Equine Massage is most effective when used as a preventative measure before or after a horse show competition. Equine sports massage will prepare your equine athlete to perform his very best. This particular form of massage will keep your athlete flexible thereby preventing further injuries to his muscles. Taking good care of your horse should be your primary goal when competing.
The one stroke that makes SPORTS massage distinct is COMPRESSION.
The other strokes which are used to complement COMPRESSION are: Direct Pressure, Cross Fibre Friction, Percussion, and Palpation.
Because muscle injuries are cumulative the rider is not aware of an injury. Equine massage will help alleviate structure misalignment due to stressful training.
Failure to detect the early signs of injury will lead to poor levels of performance and often to more serious injury. So many horses are discarded needlessly because they are not given a chance to heal with a specific massage treatment or proper veterinary consultation.
The more you demand from your horse the greater the need for massage.
Benefits of Equine Massage
- Releases lactic acid build-up.
- Calms an anxiety-ridden/nervous horse. (If you lightly rub your horse’s forehead in a circle you will see a dramatic difference in behavior.)
- Provides good blood and lymphatic circulation.
- Enhances muscle tone.
- Releases endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller).
- Increase in range of motion.
- Increases ability to heal the body and mind.
- Connective tissue becomes elongated and changes the neuromuscular holding patterns (nervous system and muscle system jointly)
Horse Care and Equine Massage
The first thing I do is focus and concentrate on your horse and keep myself in the horse’s presence at all times.
My goal is to find injuries while still new and restore them through a program of equine sports massage therapy to prevent an ongoing problem. Each horse will tell me what the problem is during the hands-on evaluation. The treatment given is altered throughout the massage according to the horse’s needs.
The treatment may be deep tissue work or just a relaxing body massage. It really depends on whether a horse has experienced a massage. I find that a horse is very suspicious of a new person and new things so it takes a couple of times before they understand what it is I am trying to do. After a few massage treatments, I am usually greeted with a yawn.
I take my time with each individual and I do a great massage. One hand is on your horse at all times and the other hand is used to do the massage sequence. The non-massage hand that is on the horse at all times will reassure the horse and help calm him. Plus it is a protection for myself as some horses nip or kick out. The horse I am working on will let me know where they hurt through body language and facial expression.
During a massage, the horse’s body, like our own, will eventually release discomfort or pain. Massage therapy also has a profound effect on the horse’s ability to learn (because he/she is relaxed) and has an influence on the personality. The bonus is your horse will start learning that his head in a lower position other than in the rafters is a good feeling. Massage therapy is all about good feelings.
The massage therapy session would last about 2 hours on the first meeting as I need to have the case history of the horse I am working on. I will observe the horse’s gait and movement, body language, and eye expression. The massage therapy technique will depend on the injury and size of your horse.
I worked on a mare that was unable to tolerate more than 15 minutes of massage work. She was very jumpy and suspicious. Each horse has to be “handled” in a different way. What massage therapy works for one doesn’t work for all horses. I certainly don’t expect every horse to stand still for the entire massage therapy. This is where the owner can be a big help for her horse. She can learn a few massage sequences and do them herself. The owner/rider will see a big difference in attitude.
After the massage, I take your horse for a brisk 5-minute walk to prevent “after massage stiffness”. Putting your horse out into the paddock to walk it out on their own is not effective. Whenever I personally have gone for massage therapy I am very sore the next day and quite tired.
When appropriate, I incorporate slow, passive stretch exercises working through the full range of motion or a partial or modified stretch. The horse will tell me what he or she can tolerate. The combination of massage and stretching helps the horse to maintain and improve neuromuscular activity (jointly involving the nervous and muscular systems.)
COLD MUSCLES ARE NEVER STRETCHED
There are 3 major horsekeeping areas that need to be addressed in order for a horse to perform at an optimum level: