In basic terms, Equine Massage Therapy works the soft tissues and muscles of the horse to improve movement, flexibility and to aid healing. It is based on the same principles as human massage, using direct pressure, cross-fiber friction and compression to relieve muscle knots, spasms and tension, which can all cause stiffness, shortening of strides and lameness.
Benefits of equine massage therapy include:
*Improving performance and temperament*
*Improving suppleness and range of movement*
*Relieving muscular pain*
*Reducing adverse effects of over-training*
*Aiding recovery after competition*
*Speeding up removal of metabolic waste*
*Rehabilitation following injury*
*Improving of overall well-being*
*Desensitizing i.e. For young horses prior to ground driving, lunging and backing demands*
Frequency of massage
This is dependent on variables that may predispose a horse to muscle issues, such as conformation or their training routine. An owner's time and any upcoming events will also influence how regularly your horse should be massaged. It can vary from weekly to four monthly sessions. Here are some examples:
A pleasure/ retired horse
Typical owner that rides 3-5 times a week
Racehorse/ highest level competition horse
1-3 times a week initially, spaced further apart as horse improves. Prices will vary as often full sessions aren't needed.
When to massage
Part of routine care
Sports massage works to promote muscular health, which is essential for suppleness and effective co-ordination. These factors are necessary for soundness and fluid, confident movement. Riding places high demands on the musculoskeletal system of the horse, and strain from regular riding or intense training regimes can lead to small muscle injuries. As a flight animal a horse's instinct is to conceal injury from predators, meaning that it can take up to 90 days for a minor injury to become apparent by change in attitude, decreased performance or lameness. Regular massage allows early detection of discomfort and pain before it develops, and even impacts on other structures through compensation- prevention is better than cure!
Rehabilitation from injury
In the event of an injury, massage is beneficial to aid recovery and reduce atrophy (wasting) of muscles. A box rested horse often suffers from both physical and mental tension - these can be alleviated by regular massage. By maintaining flexibility, the horse will be more supple when he is brought back into work following a period of box rest. Your vet may prescribe a Veterinary Physiotherapist to see your horse for an injury, and if rehabilitation is needed an Equine Massage Therapist would be prescribed for maintenance of the soft tissue integrity and structures between veterinary physiotherapy sessions. Both practitioners compliment each other in the rehabilitation process.