What is Equine Sports Massage?
Equine Sports Massage is a non-invasive deep tissue “hands on” manipulation of the soft tissue working on the Muscoloskeletal and Neurologic systems. This comprises of Skin, Muscles, Nerves, Tendons, Ligaments and Bones all encased in connective tissue called Fascia that has a direct synergistic link to the Central Nervous System (CNS). This link is relaying all the information from what is going on in the horses body to the brain. Where the horse is showing discomfort is not necessarily where the issue stems from and through full body massage we find, relax and release the tension in the muscles, fascia, trigger points, spasms and scar tissue. The massage increases blood flow feeding oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, encouraging drainage of metabolic wastes to the lymphatic system but most importantly helping the soft tissue to repair and heal.
Massage is a necessary therapy for all horses whether they a Happy hacker or in full training, it is the amount of treatments that may vary. The whole idea of massage is to improve muscle balance (posture), biomechanics and proprioceptions and to reduce overloading any joints or muscles. Massage is essential in reducing the horse or pony’s risk of injury and performing to the best of their ability with efficacy and enthusiasm
What are the benefits of Equine Sports Massage?
Enhances better range of fluidity and performance
Increases circulation to aid muscle repair
Enriches skin texture, coat and healing of wounds
Improves Lymph drainage helping detoxification
Releases endorphins and serotonins – feel good hormone chemicals
Reduce cortisol levels – reduces stress and pain
Muscular balance for strength and range of movement.
Increases efficiency, energy and stamina
Helps with trust between horse and human
Shoeing and Clipping is more comfortable for the horse
Types of Massage
Maintenance – We would recommend maintenance massage every six weeks to speed up recovery rate and avert compensatory movements, this will depend on the amount of work and type of work the horse/pony is doing. They may need massage therapy more regularly if they have had an injury, slip, fall or kissing spines.
Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation of an injury depends on the severity and the individual horse, equine massage in most cases is dealing with the issues that attributed to the injury ie overloading and stimulates the body to heal itself.
Pre event – The pre-event massage is to invigorate and prepare the horse or pony by increasing blood flow to muscles and releasing the feel good chemicals. The stretches will help joints and muscles by improving mobility and proprioception and a pre-warm up can take 20 minutes and increases the horses efficacy by 20%.
Post event – The post-event Massage is to check for injuries, calm and relax the horse after exersion, alleviate any tension build-up, help remove metabolic toxins (lactic acid), increases speed of soft tissue repair and with actrive and passive stretches reduces stiffness and restores range of motion.
Influencial factors and examples to be considered
Conformation – good conformation is important for development, balance and soundness
Conformation vs Posture – a horse with good conformation can have muscle and skeletal imbalances through strains, injuries or training.
Temperament – important to have a calm relaxed horse to work with
Training – optimising training programme allowing for successful performance
Training Surfaces – too deep or too hard a surface can have a negative impact on the horses body
Rider – experience, balance & physicality issues reflects on the horses balance and biomechanics
Saddle fitting – correct fitting for horse and rider – both in comfort to work in harmony
Bridle – correct fitting, not tight at browband or bit sitting too loose or tight in mouth
Rug – not sitting back on withers (chaffing), tight on shoulders or across back (restricted movement)
Reasons for Equine Massage and McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy
A foal may be born asymmetrical with unfavourable conformation or great conformation but still asymmetrical and as a young animal anything can happen in the stable or out in the field. It is as the horse is growing and maturing from sedentry to training that unforseen accidents and injuries happen along the way. They can be obvious injuries and the usual protocols are put in place but also there are accidents that happen such as slip up or playing in the field, getting cast, kick from another horse, pull back on the headcollar or bridle/saddle problems, causing pain and discomfort either in hand or when ridden. The compensatory movements and behaviour changes can become apparent straight away or can take time to manifest and if left untreated can cause significant changes with their Flexibility, Strength, Power, Outline (posture) and Range of motion. Along with good foot balance, helping a horse to be as symmetrical musculoskeletal wise Massage and Spinal Therapy is very important and beneficial to alleviate restrictions and with exercises/stretches can change and reduce stress on the horse’s body
As a Rider, Coach or Trainer getting to know each individual horse and knowing when things are right and not so right. All horses go through changes as they mature and fitten up and train, just like people they have different pain thresholds too, stiffness and soreness in their movement, change in behaviour and irritability are all signs a horse is not comfortable and the sooner it is attended to the quicker and easier to resolve.
Such changes are:
Shortening of stride
Not tracking up
Refusing to jump obstacles
Refusing to trot – only wants to walk or canter
Going Dis-united in canter
Slow 4 beat canter instead of 3 beat
Hanging or drifting to one side
Refusing to strike off on correct leading leg
When grooming or mounting – dipping their back
Behavioural changes are:
Rearing, Bolting, Bucking or Napping
Swishing tail or crabby when tightening girth
Unwilling to work
Refusing to eat
Riding Changes are:
Warming up the horse takes longer
Reluctant to flex left or right
One rein is much stiffer than the other
Canter lacks engagement
Leaning or difficult to ride
Horse may sweat up too much for fitness level
If you feel your horse is showing any of the above signs we can help you get back on track by doing a Full Body Sports Massage and Spinal Therapy. If you have a question or unsure if our therapy is for your horse go to the Contacts page and drop us a line. We are more than happy to help.