Your horse wants a massage!
Horse massage; your equine partner will love it! Have you ever had a massage? You know that it is super at loosening tight muscles and helping your relax. You might also know that it helps improve your circulation and heal more quickly. Horses get the same benefits as we do.
I have had a massage once or twice and I know it made me feel better. It seems like it would do wonders for my horses too, so I checked it out. I interviewed my friend, Linda Ghent, an equine massage therapist, to get the best understanding of this mode of treatment. Here’s what she had to say.
How can massage help your horse?
What is horse massage, exactly? Technically, horse massage, also known as equine sports massage therapy, is the therapeutic application of hands-on deep tissue techniques to the voluntary muscle system. That sounds like a really complicated definition. In reality it can resolve quite a few basic issues that effect your horse every day. This therapy can help all breeds of horses to
- increase circulation
- reduce muscle spasms
- relieve tension
- enhance muscle tone
- promote healing
- increase range of motion
A horse that is competing or working hard is likely to have sore muscles, stiffness, little aches and pains, etc. If you think about it, massage isn’t just for feeling good, but can also help heal ongoing issues like stiffness or injury.
Does your horse need a massage?
While I would think all horses might enjoy a massage, some horses are more likely to benefit from the healing aspects as well. Each horse is different. But in general, many of their issues are similar due to the unique build they share. Most horses would benefit from a massage.
Many equine disciplines ask a lot of the horse. For example, a race horse might have sore chest muscles from all of the pulling they do leaving the starting gate. A barrel horse will have sore lower back muscles from having to make three hard turns. Meanwhile, a dressage horse often has sore neck and back muscles from being so collected so much. Each discipline has its own set of issues. Providing massage to any of these will help muscles loosen up and help the horse perform more comfortably and therefore better.
How do you choose a practitioner?
I asked Linda what factors were important when seeking an an equine masseuse. She said the first thing would be to find someone who really cares about your horse. It would be a good idea to do your homework and check references too.
A practitioner should listen to your concerns. You can help them do their job if you’re aware of how your horse is working and know possible problems. In addition, they need to observe your horse to understand the whole picture. Then they need to talk with you and put together a plan. Ideally, they will teach you some techniques to help your horse between massages as well.
How should you use massage to maintain your horse?
Regular massages can help keep your horse working to their highest level. Especially in combination with chiropractic work. I have my horses adjusted several times a year and it really helps. Read my post about chiropractic care here. I also have acupuncture done on my horses, with great results.
The frequency of massage sessions depends on how hard you and your horse are working as well as how well your horse does between sessions. If you watch and feel your horse you should get a pretty good idea. The goal is to keep them healthy, happy and moving comfortably.
Keeping your horse healthy
As you get more familiar with your horse and how they feel when things are working, it gets easier to know when there is a problem. Horses are very stoic; a survival behavior left over from being in a herd. They usually won’t show they are having a problem until they absolutely can’t hide it anymore. Don’t wait until they get to that point if you can help them sooner.
You can learn how to detect sore muscles by feeling with your fingers and watching the muscles respond. As you ride, you can feel if they aren’t using themselves well. If you’re observant, you’ll know when your horse needs help; either the simple techniques you can perform at home or the more expert treatment from an equine masseuse.
If you can, it’s worth a try
My horses certainly enjoy their massages. I have learned some techniques so I don’t have a professional work on them often, but I know it works. You might be pleased by the results too. Have you tried having horse massage done? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Although Linda doesn’t do horse massage for other people’s horses, she takes some amazing photographs, which you can see here.