By Jessica Rettig B.Sci – Southern Holistic Equine.
Around 18 months ago I began my journey into the world of Equine Kinesiology Taping. I’ll be the first to admit that initially I was skeptical, the bright colours and insta worth artistic applications had me brush it off as another fad within the equine community – goodness knows, there are a few! I taped a couple of horses here and there with a decent hint of skepticism, but never really fully engaged with, believed in, or immersed myself within the practice… until I tried it out on myself. One night my tight, achy shoulders were a little niggly after a big day of bodywork. I reached for my one old role of kinesiology tape and asked my husband to pop a simple application over the affected area. I was a little shocked, quietly humbled, and happily ate my inner thoughts. Within the space of a few minutes, the tension and ache dwindled and I felt good, physically and emotionally!
This was the point at which I decided to delve a little deeper into this practice, experiment more, read more, learn more and offer a little intention alongside my applications. Anyone who knows horses will know that kind; honest intention is half the task.
Kinesiology tape for anyone who has never come across it looks a little like sports strapping tape, yet it is elastic! The aim of the tape is never to enforce mechanical support over a muscle or joint as is commonly believed. That is merely impossible with the size and power of a horse. Kinesiology tape offers tactile input resulting in communication between the area of focus and the brain. For example; just say we apply some tape to your horse’s lumbar spine region. This tactile input enters the spinal cord and a message travels via the corticospinal tract to the somatosensory cortex of the brain. From here a message is ‘encoded’ to the motor cortex where it is then sent on an afferent pathway in return to the lumbar spine with instructions on how to respond to the input (or tape). This occurs in much the same way that a horse would respond to an insect landing on them, yet offers a very different outcome.
Kinesiology tape has applications in aiding fascial restrictions, improving proprioceptive difficulties, offering systemic/organ support, supporting spinal pathology, improving circulation, stimulating acupressure points, the remodeling of scar tissue, improving posture, and supporting rehabilitation and recovery. Whilst there are a myriad of specialised applications, with any and every application there will be:
- Positive communication with the fascia, one of the greatest sensory organs
- Stimulation of circulation and lymphatic flow
- Reduction in congestion by creating interstitial space between dermal and fascial layers
- Increased proprioception and bodily awareness
- Reduction in tension, adhesion and hypertonicity of the muscles
- Pain reduction via decompression of nociceptors
There are so many possibilities within this modality but one thing I truly love is how great tape can be for horses who struggle with touch, for many horses I have worked with sometimes (usually early on in their journey) bodywork is too invasive or too confronting. In these cases tape is a gentle, yet profound offering for aiding these horses in focusing on their body again. As prey animals our beloved equines are so incredibly masterful at blocking out pain and dysfunction. It’s an evolutionary mechanism that once kept them alive. However, this can make bodywork tricky, as it can their daily lives. If a horse is finding manual therapy too much, they will brace against you, however, I am yet to meet a horse that braces against tape. They are offered the gift of time and space to process their body as/when they are ready – it’s very special.
I feel so grateful to have found a truly wonderful supportive modality in kinesiology taping. Whilst I could delve into great detail and continue to sing the praises of kinesiology tape for hours I will end by saying this – here is a tool that continues to offer the horse ongoing tactile input long after our appointment has ended. That, to me, is extraordinary.