Alice R Collins
I have always loved and wanted to work with horses, ever since I was a small child. At that time, veterinary care was the only mode of healing for animals that I was familiar with, so that is where I originally set my sights when it came time to think about careers.
Early in my marriage, I worked in a veterinary clinic doing general cleaning chores, animal care and feeding, even occasionally assisting in surgery. I loved the job and was preparing to begin classes to become a veterinary technician when I learned I was pregnant with my first child and both job and school were put on hold. After she was born, I began classes... and life threw another curve ball when two foster children came into our lives for a year before returning to their mother. Life was quite different after that, sooo...
Alice understands the importance of meeting the horse where they are in the moment, and honoring their need to feel safe and comfortable. Depending on the horse's needs that day, Alice may decide to do body work through the paddock rails, which can still result in an incredible session, evidenced by the horse leaning into Alice and drooling, sighing, relaxing through the body work, changing sides as she asks him to, and presenting the sore areas needing massage.
When meeting a new horse with a history of abuse, a safe environment and the horse's comfort are key. Depending on the horse's needs, Alice may spend the first several sessions simply standing beside and then gradually inside the horse's paddock, allowing the horse to move freely and become comfortable with her presence. Alice is then able to offer ECST and help release the horse's held emotional traumas through mutiple body work sessions. This needs-focused method results in a much more relaxed, happy and confident horse, who is much more comfortable meeting new people.
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.
BENEFITS OF CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY
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
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.
What is Equine Myo-manipulative Functional Therapy (EMFT)?
Massage is the kneading or rubbing of muscle tissues at varying intensities and depth to help relieve pain and/or tension. Massage for humans and horses is essentially the same, except there's a lot more ground to cover with a horse.
Why Would A Horse Need A Massage?
A horse, like their rider, is an athlete, and the best athletes are the ones that take excellent care of themselves. This care includes proper rest, good nutrition, stretching, and massage in addition to an effective training regimen.
Benefits of Equine Massage
Relieves stiff, sore, or tired muscles
Improves blood circulation
Keeps muscles, tendons and facia supple
Aids in healing certain types of injuries
Relaxes the horse and
Improves overall conformation
Reduces the chance of injury or re-injury
Healing Takes Time
Whether from an emotional trauma or some type of injury, correcting and healing a long standing issue takes time. It did not happen overnight, it's seldom going to be healed in one session.
Most of the horses I work with require a series of weekly sessions to unwind and help the horse heal.
I have had one session shifts where the issue was corrected in that session. This is not common and usually due to the owner noticing the issue as it developed and acting quickly to resolve it while continuing the suggested work each day after the session.
Alice is an intuitive body worker and has been since she was 15 years old.
She worked in the veterinary field for several years in her early 20's and was going to become a vet tech specifically focused on horses, when life redirected her with the arrival of her first daughter. Alice chose to focus on family, had 3 more children and loved being a stay home mom knowing that she would enter back into the "working" world at some point.
20 years later the call of her Soul brought her to an awakening, Spiritual path, new ways of healing, a divorce and a completely new way of Being.
Working with horses has always been a passion of Alice's and now life opened the doors for her to step into and follow her hearts passion. Being an intuitive body worker has helped Alice to hone her ECST and EMFT skills while expanding her ability to "hear and feel" what the horses' body is saying.
Horses are amazing beings, with huge, loving hearts who are here to offer unconditional love to anyone and everyone who is willing to open their heart and receive. Many of the horses I work with had previously been abused and or neglected and it blows my mind at how much love and compassion they radiate and share.
Alice understands the importance of meeting the horse where they are and honoring their need for feeling safe and comfortable. There have been times when she did body work through the rails of a horses paddock, the horse leaning into and dreuling through the body work. He would change sides as she asked him and present the areas that were sore and needing massage. In that moment, this is what he needed to feel safe and comfortable and it was an incredible session!
There have been other times, when meeting with a new horse that had been severely abused previously, she spent the first sessions simply standing beside and then inside the horses paddock, allowing the horse to move freely as she become comfortable with getting to know Alice. This was done with discernment and safety for both Alice and the horse.
