Equine Myofascial Release Therapy differs from other forms of equine bodywork as it focuses primarily on the body’s fascial restrictions. Trained therapists can listen to the tissue and apply appropriate sustained pressure into the fascial system which will positively affect the elastin, collagen and ground substance. Soft tissue restrictions that alter bony alignments are addressed and releases are performed slowly without manipulation.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is the body’s connective tissue, it surrounds and interconnects all organs, muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. The body’s fascial matrix is tasked with shaping, supporting, protecting and providing resilience to all structures in the body. Fascia also provides a division between all these structures, it creates space through which delicate nerves, blood vessels, and fluids can pass.
The Fascial Matrix
Fascia is a complex 3 dimensional web comprised of fibres and fluid that permeates the whole body.
Fascia is comprised of three main components; elastin, collagen and ground substance. Elastin consists of flexible fibres that can both stretch out and recoil in. They provide for the elasticity and mobility of fascia, allowing for the extensive movements that our horses make.
Collagen fibres develop into a tougher consistency and provide strength, support and stability. The composition of these fibres allows them to cross and link with other neighbouring collagen fibres or with water.The more collagen fibres that attach the stronger and tougher the tissue becomes. Likewise the more water that binds to the collagen, the more flexible the tissue becomes. This helps us appreciate why dehydrated tissue is tough and hard, and hydrated tissue is soft and pliable
The third component is called ground substance. Ground Substance has a composition that is like a thick lubricating fluid. Ground substance acts as a shock absorber, as well as lubrication to the elastin and collagen fibres. This composition gives strength, flexibility, pliability, and can also absorb impact. A perfect supporting structure for an active organism.
WHY HORSE OWNERS, RIDERS AND TRAINERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FASCIA!
Appreciating and understanding fascia gives us the ability to make informed decisions regarding both the welfare and training of our horses.
Imagine underneath the skin a thin membrane of tissue coating the body, then imagine every organ, muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, nerve and blood vessel within its own membrane, yet still within the main membrane, and connected to the central nerves system. Now imagine restrictions developing within that fascial system and a tightness expanding. Think of the size of a horse and imagine the interconnectivity of the structures. Now ask yourself how a fascial restriction in the thoracolumbar area will have an impact on the rest of the body. This area is the bridge between the hind end and the front end. The power house and the directional control. Fascial restrictions undoubtedly affect our horse's flexibility, stability, and of course their performance.
Restrictions can develop in fascia from trauma, poor posture and repetitive training.
According to Kerry Ridgeway, DVM, there are two major causes of chronic soft tissue injuries: http://www.drkerryridgway.com/index.php
Overexertion for the horse’s level of fitness
Fatigue caused by stress accumulated over days or weeks of work
These restrictions can create or develop into pain, swelling, misalignments, poor muscular biomechanics, decreased range of motion, decreased strength and eventually lameness. Once fascia begins to lose its pliability the collagen becomes dense and fibrous and the ground substance can solidify. Standard tests will not show a fascial restriction.