Equine Massage Therapy: The Secret to Improving Connection With Your Horse
Equine Massage Therapy is becoming more and more common in the horse industry today. Courses and programs are readily available and trainers, owners and veterinarians are seeing the benefits to adding massage into your routine with your horse.
What is Equine Massage Therapy?
Defined as the “systematic manipulation of soft tissues to develop, maintain, rehabilitate, or augment physical function or relieve pain” by the In- ternational Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists, it is a non-invasive therapy for your horse. It can be a valuable part of any horse’s ongoing health maintenance plan.
Benefits of Equine Massage Therapy
All horses benefit from massage therapy – it’s not just for the high performance athlete. Every discipline and every job a horse does can be better and feel better; improving their health and wellness with Equine Massage Therapy. Four things are certain about massage on your horse:
- Your horse will LOVE it! It’s a great way to connect with your equine partner – to spend some quality time with him or her outside of working. Your intention would be to totally relax them, just like we become totally relaxed when we go for a massage! Your horse will think it’s heaven! Of- ten the therapy is combined with Essential Oils work which combines aroma therapy with the massage to create a more profound experience for the animal. This can be as simple as Lavender to encourage a deeper relaxation, or more complex – it varies with the individual Equine Massage Therapist.
- 2.It relieves muscular tension. The overall soundness and supplement of the muscles improve. When a muscle can contract in full, with freedom and with a lack of pain, your horse can perform better – there is no ques- tion. So in terms of connection with riding, they are able to connect better after they receive massage therapy. Horses get stiff and sore from too much of one thing, just like we do. Keeping the soft tissue healthy and limber will allow your horse to feel his or her best.
- 3.Equine Massage Therapy improves circulation in your horse’s body. Improving circulation will allow nutrients to access every cell in their body more efficiently, as well as allow the removal of waste. In cases of injury, improving the circulation to the area will advance the healing. It encourages a more supple and balanced way of going.
- 4.Regular Massage Therapy on your horse will assist in early detection of problems – poor saddle fitting, tight muscles that might forecast future sites of trauma, and so on. Feeling your horse that thoroughly will indicate changes that you might not notice otherwise until a more serious problem arises.
For senior horses, or any horse with a chronic condition of the musculoskeletal system, massage can be valuable in maintaining the freedom of movement desired and in relieving discomfort they likely suffer.
How to Find a Registered Massage Therapist
Starting your search on-line is always an option. Try the International
Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists web site to start: http://ifremt.org/find-a-therapist/.
Becoming more and more prevalent in the industry, if you are in an active
horse community, it’s a good idea to start asking a few people.
Veterinary clinics often can get you started with the names of a couple therapists that they recommend working with.
Bigger barns are often affiliated with a regular person that comes in, so
check with the barn manager if you are unfamiliar with who it may be, or who they know in the area.
At horse shows, you can start in the show office, and again, asking around.
There is usually someone who knows someone that can help. You want someone with an official certification and someone that you ideally have a recommendation for.
Equine Massage Therapy Techniques That You Can Do Yourself!
Having a certified Equine Massage Therapist work on your horse is important – how often is needed is dependent on how hard your horse is working, whether there is an injury or chronic condition present, and of course, how easy it is to arrange treatment and access the budget you need for it.
If you have worked with a trained massage therapist before, they often
teach you a few techniques and areas that you can give daily attention to. Having your hands on your horse, touching and massage them is a good thing as often as you can do it.
It is very helpful to have is a printout of a horse’s body shape where you can
mark areas of your horse’s body that are sensitive or reactive. It is a good idea to keep records of what you notice.
Also, for safety’s sake, remember that any horse is capable of biting or kicking as a response to a painful area that you may find. Be mindful of it, and keep care to watch their expressions – their ears, when they swing their head or switch their tail – not only for your own safety, but as feedback from your horse of areas they may have pain or stiffness in.
THREE ways to use your HANDS:
- the pads of your finger tips
- the heel of your palm
- thumb pressure
Generally, the muscles in your horse’s body run in the same direction as the
hair grows. As you get a feel for it, you’ll be able to palpate knots, tightness, and even some of the muscle bundles.
Each horse will respond differently to different amounts of pressure in each
body part that you work on. Practicing will familiarize you with what your horse appreciates and where. Start on the neck, as it is relatively easy to see the muscles on the neck and experiment with a soft, medium and deep pressure with each of the three ways to use your hands.
As you feel more confident with massaging, move down his or her body.
Make the appropriate changes as you reach the different body parts. For example, a very light touch of thumb pressure works well for the rib cage. Pay particular attention to muscle groups that you make work hard, or may get stiff from limited engagement – like the area in the loin and croup, on the top of the back, behind where your saddle sits.
Enjoy the time with your horse, and do what you can as often as you can!
Consult with your certified therapist for additional techniques that will help your equine partner as an individual. Happy horses make for happy riders!