Let me introduce myself. My name is Geert Laenen, born and raised in Geel, a provincial Belgian town in the Antwerp region called ‘Kempen’.
After my secondary studies at K.T.A. I graduated in Antwerp in 2001 as a physiotherapist. In the years that followed, I took several further training courses, mainly in the field of human manual therapy and sports physiotherapy.
The passion to work with horses was a good reason for me to enroll in 2002 at the International College for Research on Equine Osteopathy, I.C.R.E.O. in short. In June 2005 I graduated with the thesis subject “Deformational Occiput Plagiocephaly” cum laude. Today I am still studying for a human osteopath at the International Academy of Osteopathy. Treating and guiding both horse and rider is my idea of a successful treatment. The rider can as well be treated on location, as in my practice in Geel.
Besides the horses, wildlife and biotope management is another big passion of mine. In my scarce free time I try to spend as much time as possible with my partner Christel and our son Fréderic.
The basic principles of osteopathy are:
- Biologically, the horse is one entity and all individual parts (systems) influence each other.
- Everything in the body can move and has to keep moving.
- The horse possesses a self-healing capacity, osteopathy (re) activates this.
1. Parietal system
The musculoskeletal system as we know it (mainly conscious movements, think of legs, muscles, joints).
The biggest movements enable walking, trotting, jumping, etc. For this we have bones, joints and muscles. A blocked (badly moving) joint hurts. For example, the horse can no longer stretch his back or his knee does not bend enough anymore.
2. Visceral system
Internal organs with blood vessels and lymphatic system, e.g. in throat, chest and abdominal cavity (mainly unconscious movements, think of lungs, heart, intestines, stomach etc).
Much smaller but still visible and well perceptible are the movements that are generated by e.g. the respiration. The diaphragm (the respiratory muscle) forms a pumping function for the abdominal organs with each breath. This also stimulates blood circulation and improves bowel function. Did you know that the movements of the diaphragm lower the kidneys by about two to three centimeters with each breath? Back and forth that’s about 600 meters a day!
3. Craniosacral system
Skull, spinal canal, sacrum, nervous system plus cerebrospinal circulation.
These movements are very small and not visible, but are felt by an experienced osteopath. It involves soft, rhythmic movements. They form a kind of ebb and flow movement of the fluids in the tissues. This keeps the fluid flow between the cells intact. The rhythm stimulates the transport of important food and waste products through the cell wall. This mechanism is called the ‘cell breathing’. The result of this microrhythm is that the cells can remain in a good condition.
Loss of movement means loss of homeostasis (balance) in the body and is caused by external causes (from outside) or by internal processes (in the body itself). Overloading tissues plays a central role in this. Excessive forces from outside affect the quality of fabrics, which leads to hardening. This involves, for example, a hard fall or bruise (also in the distant past), an operation or sometimes even a (complicated) dental problem.
A heavy delivery can also lead to loss of movement. Processes from the body itself are more complicated.
Heredity can play a role; certain bloodlines naturally have a harder or stiffer construction.
Inflammation in tissues can leave scars. Overload due to improper diet can eventually lead to accumulation of toxins, causing the tissues to harden.
Overload by the riding technique of the rider, can occur when the rider himself has complaints (e.g. back pain) and must therefore vigorously compensate to suppress his own pain.
Other internal forces, and often much more subtle, are feelings and emotions. This affects organs and tissues. Long-term stress (big races, transport …) and tension put the kidneys and intestines under pressure. Liver and bile have a hard time as annoyance, irritation, anger, can’t be expressed. Fear works stiffening. This has adverse consequences for e.g. movement of the kidneys and lungs. We are talking about ordinary, everyday emotions, but the negative effect is the result of their long-term existence.
Every animal and man naturally has an inner strength that strives to keep the body as healthy as possible, to defend itself and to adapt, through which disease can be overcome, can be avoided. One of the most important principles of this self-healing capacity is the strength of the body to keep the liquid flow in the tissues in motion.
The body is made up of cells. A group of cells with the same type of function is a tissue, such as a muscle, a bone, an organ and abdominal membranes. Every tissue has a certain task. To perform this task, the cells need food and oxygen. This is done via a transport system: the liquid flows along the cells. The waste that is discharged by cells is also removed here. This way the tissue is refreshed and sufficient nutrition flows along the cells. The body remains healthy as long as the liquid flow remains intact and the tissues are supple, elastic and agile. When tissues lose their mobility, the supply and discharge of the liquid flow decreases and as a result the fabric becomes saturated with waste products. The tissue acidifies and the cells become weak or ill. They can no longer perform their duties properly. This can cause pain and disrupt all kinds of mechanisms, so that the horse can eventually become ill. If the fluid flow in the tissues does not recover on its own strength, the osteopath stimulates this by improving the mobility of the tissues and thereby the self-healing capacity of the body increases again.
Osteopathy originated in the last century and was developed by the American physician Andrew T. Still (1828-1917). He combined his medical knowledge with his own new insights. In this way he came to the conclusion that all body tissues should show a certain amount of movement irrespective of the heartbeat and respiration and that loss of this mobility has a detrimental effect on health. He developed a way to detect tissues with reduced mobility in the body with his hands. With special actions he restored the mobility, in order to exert a healing effect on the body. This method of treatment was and still is revolutionary because the body is incited to self-healing in seemingly simple and subtle ways.
