy reveals that everything really is interconnected. For example, when there is injury on the right side of the body, tension, discomfort and pain can develop on the left side as healthier muscles work to compensate for the reduced strength and efficiency of the injured area. In ECST, this can be used to great advantage and efficiency as release of tension in one area has a cascading effect which encourages other areas of the body to release tension as well.
When a horse is reactive for seemingly no reason, it is important to recognize that they are not just misbehaving, they are trying to communicate to us that something hurts, that something is not right. Most behavioral issues are a reaction to pain or to fear, which can be caused by stress, tension, injury, overwork, misalignment, trauma, abuse or other factors. ECST can help resolve behavioral issues because because it specifically addresses many of these causes.
While ECST is very effective on its own, combining it with other healing modalities such as EMFT, chiropractic and veterinary care, and equine dental services and more can create a very powerful and supportive routine. To learn more about combining ECST and EMFT, read this post.