Equine Myo-manipulative Functional Therapy (EMFT- Equine Bodywork), literally means making changes in the muscles to achieve proper function. EMFT focuses on equine athletes, allowing them to perform optimally and reduce the chance of injury by maximizing the range of motion and decreasing muscular restrictions. Horse athletes are often asked to perform manoeuvres that can cause repetitive stress injuries. Like human athletes, they can benefit from maintenance bodywork as well as recovery treatments. EMFT uses techniques which include Swedish massage (Equine Sports Massage), Shiatsu, Myofascial Release, Red Light therapy, cold laser therapy, Trigger Point Therapy and Gua Sha, which can further improve the horse's function and ability to perform at an optimal level. This unique hands-on system (bodywork) addresses the whole body, using specific manual palpation methods to assess soft tissue and symmetry of muscle and structure. Different bodywork techniques including sports massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, range of motion and positioning exercises as well as “focal” point work (stress and trigger points), these are combined to provide optimal support for horses working in every discipline. Equine bodywork aids recovery, reduces swelling within the soft tissues, allowing the horses’ systems to work together more effectively and efficiently, which creates a happier and healthier horse with improved performance.

Gua sha brings out the shine in this horse's coat after the circulation is increased.

Swedish Massage (Equine Sports Massage): is the therapeutic application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone, and increasing range of motion. scientific evidence shows that it can help relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort, enhance performance and range of movement, and produce relaxation.

Myofascial Release is a comprehensive, whole body, hands-on approach that restores the necessary slack in the connective tissue web to enhance a horse's performance. Myofascial release uses sustained hands-on pressure into a fascial restriction for several minutes in one area. The fascia “suit” is the connective tissue that extends throughout our body, not only lying just beneath the skin but also surrounding and connecting every organ, muscle, bone, nerve and blood vessel and more. Fascia is a continuous web that surrounds and separates, supports and protects down to the cellular level, allowing the body to move freely. Fascial restrictions have the capability of pulling 2,000 pounds per square inch of tension in one area. That is an enormous amount of tension to overcome and is the cause of many problems that limit the performance of the equine athlete, including poor collection, balance problems, lack of flexibility, lead change problems, behavioural issues, sore muscles, back pain, and tendon and ligament injuries. Myofascial restrictions cannot be found on any standard tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGs; consequently, they often go undiagnosed. Prior to treatment, an evaluation will be necessary to assess posture and movement which will give visual cues as to where fascial restrictions may be located. Then a thorough head-to-tail hands-on assessment is performed, looking for any areas of soft tissue that feel compromised. These areas of fascial restriction may be tender to touch. The information gathered in the evaluation helps to determine where specific myofascial release techniques will be performed on the horse's body.

Craniosacral therapy (CST) The equine cranial-sacral system is an uninterrupted structure that connects the horse’s head to the horse’s tail. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, sensitive, non-intrusive and amazingly powerful form of deep tissue correction. Malfunctions of the cranial-sacral system create many physiological and emotional consequences, often presented in a seemingly disguised form. When applied correctly, this gentle and subtle technique can be highly effective in addressing several conditions in the horse. Some common conditions treated with craniosacral therapy are: Head shaking, head injuries, stored emotions, temporal mandibular joint dysfunction, behavioural problems, respiratory problems and skeletal restrictions. Craniosacral therapy is a very safe and gentle manual therapy that works on the central nervous system and the connective tissue called “fascia.” The light touch technique is used to help stimulate the body’s own healing properties along with lessening the restrictions found in the nervous system. It works primarily on the central and autonomic nervous systems and has been proven to help calm and rebalance these systems. The most important nerves are the cranial nerves that originate from the brain and either enter or exit the skull through small openings called foramen. There are 12 nerves in total which help control everything from sensory organs to facial muscles to the digestive tract. Craniosacral therapy is non-invasive, and most horses really enjoy it. The aim is to increase the activity in the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” part of the nervous system and decrease activity in the sympathetic or “fight or flight” part. It is through this process that the body can allow healing to occur and relieve internal stressors. The CST itself opens restrictions in the fascial planes and restores motion to the cranial bones allowing the body to rebalance and restore normal function to the nervous system. The uses for CST are limitless. Owners can see great benefits in using it on healthy, working horses to keep them feeling their best and it is also greatly beneficial to horses who have performance issues, behaviour problems, chronic pain, chronic medical conditions, and many other conditions.

Equi-laser Cold Laser Therapy: When applied to damaged tissue, it triggers a biological response causing stimulation of the immune, lymphatic, vascular and neural systems. The result of this stimulation can reduce inflammation and pain, promoting faster healing and a more rapid return to work. The Equi-laser is designed to improve healing for various conditions including: soft tissue injuries, acute ligament and tendon injuries, chronic injuries such as bowed tendons, arthritic conditions, joint injuries, pulled/strained muscles, mud fever, splints, scar tissue and wound healing.

Trigger Point Therapy: A trigger point is a combination of lactic acid build-up and motor nerve ending irritation, mostly in the fleshy part (belly) of the muscle. After warming and loosening up the area to be treated with massage techniques, light pressure is applied at the location of maximum tenderness, or directly over the trigger point nodule. The pressure is held until the muscle relaxes. Pressure may be applied with fingertips, the thumb, the elbow or Equi-laser, depending on which is most appropriate for your horse. Some chronic trigger points may need up to 3 minutes of carefully applied pressure before completely releasing. After the appropriate technique has been applied and the trigger point released the area will be drained thoroughly with further massage techniques. Trigger Point Therapy can improve flexibility and range of motion, increase circulation, enable oxygen and nutrients to flow and enable the muscle to become fully functioning again.

Gua sha: Gua means ‘remove something, pull it out’, Sha means literally ‘sand’. The ‘sand’ refers to the toxins in the tissue. Gua Sha will stimulate the circulation of blood and energy, so the body can drain down the toxins. The origin of the therapy is in South East Asia and has existed for more than 2000 years. In China they found old writings, dated around 200 BC, where they described a method to 'scrape' away diseases from the body. Gua sha stimulates the circulation of blood and energy through the body. Gua sha helps the body to drain toxins and solve existing energy blocks. It can help the body to recover from a hard training session or competition. If Blood and Energy circulates well, also the immune system of the body gets stronger.


Telephone: 07970497415, email: lorraine@headtotailequinetherapy.co.uk or Facebook Messenger: https://www.facebook.com/headtotailequinetherapyscotland

In summary, equine bodywork, Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy, and massage take time. If the horse has pain or has restriction issues, it may take more than one session to fully relieve them. How often treatment is required is determined by whether his problem is a primary or secondary issue, workload, and level of training. Maintenance sessions are recommended for chronic conditions, higher level athletes and horse’s under stress.

As an Equine Bodyworker (Veterinary Physiotherapist) incorporating: Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy, Trigger Point Therapy, Sports Massage, Cold Laser Therapy and Gua sha I can: release tension/restrictions in your equine partners muscles, creating a happier, healthier horse with improved performance. Regardless of whether your horse is ridden or retired, they love to be treated to bodywork and Craniosacral sessions and all horses benefit from the sessions.

I cover: Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian, West Lothian, Southern areas of Fife and Scottish Borders (depending on distance, travel costs may be added) if more than 15 miles from EH26 area.