The therapeutic value of massage has been proven through many years. We can now give horses the benefit of manual therapy as well, improving their performance through enhancing the bloodflow and optimising their movement.
Different massage techniques are used on muscles that cannot relax out of their own accord anymore. Many of the muscle problems come from orthopeadic complications or are the results of an injury or illness. On the other hand the problems can arise due to overworking the horse.
Every time we use muscles there are small tears that appear, which is normal, and it is important that enough time is allowed for it to heal itself again. When we then want to increase the performance of the horse, these small tears get torn a little more as they are more intensively put into service. Unfortunately we notice too late when the damage is done.
Some of the signs, handling and ridden, can be:
- Stary coat, lifeless eyes
- Tight and sore muscles
- Loss of appetite
- Change in behaviour
- Longer warm-up phase
- Change in the gaits
- Pulling ears back when groomed
- Tail swishing and head-shaking
- Grinding of teeth
- Biting or pulling ears back when being saddled
- Tail carried to one side
- Often changing into a disunited canter
On the first visit, a thorough investigation to all the possible reasons take place. This includes the training of the horse, a history of his illness, operations etc. The horse itself is examined and the symmetry of the muscles on the body is noted and questioned. The horse is then moved on straight lines and in small circles, where the rhythm, stride-length, mobility and the body as a whole is appraised.
The saddle fit and shoeing is inspected and the horse is then ridden as well. After this the horse is manually examined, checking the various muscles on tightness, warmness, scar tissue or adhesions. This first visit normally takes 1 ½ to 2 hours. The follow-up session takes approximately an hour, for the treatment is more specific. If the horse is lame, a veterinary surgeon must first examine it as inflammation for example is contraindicated.
Some of the benefits of sports massage for horses are:
- Better range of motion
- Improved performance
- Greater endurance
- Feel-good factor brings willing performer
- Improves the gaits
- Enhances circulation
- Prevention of scar tissue and adhesions
If your horse has even the slightest inclination of abnormal movement, acts uncooperative or is slightly stiff, it might well be time for a therapeutic treatment.