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Equine Massage Therapy

Equine FaceEquine Massage Therapy has become a popular preventative and remedial therapy for equine athletes.

Adapted from articles on EquiSearch.com by Jayne D. Wilson and in Practical Horseman by the editors, with Morgan Thomas

Massage for humans has been around for centuries, but it is usually thought that Equine Massage Therapy is a product of the modern competitive age.

In fact, it is believed that the ancient Chinese used massage techniques on both animals and people as early as 3,000 B.C. In addition to pre- and post-competitive applications, massage therapy is currently enjoying a resurgence as horse owners become interested in the treatment of the whole horse and the holistic and alternative therapies available.

Besides being a tool for remedial treatment of specific injuries, massage therapy is popular as a preventative tool. The branch known as sports massage therapy, which specializes in preparing the musculature Equine Massage Therapy has become a popular preventative and remedial therapy for equine athletes.

The direct physical effects of specific strokes and the pressure of equine massage release tension within the muscles. Massage therapy also fosters the well-being of the horse by improving circulation, either soothing or stimulating the nervous system and aiding in digestion.

A horse doesn’t have to be an athlete to benefit from massage therapy. Ever seen horses galloping in a muddy field, slip and catch themselves? Imagine how you would feel if the same thing happened to you; you might pull a groin or some other muscle and feel the effects for days.

Here are some signs to help determine whether your horse might benefit from massage therapy:

  • Shortened strides
  • Sore back
  • Stiffness and/or unwillingness to bend to the left or right
  • Problems picking up the canter, bucking during transitions
  • Tripping and stumbling
  • Change in demeanor

Mini-Massage Makes a Difference
Here’s a simple technique to help loosen up horses that tend to come out of their stalls feeling particularly stiff. It works so well and takes so little extra time that you might try it on all your horses.

Perform this mini-massage when your horse is already tacked up and ready for schooling, or as you’re leading him to the ring. Placing your hand just behind the cantle, gently palpate his topline — the muscles right along the spine — from the loins to the croup and all the way to the base of the tail, to see whether you can feel any knots or areas of stiffness that need special attention.

Then return to your starting point and massage the length of the spine behind the saddle. Press your thumb and fingertips firmly into the muscle with a kneading, not a poking, motion, pausing wherever you find a knot or stiffness, until the muscles feel consistently pliant and relaxed.

Bonus Tip from Angelia Robinette-Dublin and Jenny Lance from LivetoRideHorses.com:
“After a long trail ride, we come back to the barn, hose off the horses and mix a half a cup of Mineral Ice with water in a 16-oz. generic sprayer, to create an inexpensive cooling liniment spray. It is a trick we have discovered to help our horses’ muscles recover from an all-day jaunt, relaxing their tired and sore legs, shoulders and backs while helping to cool them down.”

Read more:
Simple step-by-step guide
Grooming tips and techniques
Selecting the right shampoo
Basic bathing tips: Shampooing
Basic bathing tips: Rinsing
Keep Your Gray Horse Gleaming
Braiding Basics
Horse Hoof Care Tips
Equine Massage Therapy
Winter Horse Grooming Tips
Grooming for Show Day

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