Today I want to talk about health and wellness in horses I see. Sometimes I come across commonalities in horses and humans that are so distinct it makes me think about the WHY all the way home. And then I think about it some more, and finally I have to write it down.
In so many cases that I have worked with recently, two parts of the horses body pop-up more than most. That is: tension in the poll (in fact a tightness that is so deeply wound, one wonders if these horses aren't walking around with constant headaches) and disfunction in the liver.
First let's start by understanding a bit about both and where these parts of the body are located. The Poll is actually a common term for where the occiput is located. It also happens to be the area where the spinal cord and dura tube connect to the cranium. This is a very sensitive area. It is also an area where horses tend to hold tension. This is where the bridle falls. Where the horse holds up his own head all day. You can see how this might be a likely place for a problem.
This is also where the sixth chakra is associated and sometimes even the seventh. The sixth chakra has hold on the pituitary glands and the nervous system. This is a huge deal and MUST BE DELT WITH. A horse cannot go around for long periods of time with tension in their poll. I have seen horses develop so many issues because of this. From becoming spookier than usual, to having vision issues, the whole body being inflamed as well as distrust in the handler. A horse that is hard to train or has learning issues can very much be dealing with pain in the poll. I have never worked on a horse that didn't have some form of tension in this area. That is how relevant it is.
The Liver is the portal system of the body and where all other organs drain. The liver holds so much responsibility. The liver is important for filtration and life flowing energy. This one organ, it seems, can make or break a horse in many ways. When we talk about the more spiritual/emotional aspect of the liver, that is where anger and frustration live. Scientifically, you just can't live without a properly functioning (live)r.
Not only does the liver help filtrate blood, it is also vital for the horses over all well-being metabolically and mentally. The acupressure point associated with the liver falls in the middle of the back in the 13th and 14th intercostal space. Many times a horse that has a sore back, can indeed have a sore back but why? The spinal cord in this area could be getting pulled on by three possible suspects. The vertebrae, the nerve or the organ.
Simply sitting with the organ through this almighty point located on the back, a horse can have massive emotional processing. Alleviating an impinged nerve in the area or massaging the back muscles can improve function as well. But the obvious and overwhelming difference in the horses temperament when unwinding this organ is fascinating.
A horse with a tender right side or one that is hard to get off of the right leg, could indeed have a sensitive liver. The right lobe of the liver is responsible for much of the drainage.
About 10 % of a horses blood is in the liver, helping to make sure it does its job and has enough oxygen to filter what it needs to. This is a huge deal if you think about it. 10%!
If your horse is girthy, yes it could be the caudal pectorals tightening, but it could also be the diaphragm in spasm which can hold or twist organs. Most commonly the stomach and liver. If you want to dive even deeper into emotional holdings, the liver can also be associated with the third Chakra. This Chakra is known as the solar plexus. It has to do with self-esteem- how one feels about ones self. Following ones own intuition or believing in ones self.
It is all connected by the way.
Ones biology and emotion.
To begin the healing process in these areas, and any time I am with a horse, I always start with the head. The cranial rhythm, the alignment and symmetry of the skull and the "soreness" or pain associated in the head can tell me a lot. Some horses don't want me anywhere near the poll. And that's OK because acupressure points, red light therapy and acknowledging the area in disfunction is usually enough for the horse to then allow me to proceed.
Beginning with the jaw, mouth, bones of the cranium (ethmoid, mandible, temporal, hyoid, vomer etc...) and Yin Tang point can have such a huge impression on the horse that the healing snowballs from there.
After assessing the head, I believe that moving to the hind and placing my hand on the sciatic nerve (bai-hui) point allows the horse freedom to relax and let emotions go. Going to the hind end not only can ground a horse (1st chakra), it also allows the head to work through the releasing process without the "over-seer". This might sound odd. But I have noticed a huge difference when I let the horse finish the healing process themselves. By moving away from the area of pain and assessing the first chakra as well as the sacrum, I find the head can heal itself. The cranial rhythm gets vibrant and when I go back to the head, the horse is much more willing to work with me.
This is also true when working deeply on the hind end. If I am palpating deeply or going into an area that is "touchy", going back to the head and "checking in" can make hind end issues less of an "issue".
And finally, when the horse is open to healing the poll I use a CV-4 decompression. I also like to add massage to the poll and neck. A lot of times when a horse is in a frame for long periods of time, these muscles tighten (Splenius, Multifidus Cervicus and Rectus Capitus). Trigger point therapy has been very useful for me in the neck muscles and cervical spine.
To assess the liver and help heal- sometimes a conversation about diet or toxicities in the system must be had with the owner. Toxins can enter through shavings, some types of feed, grain, beet pulp and even smoke. The liver seems to be tweaked by an emotional holding pattern more times than not.
The power of the poll and the life of the liver are two key components in a horses health, confidence and overall well being. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to working with any living being. I am not a veterinarian (disclaimer) and I am always learning and growing with these techniques. Cranial Sacral is a non-invasive way to guide the body into healing. I like to call this an upward spiral. Every time I go back to work on a horse, they seem to engage more and more.
I have been taught something recently that really resonates with me: to keep a skeptical mind but an open heart. I am a skeptic naturally. You will have to show me physically that something is working before I believe it. And even then I need it proven a few more times. But the more I opened myself up to possibilities the better I got at my job.
Don't forget the power of the poll and the life in the liver. I am not sure yet what the larger connection is for these two main structures, but I hope to keep searching and discovering more ways to alleviate pain in your equine partner.
Here are some great resources for anyone wanting more information on this topic: