What is structural alignment? Who can benefit?
Structural alignment is a bodywork therapy involving acupressure massage and alignment techniques. Adjustments are achieved using precise pressure to specific and strategic places on the body.
For horses, a rubber mallet is used for some adjustments but the work can be done with hands only if the horse and/or owner require it. The mallet allows for less invasive, quicker relief in most cases and we do have a selection of softer mallets for smaller or more sensitive horses.
Great care is taken in all cases not to use too much pressure and damage sensitive tissues. Most riding horses can benefit from structural alignment. The horse was not designed to carry a rider and doing so can be very stressful on the body. Keeping the body straight and free of restrictions can help prevent injuries and improve performance.
Diagnosing Poor Alignment
Signs my horse may need alignment:
- Inability or difficulty picking up or keeping canter leads
- Difficulty bending or ‘one sidedness’
- Inability or difficulty standing square
- Cinchy or girthyness
- Back sensitivity
- Problems with lateral work
- Refusing jumps
- ‘Dog tracking’ or a drift in the hind end, trouble with straightness
- Travelling inverted when usually travels long and low
- Refusing to go forward under saddle
- Dragging one or both hind feet
- Short tracking
Signs my dog may need alignment:
- Unwillingness to go for walks
- Reluctance to jump on bed
- Avoids sitting
- Difficulty with stairs
- Back sensitivity
- Sudden apparent behaviour problems
- Posture changes, “sawhorse” stance
- Decrease in activity levels
- Click here for more signs of pain in dogs
Generally, if you suspect your animal is misaligned, it probably is. Any horse kept in confinement without the option to move freely most of the time is more prone to misalignment than a horse kept at liberty. Mud, ice, and slippery conditions can also cause misalignments.
What to Expect During a Dynamic Balance Alignment Session
Step 1: Meet, Greet & Observe
Lyz will first take a detailed history of your animal. If you fill out our intake form, it will be to clarify any details and ask any follow up questions.
Age, sex, breed, and history are all important, as are any concerns or changes you have noticed. Any history of veterinary diagnosis or past body work are helpful too. This is also a good time to mention any idiosyncrasies your animal may have such as a tendency to kick, bite, scratch, or ticklish spots.
Lyz will also ask you to move your animal in a straight line and possibly through left and right turns. Typically walk and trot will suffice but occasionally a canter is required. If the animal is too sore to trot, we will not ask it to.
Next Lyz will check stress points on your animals body.
These are places where connective tissues meet and, when sore, can indicate misalignments. This process also allows Lyz and the animal to get to know each other a little and begin to build trust.
The stress point check is a good way to find where your animal is sore or protective, or just ticklish.
The majority of the session is spent doing actual adjustments and acupressure massage as needed. The usual routine for horses is: spine, pelvis, shoulders, neck. For dogs the usual is head to tail.
(photo credit: Tanya Byrne)
Step 3: Reassess
At the end of a session, Lyz will usually ask to see the animal move through the same paces as before the adjustments.
Changes (for the better!) are usually seen right away.
Lyz may give you some exercises/homework you can do on your own that will help your animal stay aligned and keep improving between sessions.
All routines are customized to the needs of the animal at that time. Nothing is set in stone and the animal dictates the session. First sessions for a horse are about 1 hour on average, follow up average 30-45 minutes depending. For dogs the timeframe is usually 20-45 minutes. If you get a call from Lyz saying she is running late, it is usually because the animal booked before you needed more time. Your patience and understanding is appreciated!
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When is structural alignment NOT a good idea?
If you suspect a fracture, alignment is not a good idea. Giving a complete history can help your bodyworker get a better picture of what’s going on with your animal but, sadly, we do not have xray vision.
If you suspect a fractured bone, CALL A VET!
If your animal cannot stand comfortable on all four feet for a few seconds, it will be very difficult to assess alignment. Favouring a leg can cause or aggravate misalignment and it is a better idea to wait until the animal can bear weight on all four legs before getting an adjustment.
If your animal is reluctant to bear weight on a limb but can for several seconds alignment work can be beneficial, though a follow up may be needed to ensure alignment is maintained. If your animal has a fever, there may be an underlying medical issue. In such cases a vet is a better call.
Remember that your bodyworker cannot prescribe or dispense medication, nor can they offer a medical diagnosis. These are the realms of veterinary medicine and beyond our scope. A qualified bodyworker is NOT A VETERINARIAN and will always refer you to one in situations that warrant it.
Bodywork is complementary to veterinary science, it does NOT replace it.