Equine Massage Therapy – Why Massage Therapy for Horses?
Just as the human body requires rehabilitation, relief from pain and stress, detoxification, improved circulation and joint mobility, so does the equine body. As with humans and our health care system, massage therapy for horses should be used in conjunction with veterinary health care. Equine Massage Therapy can not only help increase a horse’s performance, but also help prevent injury and decrease healing time from an existing condition.
Approximately 60% of a horse’s total body weight is comprised of muscle and tendons. Tension and spasms can prevent optimal movement and will cause problems in the horse’s performance. Healthy, spasm free, fully extensible muscle tissue is less prone to injury. The benefits from massage therapy are profound and almost instantly a difference can be observed as the horse will begin to move more easily after massage treatments. My sessions include not only massage therapy, but also craniosacral therapy. I now offer saddle fitting as well.
How Are A Horse’s Muscles Injured?
- Collisions with other horses
- Imbalanced rider
- Playing in the paddock
- A blow to the muscle
- Ill- fitting tack
- Over stretching
- Lack of stretching prior to an event
- Cooling down or warming up too quickly
- Result of poor or stressful conformation
- Forging, while trying to save itself from a fall
What Does Massage Do For Horses?
- Relaxation and relief of spasm
- Increases drainage of lymph – most effectively seen in reducing swelling in the lower limbs
- Increases drainage of lactic acid, the prominent cause of fatigue
- Improve joint mobility
- Increases circulation in all systems – the most profound aspect of massage – can also be used to increase circulation to the hoof for horses that have: laminitis (48 hours after onset), navicular, abscess, general heat in hoof
- Improves flexibility and suppleness
- Decreases recovery time in injuries
- Reduction of toxic build- up
- Increased tissue elasticity which allows for greater extension
- Relaxes muscle tone
- Increases range of motion
- promotes peristalsis – movement of the gut – profound results have been reached in the relief of colic
- Reduces adhesions/scar tissue and restores extensibility of muscle fibres
- Assists in respiration, digestion and elimination
- Can improve mental attitude, as pain is dramatically reduced
Goals of Equine Massage Therapy:
- To increase blood and lymphatic circulation
- To allow for full painless contraction of muscles
- To allow for full muscular and joint range of motion
- To improve the quality of life by decreasing pain and inflammation caused by injury and arthritis
- To enhance athletic performance
- To help build stronger, suppler muscles that will be less prone to injury from strain
- To decrease recovery time between events
- To allow the horse to develop a smooth gait
- To deepen the bond between horse and rider
What Happens During The First Assessment/Treatment?
The first visit for equine massage therapy has three main objectives:
1. An introduction to the type or style of touch associated with massage therapy – your horse may not know what to expect and it can take them a bit to understand what is happening.
2. An introduction between the horse and therapist, therefore very important in starting to develop a sense of trust and getting to know one another.
3. Lastly, the therapist assesses the horse’s musculature through palpations and specific manipulations to determine where the main issues may be.
As with a human massage, treatment is then given and then the therapist may give home care/barn-care instructions to the owner/trainer/groom. Home care/barn-care may include stretches and hydrotherapy, depending on the issue. The first visit ends with the answering of any questions or concerns that the owner may have, home care or sessions to come. From there, the next appointment is made to ensure the maintenance of your horse’s overall health – mind and body.
How Many Treatments Do Horses Need?
Some horses may react with positive changes in their performance after the first session. On average, it can take 2-3 sessions before the horse and especially the rider will feel or notice a difference. There can be an immediate change seen in the personality of the horse though. The same is true for humans. You will feel an immediate improvement, but depending on the condition, you may require a few more sessions in order to no longer experience regular problems.
Can Massage Fix Everything?
Massage therapy cannot “fix” everything. It does however, aid in and promote healing. It helps to maintain the horse and human body throughout constant demands that are placed on them. It is important to stress that massage is most beneficial when used in a maintenance program. It best suits the horse and human when massage is incorporated in their regular training and competition schedules.
Want to better your performance as well as that of your horse? Consider massage therapy for both horse and rider!