A statement by Still in this context is: There where the tissues are mobile, disease does not stand a chance. In 1891 Still founded ‘The American School of Osteopathy’ in Kirksville. This was the starting signal for a further development of osteopathy. The osteopathic way of thinking is holistic, that is, no disease is treated, but the sick person! Important in the osteopathic way of thinking is the fact that everything in the human body is movable, can move and must especially move! These movements range from large (arms and legs and torso) to very small and specific (organs and nervous system). And they move 24 hours a day. Building on the knowledge and techniques of this founder, different divisions are made within the osteopathy that we know today and one of them is osteopathy for animals and in particular for horses. The founders of this treatment method in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are Mr. Frank Dirckx, Stefan Alen, both lecturers at the International College for Research on Equine Osteopathy and the late Dhr. Patrick Evrard. The long-term efforts of these people, together with all guest teachers and students, should raise in future the profession of equine osteopath to a full therapy within the world of veterinarians.
When and why?
Osteopathy is more than treating the complaint, osteopathy is to search the CAUSE, tackle and solve it. When you as a rider / owner notices that the horse no longer performs, feels tired, counteracts, this may be an indication for osteopathy. In the osteopathic view, it is assumed that the body is disturbed as a biological unit.
- The horse does not bend
- The horse moves stiffly
- The horse tries to bite or kick when you tighten the girth
- Horse runs away after the jump
- Horse does not use its back during the jump
- Much resistance, or not accepting the bridle
- In dressage the horse can’t cope with the requested exercises
These are just a few examples of horses that have to perform and that want to make it clear in one way or another that they can’t manage their task, or perform better if they do not suffer so much from their back!
An osteopathic treatment is a manual treatment, which means that the osteopath only uses his hands and his feeling. By relaxing certain muscles and / or releasing a joint or manipulating a vertebrae, the horse’s body is once again able to regain its own balance and thus heal itself.
By means of an osteopathic treatment, a horse can perform better without risk in case of a possible doping control. After all, nothing is added to the body, the adjustment is only improved and a better adjustment gives more efficiency.
What can one expect after osteopathic treatment? Since osteopathic treatment is not a symptomatic treatment aimed at an analgesic effect, but ensures a causal approach, in other words, detects and treats the problem, one can not and should not always expect immediate results.
After a treatment, the horse should be rested for a few days to a week, so no training or competition, grazing or stable rest is ideal. This is to allow the body to recuperate and regain balance.
If this is impossible, it should be reported to the osteopath before treatment so that the latter can take this into account when choosing his techniques.
After the rest period, you will notice that the horse is clearly calmer, more supple and willing to give.
When call for an osteopath or veterinarian?
Functional problems are treated by the osteopath. These are problems that are related to the mobility of the joints, the blood flow, irritated nerves or overloaded musculature.
For structural problems where you suspect damage to muscles, tendons, bones or organs, consult a veterinarian.
A good cooperation between rider / owner, osteopath and veterinarian is necessary, so the best care can be given to the horse. After an osteopathic treatment, a short report of the treatment will be made so that both the rider / owner and the veterinarian also have this information available.
Before the treatment
Always make sure your horse is dry and clean before the treatment. Do not put your horse to work just before it. The animal is then warmed up and any temperature differences / stresses are then more difficult to notice.
Examination & treatment
An osteopathic treatment consists of an examination followed by a manual treatment. During the examination we will determine the problem zones in the body by means of palpation (feeling the tissues) and testing (testing the mobility of structures and tissues). The treatment consists of loosening the blockages and lifting tension in the body. This is done by using different techniques: manipulations, mobilizations, visceral (concerning the organs), facial (concerning the fascia = membranes, connective tissue) and cranio sacral techniques. The techniques are always soft and provide relaxation. The osteopath always works with his hands, no devices are involved. Although we look for very painful and tense structures, you will see that the animal will relax and surrender to the treatment. They lower their heads, yawn and chuckle, and more than once the eyes are closed. A treatment lasts on average between three quarters of an hour to an hour.
The most ideal is when the horse can go on the meadow. They can then calmly move what stimulates the removal of the waste materials that have come loose. Usually I recommend to wait working for a week. The body can then enable itself to regain equilibrium and initiate its self-regulating mechanism. Dietary supplements can support and even strengthen this process. When the horse has had enough rest, you will see a happier and smoother horse. Sometimes it is necessary to let the horse rest longer, this also depends on the seriousness of the problems. The rest after the treatment is therefore important and it is usually not recommended to treat just before a race. In pregnancy, there is no treatment during the first three months and depending on how the pregnancy goes, we examine whether osteopathy is appropriate.
- Thesis physiotherapy: “unstable shoulder with baseball pitchers”
- Thesis horse osteopathy: “deformational occiput plagiocephaly”
- National team Belgium soccer Cerebral Palsy> World Games 2001 England
- Softball team Chicaboos men’s and women’s team 1999 – 2001> 6-times Belgian champion
- National team Belgium softball men> European Championship 1999, 2000, 2003 Czech Republic
- National team Belgium softball ladies> European Championship 2000 Spain
- National team Belgium baseball juniors> European Championship 1999 Belgium, 2000 Spain
- Football club K.V.C.Westerlo> youth teams 2001-2004
- National team Belgium ice hockey U18> World Championship 2006 Italy, 2007 Turkey, 2007 Italy
- National team Belgium ice hockey U20> World Championship 2007 Hungary, 2008 France
- National team Belgium ice hockey Seniors mentor
- Associated as a foreign mentor at the Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California.
- Connected as mentor at KU Leuven
- Christel Poels, www.rawhideranch.be
- An Poels, www.23quarterhorses.com
- Bernard Fonck, www.23quarterhorses.com
- Wim Vervecken, www.verveckenreininghorses.be
I would like to thank all riders / owners for their confidence
To make an appointment you can contact me on weekdays by phone or mail from 8.00 o’clock till 18 o’clock. In urgent cases you can always contact me on my smartphone.
2440 Geel, Belgium