Equine Rehab &Therapy
The Science of Bio-mechanics and Art of Feel
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Equine Taping
By Jeff Moore, ESMT

Kinesiotaping, Proprioception, Fascia & Movement

At Equine Rehab & Therapy, we are always looking for better ways to help horses feel better and work to ability. In the last few years, that quest has led to interest in proprioception (the body’s ability to know where it is in time and space); the true role of fascia; effecting both through movement; and looking at the role emotions (how the horse feels about what is asked) play in creating or healing lameness. (See the article on Equine Ulcers and Jia wei Xiao san on our Cranky Mares - Equine Hormones page.)

Based on the work of Tom Meyers (anatomy trains), therapists have come to realize that the fascia plays a much more active role in the biomechanics of the horse (or Rider) than had been thought. Instead of a ‘levers and pulley’ way of looking at bones and muscles, Buckminister Fuller's idea of tensegrity has been applied to vertebrate bodies with a much more effective result for therapy. The fascial system acts as the tensioner and bones and septum act as the structure so that if you create tension or inflammation in one part of the system (let's say a hock), it is distributed over the entire horse, creating patterns of tension and tightness. Just injecting the hock does not automatically return the system to normal (neurological muscle memory). The reason it doesn't always return to normal is that the body’s proprioceptive and pain systems have adjusted for the pain (compensation). Once the pain is gone there doesn't seem to be the same ‘drive’ to return movement to previous status. Hence the common cycle of re-injecting joints or have a chiro ‘re-adjust’ the same vertebrae or having recurring tendon strains.  Because of this, I've focused on fascia in my bodywork sessions for a few years. But there are always more levels the deeper you go.

The way kinesiotape came into my life was by a combination of experience and theory. (See article from Quarter Horse News).  I had been looking into articles of Ida Rolf and looking at the neurological feedback circuits of proprioceptive receptors and the brains control of how it interprets those signals and then fires our movement muscles. At the same time, I got bucked off a horse into a frozen pile of rocks and separated my AC shoulder joint. Since my job was working on horses, I was eager to try anything that was effective in taking the pain away. Someone recommended kinesiotape and I laughed. How could a piece of stretchy tape do ANYTHING? But I tried it and it worked, really well. As a biologist, it was hard to associate cause and effect – but it worked, well. So I started digging and realized it was the neurologic feedback that I’d been reading about. So now I’m a certified practicioner with Equi-tape for horses and Rock Tape for both humans (riders) and horses. I realized that it was the perfect way to help horses by helping their riders be more symmetric. Pain always locks up a body’s movement, no matter how much we think we can ‘tough it out.’ So by reducing a rider's pain and thus increasing their ability to really follow their horse, we help horses perform better and stay sounder. Then combine that with equine bodywork and giving the rider a range of tools to help their horses themselves and we get amazing results. The last piece of the clinics are repatterning movement. It's great to feel better and have your horse feel better, but often that comes apart when we get back to work.

A horseman’s feel can be defined as the appropriate response at the correct time to a horse's movement. Feel happens faster than we can think about it. As we train, we create habitual responses to different situations, like young horses who squirm to be ‘straight.’ If we hone our ‘feel’ with a non-symmetric body to a non-symmetric horse, then ‘fix’ ourselves and our horse, our feel and timing go out the window for a bit because they are automatic and tuned to our old body patterns. This actually happened to a barrel racer when I was first taping. I applied a posture taping in the middle of a 4 day race and she hated it because it ‘felt’ wrong. Needless to say’ I don't change things during a race anymore: We do it the last day of our clinics. Using targeted exercises we put rider and horse back together and teach you how to start repatterning how your horse ‘starts’ his movement to maximize performance and soundness. Putting those legs together, our Symmetry Clinics were born. (See our description under Clinics)

This is just the surface, there is so much more to talk about, but I've also included a series of interesting links about fascia and random ideas below, in case anyone wants further reading. Feel free to email questions to me on my Contacts page. This is an exciting idea that can help alot of performance and sore horses.

Link to Quarter Horse News Article

"Stick It to Them," by Kelsey Pecsek (Jeff Moore featured), Quarter Horse News, June 1, 2016

Links to Other Interesting Articles

"Mind Over Matter" National Geographic, December 2016

"Adaptive Compensation ConsequencesIASI Yearbook, 2012

"The Functionality of Dysfunction" by Leon Chaitow, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, October 2003

"Myofacial Chains in the Horse" by Vibeke S. Elbroend, Rikke M. Schultz, Abstracts, European Veterinary Conference Voorjaarsdagen 2013

"Fascia: Not Just the Organ of Form?" by Marilyn Beech, IASI Yearbook, 2010

"Fascia as a Body-wide Communication System" by James L. Oschman, Elsevier Ltd. 2012

"Perception" by Karen Bolesky, Chapter 4 

"Why Nothing Works" by Erik Vance, DiscoveryMagazine.com, July/August 2014

"Improve Your Horse's Balance" by Wendy Murdoch, www.HolisticHorse.com, Feb/Mar 2014