In 2017, I received certification from Equine Natural Movement School in Washington state. We were trained in Equine Structural Integration (known as Rolfing, Structural Integration with humans).
This equine bodywork differs from equine massage, equine chiropractic, physical therapy and other bodywork methods. Rather than trying to fix problems, we bring out the inherent natural balance and adaptability of a truly vital, life-filled horse. We do this by addressing the underlying structural system of the horse’s body, making changes that develop smoother strides, better balance, increased flexibility and evenness.
The Equine Natural Movement Series gives horses:
There are generally five sessions in an Equine Natural Movement series. These sessions educate the horse’s nervous system and connective tissue system by rebalancing and repatterning the way the horse uses the whole body. With each session, the horse becomes aware of himself in a new way that is more natural and graceful.
Structural Integration practitioners use their hands to sequentially unwrap accumulated restrictions and to teach the horse where his holding patterns are. Through this work, the practitioner gently directs and guides the horse to a more balanced relationship with gravity. Using well established principles of Structural Integration, practitioners re-educate the fascial system (connective tissue) of the equine body, helping the horse to regain a joyful energy-building experience in movement.
The work is done in a manner that promotes trust and is respectful of the being inside the horse’s body. Creating trust and a kind-hearted relationship with the horse is a core teaching of the work.
As chronic adhesions release their hold, the compromises the horse developed in his body and movement fade. Freedom of movement emerges as the different layers of tissue glide more effortlessly over one another, helping the horse establish a better sense of the ground, his relationship to it and to the gravity that supports him. This has the overall effect of bringing greater power and rhythmic grace to the horse’s gait.
As sessions progress, the horse’s balance becomes more refined and the destructive cycle of “restriction – compensation – imbalance” and the problems that come with chronic holding are avoided. The horse moves, feels, looks, and is more sound.
Since 1998, I have been successfully practicing Rolfing Structural Integration with humans. Now I’m working with horses. I always wanted to work with horses. I thought Rolfing Structural Integration could be a unique way to do that but it wasn't until spring 2016 I learned about the Equine Natural Movement School in Washington. My burning desire to connect with horses found its path. The gentleness expressed in this work called to me in a way no other equine training ever has.
What I’ve found with horses that are stuck on a performance plateau is that often they have a longstanding physical issue that prevents them from progressing. It’s not their fault and it’s often not something that further training can push them through, which is exactly why they get stuck on the performance plateau. That horse can’t go any further. He’s trying as hard as he can but, deep in his structure he has parts, which don’t move as freely as they used to, therefore he needs some help freeing those up again.
This is what my work does. Once I have an idea about where the horse moves well and where he doesn’t, I have an understanding of how his entire structure is balanced. That’s where the work begins. In a series of about five progressive sessions, we sequentially unravel him, going deeper and deeper into his body in a way that lets us free up the stuck areas and rebalance the open and fluid movement as it returns. This is how we get a horse off that performance plateau.
I'm offering this to people whose love is for the well-being of horses they train, ride or care for. If you'd like your horse to experience this work, please contact me.
My family and I have been clients of Kathy Purvis for years- All four us went through her 10 stage Rolfing treatments. When I heard Kathy was certified in Equine Rolfing, I was excited to see her healing work prove itself on my horses. I have a 28 year old Quarab Mare who was extremely sore in her hips and a 10 year old Andalusian with a clicky tendon on the left hind leg who is always slow to warm-up. I have tried other modalities on the horses such as massage and osteopathy that didn't appear to have an effect.
In the initial Rolfing work, the horses receive five sessions over a couple of months and the sessions take about 1.5 hours per session. It was beautiful to watch Kathy interact with the horses. The horses instantly connect with her calm confident manner and the tension of a stranger melts away. The horses are sentient clients to Kathy and they willingly teach her what they need. The horses show the visible signs of releasing when Kathy works through the muscles groups. As with all healing work, it takes time for the body to process. It has now been two months since Kathy began her work. My mare has shown visible improvement in sustaining a canter on the circle without falling in or counter-cantering and the movement through her back to her hind legs been energized. We are able to take her on longer trail rides with the other horses now! As for the Andalusian- even in this cold weather, I have yet to hear the clicky tendon. His warm-ups have shortened and his wild bucking on his warm-up canter to the right has stopped.
Rolfing makes sense as an annual care maintenance for horses as their skin, muscles, fascia and tendon tissue are integrated. I look forward to including an annual upkeep rolfing session for the horses as part of their healthcare program as trail horses.
If I had competing horses, especially hunter jumpers, dressage, barrel horses etc. I would definitely include monthly Rolfing therapy as a way to keep the blood flowing through the tissues and keep injuries at bay.
-- Cynthia Ritchie (Buda, TX)