ABSOLUTE (NO EMFT)
Recent operations or acute injury
Neuritis (radiating nerve pain)
Skin disease (fungal or bacterial, including rain rot)
LOCAL (NO EMFT ON AFFECTED AREA, OTHER AREAS MAY BE WORKED)
Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
Persistent undiagnosed pain
MEDICAL (NO EMFT WITHOUT VETERINARY APPROVAL AND SUPERVISION)
Cardio vascular problems
Following an accident with suspected hemorrhaging
Want to get together with some of your riding buddies while also enhancing your horses' health?
I offer group sessions of ECST for up to four horses. Each horse receives up to 60 minutes of focused care with an approximately 20 minute break between horses during which riders can ask questions. For first-time clients, there is an intake process which can take from 20 to 30 minutes per horse.
I offer group sessions of EMFT for up to 3 horses. Each horse receives up to 60 minutes of focused care with an approximately 30 minute break between horses. There will be an opportunity for riders to ask questions which may or may not occur during the break time.
To prepare for an upcoming group session...
I offer periodic clinics addressing the benefits of holistic health for both horses and riders. Though the specifics vary depending upon the topic, in general, clinics include demos/presentations, handouts and take-away resources, question and answer sessions, and opportunity for discussion. Most run between 4 and 6 hours, with occasional 2 - 3 day special events.
While no clinics are currently scheduled, I encourage you to sign up for my mailing list to receive notification when new clinics are announced, or become a site member not only to be notified but to receive members-only resources and special offers.
If you would like to propose or host a custom-designed clinic, I will be happy to discuss this with you to develop something which addresses your needs. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will contact you within 48 hours. I look forward to working with you and creating something amazing, fun and supportive to your goals.
Riding is a symbiotic relationship
Maybe you already realize this, maybe you feel it but haven't ever put it in those exact words or maybe you are entirely new to the concept or to riding itself. However you experience it or whatever you choose to call it, it is important to recognize the fundamental importance of symbiosis with your horse. I would like to share with you some of what I have learned over the years through my own experiences and insights others have shared with me. Honestly, entire books could be written (and probably have been) on each of the topics I touch on below. For now, I'm simply going to touch on some of the basics you'll want to consider.
Horses aren't therapists... they're friends
Spending time with our horse can be a wonderful way to relax, release stress, anger, frustration and other difficult emotions and there is nothing wrong with that. Horses are wonderful listeners and offer unconditional love and this can be very healing. However, riding in an angry or highly agitated and emotional state can be dangerous or at the very least unpleasant for both horse and rider. In such a state it is easier to take our emotions out on the horse without even realizing it, or we may simply misread what our horse is doing or trying to communicate, leading to even more frustration and irritation -- on both sides of the saddle.
Does this mean we shouldn't ever ride in an emotional state or after a hard day at work or school or wherever we've been? Not necessarily. It means that we need to remember these three things: 1. Horses are sensitive to our emotional and mental state as well as our physical one. 2. However we are feeling, it is not the horse's fault. 3. When we ride it is our responsibility to make sure both horse and rider are safe. It means we need to pause and take stock of ourselves before climbing into the saddle. It means we need to be mindful.
We are athletes and so are our horses
Just as important as our mental and emotional state is our physical state when we ride. Our physical state has a direct effect on our horse's performance, just as our horse's physical state effects ours. Riding is about flow and balance and the state of our health impacts both. If we are injured or stiff or our movement is impaired in some way, our balance is likely to be off and this can disrupt our horse's balance as well. Similarly, if we are tired or spacey due to lack of sleep or nutrition our riding can become week or sloppy which increases the risk of injury and can be downright confusing and disconcerting to our horse, who is used to being ridden with more purpose and clearer guidance.
Any rider worth their salt cares about the health and fitness of their horse. We make sure they get nutritious food and plenty of water. We watch them for signs of strain or injury and see that they get proper treatment should problems arise. We groom them and we love them. Shouldn't we do the same for ourselves?
This is a great way to transition from weekly sessions with your horse to every other week then to once per month, while keeping your horse's overall health, conformation and well being at its optimum.