Correcting equine facial asymmetry using cranial bone releases

A look at how craniosacral sessions and kinesiology taping improved a horse’s facial asymmetry.

Craniosacral therapy is a bodywork technique that addresses the craniosacral rhythm which is found in all animals.  This rhythm is similar to the animal’s heartbeat, but is a result of the pumping of Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) rather than blood through the heart. The CSF nourishes the Central Nervous System (CNS) and changes in its flow can directly impact it. CSF flows from the skull of the animal (cranium), down the spinal cord to the sacrum (hence the name craniosacral). Craniosacral therapists can enhance and correct the flow of CSF through specific techniques and protocols. This article explains how to find facial asymmetry and correct it utilizing cranial bone releases and kinesiology tape.

Cranial anatomy

The cranium of the horse is made of flat bones that articulate with each other through joints called sutures. These sutures allow the bones to move slightly leading to a slight expansion and contraction as the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is pumped through the cranium. The movement of these bones can is the basis for craniosacral therapy.

Cranial bone misalignments

The cranial bones can become “jammed” due to trauma/injury or the process of traveling through the birth canal when the horse is born. When the bones shift and become “stuck” in this position, it will lead to decreased movement of the bones as the CSF is pumped through the cranium. This can ultimately lead to symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, runny eyes or nose, head shaking and other behaviors. Visually, it can be noted as facial asymmetry.

Figure 1

Realigning the bones

The cranial bones can be brought back in to proper alignment using specific craniosacral techniques to release the bones. Chronic misalignments will often take multiple sessions to resolve fully. Most horses will begin to show a decrease in symptoms following the first session.

Looking for asymmetries

Figure 2

A good way to check for facial asymmetry is to take a picture of the horse’s head when standing directly in front of them. You can then draw a line vertically from the mid-section of the top of their head (by the poll) to the middle of their upper lip/nose. Next, draw horizontal lines connecting the top of each eye and the top of each nostril. An additional horizontal line at the bottom of the lips can also be drawn. If the lines are all perpendicular to each other (create 90 degree angles) then the horse’s skull is symmetrical. If 90 degree angles are not found, then asymmetry due to shifting of the cranial bones is present.

Figure 3

Checking for changes

After releasing the appropriate cranial bones, you should then take another picture of the horse’s head and re-draw the lines to determine if improvement has been made. Figure 1 was taken immediately after the first session with this horse, and shows little improvement. Due to the chronicity of the symptoms and the small improvement, kinesiology tape was applied over the parietal and frontal bones and nasal sutures. Figure 2 shows the amount of facial asymmetry present following 24 hours of wearing the tape.

Before and after

Cranial bone releases – second session

The kinesiology tape was left on another 24 hours (48 hours total) and then was removed before the second craniosacral session. During the second session, a sacral and tail release were performed before releasing the cranial bones. Figure 3 shows the results after the cranial bone releases were performed. Note a drastic improvement in the nasal and lip lines.

Follow-up

This horse is experiencing a decrease in symptoms and an improvement in attitude. She will continue with monthly craniosacral sessions and other forms of bodywork at this time to further improve facial symmetry, reduce the reoccurrence of symptoms and improve proper function. Special thanks to Mary Beth Nunes on her assistance in performing the primary CST session!

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Dr. Angelique Barbara is a Doctor of Chiropractic who holds additional degrees in Veterinary Science (B.S.), Equine Science (Minor) and Veterinary Pathobiology (M.S.). Dr. Barbara has spent the majority of her life studying animals, and developed her first animal bodywork seminar in 2009. Since that time, her seminars have grown both in number and popularity and she has fine tuned her seminars and techniques to optimize the learning experience. Her background in both the clinical and research animal health care world as well her experience as a human chiropractor give her a unique perspective on animal bodywork, which is evident in her courses. Dr. Barbara has publications in the Journal of Veterinary Science and Microbiology and has presented her research at the Conference of Researchers in Animal Disease (CRAWD) and the International Equine Conference of Laminitis and Diseases of the Hoof. She is a member of Alpha Zeta Honorary Fraternity, American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association and French Bulldog Rescue Network.

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