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Setting the Standard in Equine Massage

Learning to Touch -
A Commentary on the Attainment of "Palpatory Literacy"

To achieve excellence in Equine Massage, or massage of any creature, you must have a strong, solid foundation. Much of that foundation is built on the ability to read and evaluate what the body tells you about itself. Although some of your assessment will come from visual signals, a large part of the information you can gain comes from your sense of touch.

Through touch with the fingers and thumbs as well as with the entire hand, you can evaluate the current state of the body's soft tissue structures. This includes skin, connective tissue (fascia), muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A therapist with highly skilled hands can determine areas of healthy tissue as well as areas of tightness, tension, restriction, and indurated (hardened) tissue. This is certainly not a complete list since the well-trained therapist is able to feel a seemingly vast array of tissue responses.

Leon Chaitow, an Osteopath and one of the greatest minds in manual therapy skills, calls this ability "palpatory literacy." Defining this term encompasses so many areas that the top experts in manual therapy skills have published entire papers on palpation skills in peer review journals. However, we'll try to give a simple definition here.

Two synonyms for palpate are touch and feel. Synonyms for literacy include education, knowledge and ability. From this, one might draw the conclusion that in its simplest definition, the attainment of palpatory literacy means to educate our hands and our mind so that we then possess the knowledge and the ability to decipher and assess what we feel within the body's soft tissues.

This is no simple task. First, you must educate your mind to know and understand the body's structures whether bone or soft tissue. Thus, your first step is learning about the skeletal structure, individual bones, bony prominences, joints, directions of movement, possible range of motion, etc.

Following your skeletal education, your second step is learning about ligaments, the muscles and their tendons and the basic structure of these soft tissues. You must then study muscle location, muscle origin and insertion points, the way the various muscles cooperate with others, ways they can oppose each other's action and the way in which various muscles relate to one another. From the above education, you will have learned that the skeleton is the foundation upon which the body is built. You'll also have learned how the muscles attach to the bones and how they move the skeleton.

Through EquiTouch Systems' instructor-guided, hands-on training throughout your above education, you will learn how to feel and define the boundaries of the individual muscles. Your hands will be able to detect where muscles begin to become part of their tendons of attachment. You'll also be able to feel a number of actual tendon attachments to bone. Once you've learned to understand the previous information, you can move on to understanding the study of the horse's posture in relation to gravity. You study the horse's movement (form to function) and how that movement is produced. You then study what can go wrong when the horse's skeleton, joints, or soft tissues are in distress, and so on. When you have a better understanding of how the horse's body is put together, you have the means to understand and decipher what your hands feel when you palpate.

Throughout your basic anatomy education at EquiTouch Systems, you'll find we've already begun building your mental database for your sense of touch through instructor-guided hands-on training. Thus begins your exciting journey toward the achievement of palpatory literacy.

This high level of education is what distinguishes the EquiTouch Systems' grads from all others. And, no one else is teaching our methods or providing this type of education.

Want more? See courses offered.

© 2009 Sue Mazlum & EquiTouch® Systems, Inc.

For more about EquiTouch® equine massage
please contact us at 1-970-420-0169 or
email to: EquiTouch Systems® Inc.