Who doesn’t love treating themselves to a massage? With the relaxing effects, the great feeling while it’s being performed and the even better way your muscles feel afterward, it’s no wonder athletes especially benefit. One of the greatest athletes you know is likely your horse, and with over 60% of his body weight being made up by muscle, equine massage therapy may be an appropriate way to support your horse’s wellbeing.
Horses let us know that equine massage therapy may do them some good in a variety of ways. Some of the signals that your horse may need a little help are:
- Shortening of stride
- Difficulty bending laterally or rounding
- Refusal to take a particular lead or change gaits
- General stiffness
- Aggravated movement, such as head tossing, bucking or kicking
- Hollowing out their back
- Tracking unevenly
- Girthing problems
While these elements can also be signs of other problems and should be evaluated by your veterinarian and a knowledgeable trainer, equine massage therapy could very well be the answer in eliminating them and getting your horse on the track to feeling better and having more successful working sessions.
The benefits of equine massage therapy are expansive, including the following:
- Helps to Prevent Injury – As you exercise your horse, you are building up his muscle. This is done when many small tears are made in the muscle fibers during exercise, which are then repaired with scar tissue over the next couple days. Massage helps to break down the scar tissue, allowing muscles to be elastic and flexible. Well moving muscles without tension help keep joints aligned and put less stress on tendons, reducing wear and tear.
- Improves Circulation – Massage dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the area. Increased circulation can help speed recovery of injured muscle tissues and restore mobility.
- Increase Range of Motion – Between stretching tissues, improving muscle tone and lowering stiffness and swelling, equine massage therapy can expand a horse’s range of motion, allowing them to become more effective under saddle.
- Reduces Stress – Horses experience stress and anxiety just like we do, and massage relaxes them just as it does us. When muscles are rubbed, there is a sedative effect on the nervous system, which helps with relaxation and can improve disposition.
Equine massage therapy is also used as a treatment, in addition to others your vet directs, for some injuries. Once the injury is past its initial stage, massage can be used to quicken healing of muscle damage and help get the horse back into shape sooner without risking re-injury under saddle or on the lunge line.
After you decide your horse could benefit from equine massage therapy, the next step is selecting a practitioner. When doing so, keep the following in mind:
- Certification/Approved by your veterinarian
- Ability to handle your horse comfortably
- Background and experience
- Knowledge of horse anatomy and muscle, tendon and joint function
- The results you are hoping to achieve
An alternative to having an equine massage specialist out to your farm on a regular basis is to invest in an equine massage therapy blanket for your horse, such as the new Sportz-Vibe blanket offered by Horseware®. A massage blanket is lightweight for use in all seasons and easy transport, so you can use it at shows before and after you compete. The massage it gives is gentle and it can be used up to three times daily for all the same effects as traditional massage. The massage action in this blanket is created through four panels that work on either side of your horse, with an automatic shut off. Additionally, it is rechargeable and machine washable once panels are removed, leaving no downside!
If you think equine massage therapy could benefit your horse, talk to your veterinarian – getting your horse’s body feeling better could have a great effect on his performance and both of your enjoyment in your rides.