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GENERAL BENEFITS OF EQUINE MASSAGE

Performance horses, like human athletes, work very hard to reach top results.  Unfortunately, such demanding training often results in soreness, stiffness and sometimes in injuries and pain. The right combination of massage therapy, stretching and hydrotherapy modalities can help you prevent a lot of these problems and maximize your training by keeping your horse flexible and muscle stress free.

The benefits of alternative medicines such as massage therapy, stretching, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic and acupuncture, are many folds and no longer need to be proven. Such therapies have become widely accepted and recognized by the traditional medical community. Furthermore, the equine world has strongly benefited from the progress of modern sport medicine.

Sport massage therapy techniques, stretching techniques and hydrotherapy applications
 have benefited from advances in sport therapies and have kept pace with the changing methods of training, playing a very important role as a preventative, maintenance and palliative therapy. With this increased understanding, these techniques have lead us to a much richer relationship with our horses and resulted in better caring for their needs. Massage therapy allows us to trigger the body's ability to help itself back to health. The massage touch has a very strong healing influence on the horse of all ages and conditions. Horses really enjoy their massage and stretching, and will return the favor by being more complacent and willing to work.

Equine massage, stretching exercises and hydrotherapy applications are easily learned, easily applied and costs very little. They are some of the oldest forms of therapy and have been used from ancient times to the present. Ancient Chinese and Romans practiced forms of equine massage.

Today, advances in sport therapies allow us to apply techniques more knowledgeably, to better assist our faithful equine companions. Sport massage therapy techniques have kept pace with the changing methods of training, playing a very important role as a preventative therapy and in recovery from injury as well as. With this increased understanding, these techniques have lead us to a much richer relationship with our horses and resulted in better caring for their needs.

Massage therapy allows us to trigger the body's ability to help itself back to health. The massage touch has a very strong healing influence on the horse, and benefits animals (or people) of all ages and conditions. It is widely used to prevent and relieve stress, as well as to assist in recovery from injuries. Massage techniques safely affect the whole body by enhancing the circulatory, musculoskeletal and nervous systems and their interdependent functioning. Massage will relax your horse when excitable, and give him strength and flexibility when tired. Over time, it also will help soften sharp character traits.

Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body to achieve specific goals of drainage, relaxation or stimulation, as well as the release of muscle-related problems, such as trigger points (lactic acid buildups) and stress points (small spasms).

Massage techniques safely affect the whole body by enhancing the circulatory, musculoskeletal and nervous systems and their interdependent functioning. Regular massage contributes to the following benefits;

  • Overall economy of the body and to its ability to function efficiently.
  • Increase of the body fluids circulation (blood and lymph - resulting in increased oxygenation and nutrients to the muscle groups). 
  • Reduction of Trigger points (lactic acid build up) and Stress points (micro-spasms) formation.
  • A better metabolism, leading to better performance and shorter recuperation time.
  • Relaxation of the nervous system from stress, helping the psycho-physiologic self-regulation factors between body and mind.
  • Reduction of fibrous tissue adhesions build-up which result from inflammation caused by strenuous efforts, overuse (muscle strain) or trauma.
  • Increased emotional bonding allowing him to relax and accept being handled better.

Massage's healing benefits has been known to prevent musculoskeletal problems and speed up recovery. Massage is useful in solving a variety of problems such as:

  • Simple tiredness and muscle stiffness from exercising.
  • Muscle strains.
  • Ligament sprains.
  • “Cold” back.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Spasms.
  • Tying up
  • Arthritis / old age.
  • Assisting the recovery from surgery or broken bones.

Massage is a terrific assessing tool. It allows to feel and detect any musculoskeletal abnormalities much sooner than by sight, or grooming. Regular massage gives you direct feedback on the impact of your training on your horse’s musculature, allowing you to adjust the level of exercise accordingly. Massage will help you avoid possible complications that could later on be very costly to treat and could cause delays in the progression of your dressage training. However massage is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice of a licensed veterinarian. When in doubt, please contact your veterinarian.

Regular massage contributes to the overall economy of the body and to its ability to function efficiently. Massage greatly increases the circulation of body fluids (blood and lymph) resulting in increased oxygenation and nutrients to the muscle groups.  An increased oxygenation, in turn, acts as a tonic for a better metabolism, leading to enhanced performance and shorter recuperation time, especially for older and convalescing animals. Massage greatly contributes to relaxing the nervous system from stress, helping the psycho physiologic self-regulation factors between body and mind. With patience and several relaxing massages experiences, nervous or anxious horses will calm down and reveal a softer, more trusting nature. Massage can help reduce the build-up of fibrous tissue adhesions that result from inflammation caused by strenuous efforts, overuse (muscle strain) or trauma. Adhesions can cause a lot of stiffness and soreness to the horse when he moves.  Massage's healing function has been known to speed up recovery and can therefore be useful in solving a variety of problems - from simple tiredness from exercising, lack of vitality, convalescence, old age, to more specific problems such as strains, sprains, spasms, arthritis or recovery from surgery or broken bones.

Furthermore, the touching aspect of massage increases the emotional bonding with the animal allowing him to relax and accept being handled better. Horses really enjoy their massage and will return the favor by being more complacent and willing to work.

In the book, “Equine Massage, A Practical Guide, 2d Edition” written by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT and published by Howell Book House, an imprint of Wiley, you will find everything you need and want to know about massage movements, pressures, rhythms, techniques and sequences. Different routines are specifically designed for different situations. You will also learn about the various areas of stress in a working animal and the potential stress sites. Information on TMJ problems, muscular compensation, saddle fitting and myofascial massage are also part of this classic work.

The key to the successful use of equine massage is the ability sense accurately what your hands are feeling, to have knowledge of the structures worked on, and to understand the movement or technique being employed and what its effect will be. Much practice is required.

Learn to "see" with your hands and listen as your horse’s body "tells its own tale". This is the most efficient way to contribute to your horse’s overall fitness and well being while making his world a better place.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful.  My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal.

Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your horse’s wellness.

Animal Awareness also offers a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article, and more. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend.  He will love you for it.

Enjoy your new Awareness!

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

A regular application of the “Full Body Massage” (EV006) will be a great way to start generating the many benefits of massage onto your animal companion. Also, the use of “Stretching Exercises” (EV007) will maximize the benefit of your home-care program.

If you are just starting with your home-care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your equine massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care for the benefit of your horse(s).