Myofascial Release….what is it?

Myofascial Release….what is it?


Most horse owners have little to no understanding of the practices used in the human massage industry and how they translate into treatments used for horses. I find the two worlds to be extremely parallel (being a licensed practitioner for both people and horses). One of the shared modalities used to treat both humans and equines is myofascial release (MFR). To understand the treatment of myofascial release, it is incredibly beneficial for you to first understand what fascia is and how it works.

Understanding Fascia

Fascia is the three dimensional connective tissue that runs throughout the horse’s entire body. You may have heard an explanation comparing fascia to the layer of white fibrous ’tissue’ that lies beneath the orange’s rind. The comparison is meant to create a visual of how extensive the fascia really is.

Fascia in the equine body encompasses every organ, juncture, bone, muscle, nerve…and pretty much anything else you can think of. It creates a type of framework that stabilizes, supports and absorbs. If there is a fascial restriction present, this in turn can put stress and pressure on other areas of the body. Seems important right?

Fascial restrictions in your horse can cause pain, neuropathy, decreased circulation, muscular atrophy, decreased flexibility, structural changes, decreased stamina, changes in gait and movement, and even weight loss. To put it in layman’s terms, fascial restrictions cause somewhat of a ripple effect in the body.

So what exactly causes these fascial restrictions anyway?

  • Repetitive movements
  • Ill fitting tack
  • Overwork/overuse of muscle groups
  • An unbalanced rider
  • Poor footing or shoeing
  • Inflammation
  • Direct trauma or injury
  • Surgeries
  • Compensatory movement patterns
  • Forced unnatural muscular positioning (abusing training aids)

These are some of the common stressors that can cause fascial restrictions in the horse’s body.

Getting to the Root of it

Have you ever experienced a stubborn knot in your back or shoulder that just won’t go away no matter what you do? Do you ever notice that eventually your posture starts to compensate for said, ever lasting knot? This is because you have a fascial restriction.

The same concept applies to your horse! Perhaps you had the chiro out to adjust your horse and after the treatment you had a few good rides before your horse was no longer supple going to the left. This is because the fascial restriction is still present. Tension among the soft tissue structures such as muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments are contributing factors to bony misalignments or subluxations. You must target the soft tissue to obtain a lasting result. This is where Myofascial Release (MFR) plays a huge role. During an MFR treatment, the therapist targets the fascial restrictions, treating the cause rather than the symptom. MFR is meant to be a non-invasive, deep rooted treatment producing long lasting results.

Hopefully this helped to shed some light on the concept of fascia, restrictions and the accompanying treatment methods!