Updated: Aug 18, 2018
Horses encounter a full spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional experiences. These can cause comfort, relaxation, satisfaction, joy, love, exuberance and excitement as well as soreness, stiffness, injury, pain, caution, reluctance, fear and trauma and more in any combination. Equine Cranio-sacral Therapy (ECST) and Equine Myo-manipulative Functional Therapy (EMFT or equine massage) each successfully address these experiences and their results through different techniques and approaches. ECST and EMFT can also be combined to offer enhanced benefits.
Each horse is unique in the way they deal with their sensations and emotions and similarly unique in the ways they respond to ECST and EMFT though both therapies offer a similarly calming effect. For example, a horse with a strong or exaggerated "fight or flight" instinct may initially respond more favorably to ECST because the light touch used is significantly less likely to trigger that instinct. On the other hand, sometimes a horse isn't ready to release emotional trauma or stress and prefers light equine massage which helps them feel safe and relaxed.
It Doesn't Have To Be One Or The Other
Once a horse is calmed, feels safe, and has established a level of trust with the therapist through whichever therapy was preferred, the other therapy can be tried again to create even deeper, more comprehensive results. Using the above examples, the skittish horse calmed through ECST becomes more receptive to the firmer touch and enhanced tension release of massage therapy. The horse soothed and relaxed through EMFT is in a better state to deal with the deep emotional release brought about through cranio-sacral therapy. Naturally, both cranio-sacral and massage therapies address more than just the examples given.
It May Take Some Time
As with any form of therapy, while noticeable improvement can happen immediately, lasting and comprehensive results require time. Whether the horse prefers equine cranio-sacral therapy or myo-manipulative functional therapy first, it may be several sessions before they are ready to try the other.
Maintaining Your Horse's Health
Regardless if you called upon your ECST or EMFT to address a specific injury or issue, both therapies are excellent for maintaining ongoing health. Neither ECST nor EMFT should be used in place of proper veterinary care. However, just as ECST and EMFT are complementary to each other, ECST and EMFT can complement veterinary care nicely.