Horses benefit from massage just as much as we and our dogs do. Because they are often asked to perform tasks with a person on their back or in a harness, their movements are therefore somewhat different than that of a “naked” horse. As a result, tension builds and the possibility of discomfort or even injury increases.

That’s not to say horses won’t hurt themselves at play in a field. But, if you learn safe and effective massage techniques as well as how to “feel-see” with your hands, you will be able to tell if something is brewing and help prevent it from becoming worse.

Horses being social animals’ enjoy having massage and will have no problem showing you how much they appreciate the TLC

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Equine Massage:

  • Alleviates: pain, muscle spasm, lactic acid (trigger point) build-up, pulled muscles, muscle tension, tendonitis
  • Improves circulation of blood and lymph
  • Improves over-all well-being and attitude
  • Improves proprioception
  • Breaks down restrictive scar tissue and adhesions
  • Decreases lymphatic congestion
  • Decreases risk of more serious soft tissue injury
  • Decrease recovery time from work outs
  • Enhances the bond between you and your horse
  • Increases range of motion and flexibility
  • Allows for more fluidity of movement
  • Perpetuates better balance and posture
  • Lessens fatigue and increases stamina

Your horse may benefit from massage if he is showing signs such as:

  • Shortness of stride
  • Tossing his head
  • Being “grumpy” when saddling or when you are mounting up
  • Not picking up or losing a lead
  • Not bending in a circle
  • Showing changes of behavior
  • Is unwilling to perform tasks and movements which were no problem before
  • Not standing square

Massage is not a substitute for veterinary care.

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Many horse enthusiasts treat their horses as they would themselves; however, there are still those out there who expect their horses to perform above and beyond what is considered safe, at certain times. For example, the weekend warriors who leave their horses in the stalls or fields during the week and take them out for a half day long trail ride on the weekend. It’s no wonder the horses come up stiff, sore and even lame after these events.

Allowing the horse to build up his stamina and muscles to withstand such a workout…with a good cool down and massage afterward will prevent injuries that could change his life.

Having the correct fitting tack is just as important as warm-up and cool-down routines for your training schedules. If you think of how you feel wearing ill-fitting shoes in a marathon…then you will be able to understand some of the pain a horse experiences with a saddle that doesn’t fit properly.

There are many great saddle fitting seminars taught by well-trained professionals in the horse world these days. It takes time to fit a saddle to both you and your horse, but the time is well worth it.

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Most soft tissue pain is cumulative. When a muscle becomes over-worked or strained, this can cause stiffness initially, but if left alone, over time it will become tighter and can lead to strain on adjacent muscles. When the muscles don’t take up the load that’s required of them, and they can’t stretch to their full potential, the tendons have to make up for the lack of correct movement.

A cascade effect will happen as more soft tissues become affected and a more serious symptoms show up with the possibility of injury is a result.

By addressing the tight muscle early on, we can prevent injury and allow the body to rebalance itself. The best way to avoid lameness is to get into a regimen of prevention

A light massage after a workout is best…but until a person knows how to perform horse massage in a safe way, a session with a trained massage specialist is a good idea to keep your horse in great working order. Timing and frequency, depends on the level of training and the physical demands you have on your horse.

Once they realize what it is you are doing, most horses enjoy massage. They will yawn, lick or chew. Their eyes close a bit, their heads may lower and they . Many of them turn around to massage me.

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I ask for a detailed history with information concerning: behavior changes, past injuries, illnesses, pregnancies, changes in lifestyle. Then I watch the horse move to see how he’s
going and what he’s saying. Keeping in mind that everything in the horse is connected, and if he’s showing slight lameness in one part of the body…there will be compensation somewhere else.

We will then go to a quiet area and I will put my hands on him. After the massage and stretching session, I will show the horses’ guardian how to help their horse with some specific techniques. After the massage, I will ask that the horse be walked for about 10 minutes with large, easy circles to help “reset” the soft tissue memory. The entire process will take about an hour to an hour and a half depending on what we find.

Don’t be surprised if your horse drinks more water than usual after the session, as the increase in circulation, release of metabolic waste and lactic acid will cause him to become thirsty in an effort to flush out the system.

Can guardians massage their horses safely?

Yes they sure can! I encourage the guardians to learn safe equine massage so they can look after their horses themselves.

Horse guardians know their horses best. They are with them more often and will be able to detect subtle changes in the horses’ body quite easily once they know what to look for.