Equine Sports Massage Therapy is a therapeutic application of hands-on professional sports massage techniques. A thorough understanding of anatomy and the interaction of bones, joints and muscles are the basis of the proven physical and mental therapy that is the art of massage. The purpose of Equine Sports Massage is to increase/improve circulation, enhance muscle tone, relax muscle spasms, relieve tension/adhesions, stimulate mental relaxation and increase range of motion for a variety of different horses. A therapist looks at the horse as a whole and attempts to consider all possible causes and effects of any tension, while interpreting a horse’s reactions and expressions to the human touch.
When might my horse need an Equine Sports Massage?
You horse maybe showing signs of pain or discomfort. Common signs of this could be;
Preference to one rein
Lateral (side bending) stiffness
Holding head to one side/lacking side bend/reduced flexion in the poll
Reluctance to canter on one rein
High head carriage/hollow back
Bucking/rearing out of character
Sudden dislike to being groomed
Change in stride length resulting in unevenness
Carrying the tail to one side
Benefits of Equine Sports & Rehabilitation Therapy
It’s not unknown that the most common reason that an Equine Sports & Rehabilitation Therapist is called to a horse is because the owner has noticed a change in their behaviour and are concerned. Equine massage can be used to identify and pin point problem areas or those regions compensating for the affected area. Heartbreakingly, not all vets can spend an hour or even more, diagnosing musculoskeletal issues, so an Equine Sports & Rehabilitation Therapist can help this process.
Once an issue is found, Equine Sports Massage can aid recovery by reducing swelling & fluid within the soft tissues. Massage optimises healing as well as other systems within the horse (digestive/lymphatic/circulatory) enabling them to work more effectively and efficiently, thus creating a happier and healthier horse.
Nonetheless, what would be the ideal situation is if
we could use Equine Sports Massage to prevent any issues occurring, rather than finding a cure for current problem areas. Muscle mass accounts for more than 60% of a horse’s body weight. Small muscular injuries can take up to 90 days to become apparent (by a change in attitude, decreased performance or lameness) by which time they may have caused a more serious injury. Prompt attention to these ‘minor’ injuries can mean minimal further damage is caused. Equine Sports Massage Therapy, when used as a preventative tool, will maintain balance of the musculoskeletal system, thus optimising the body, while allowing for natural healing. Many horses benefit from 3 or 6 monthly check-ups; like a horse MOT!
Equine Sports Massage can be used during training as well as pre & post competition to help keep muscles healthy, build up areas that may have atrophied (wasted away) and maintain strength & suppleness. After exertion, massage minimises stiffness and speeds up the repairing process of damaged tissue which is an inevitable result of physical stress and fatigue.
Types of Equine Massage Techniques
Laying on of hands
Cross Fibre Friction
Thank you for taking the time to read my latest blog. I hope this has shed some light into why I feel so strongly about gaining my qualification is Equine Sports & Rehabilitation Therapy and therefore, being able to help all of your wonderful horses!
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST
MSc Strength and Conditioning
Wolds Student Equine Sport & Rehabilitation Therapist
Equine Sports Massage Association 2021