Why introduce your horse to a massage? When properly provided, massage can be an effective way to relieve muscle fatigue and reduce the chance of injury and disease. For all almost animals, but especially horses. It is my belief that all horses, whether they are an athlete or a pleasure horse, show many benefits following massage treatments.
So, why introduce your horse to a massage? First of all, massage improves blood flow, resulting in increased oxygen levels and a better flow of nutrients to affected or sore areas. It is also invaluable for injury and disease and maintains better general health. Massage relieves muscle fatigue, overworked muscles, and rids the body of waste products from muscular contraction which can temporarily paralyze muscles.
“The evident pleasure which stroking gives to animals, and the delight tired horses, dogs and cats take in rolling are convincing proofs of the health-giving effects of massage.” – M. Horace Hayes, Veterinary Notes for the Horse Owner, originally published in 1877.
A regular routine of massage reduces stress, increases flexibility in soft tissue, reduces edema, maintains good posture, and improves body balance. It will also prevent atrophy in inactive muscles, improve athletic performance, loosen and soften scar tissue, and enhance your horse’s range of motion. Other advantages include helping horses that forge, those who have the tendency to tie-up as well as EPM, Botulism, and colic.
Massage Isn’t Just for Muscles
Do you almost shutter at the word colic? Yes, massage can help with colic also. There is a massage sequence that helps horses who are experiencing the symptoms of colic. A routine regimen of massage can help.
Remember it is a serious condition and make sure you veterinarian examines your horse even if a massage relieved the symptoms. I recommend that you speak with your veterinarian first, and then speak with a certified animal massage therapist. There are times when your vet may be tied up with an emergency and unable to attend to your horse’s needs at that moment.
Remember; massage is used as a health aid and compliments traditional veterinary medicine.
My first case study years ago was personal, involving my own 10-year-old gelding who was an athlete and competed almost every weekend. We competed in Working Cow, Reining Cow, Cutting, Ranch Rodeos, and Cowboy Challenges. We all know that trailering and campaigning can be stressful on our horse athletes. After each weekend away, both horse and rider came home tired, with sore muscles and a high level of stress and fatigue.
I always thought we did fairly well at our shows and although we never won we were always competitive. To say I was proud of our scores would be an understatement, as this was a new discipline for me after coming off Hunters and Jumpers. I had just finished my certification and decided to try my new tools in massage therapy with him. We had our sessions every week and timed them so he received one the day before we headed out for a competition. He also received one the day after we returned. This horse responded so well that within the next month we were winning our classes. His scores in both reining and cow work continually improved, and during his career, he won most of the classes. Obviously, I became a big believer in horse massage and dove into furthering my equine studies.
There is another story involving a thoroughbred race horse that one of my clients owned. This mare was well bred but just not racing the way she should be. The owner explained that she was always coming up short at the end of the race. I scheduled an appointment to visit the track, watched her workout, and determined that his observation was correct. The mare was short in her stride and seemed tight in her hind quarters. We immediately began a series of massage treatments, with emphasis on her hind area. After her initial session, she already seemed more relaxed and showed some improvement in her hind end flexibility. We followed this up with a series of sessions over the next three weeks leading up to her next race. To everyone’s amazement, she won her race. Better still, she didn’t show any signs of tiring and ran a terrific race. This mare went on to race and win for another year before retiring.
Here are a few testimonials from Chasing Dreams Animal Therapy clients:
“Thank you so much! My horse had a tendon issue and nothing really worked. He kept reinjuring it and since he has been receiving massage therapy we haven’t had any more issues” H.P. PA.
“After my mare pulled her stifle I thought we would be out of the show arena for months. Thank you for all you have done. We are better than ever and having fun” N.L. NJ.
‘Thank-you for spending so much time with my horse. She is my best friend and we love to trail ride. After running around in her pasture she fell and bruised her knee and pulled the extensor muscle. Your caring hands helped so much and we are out riding again. D.R. NJ
As you can see from some of these client comments, the benefits of massage are not only for competition horses. All horses across all ages can benefit from a massage. Did you know that foals respond as well as young horses? As horses grown they can experience growing pains. Growing pains occur when the bones grow quicker than the muscles and tendons. The muscles become stretched and soreness can occur. What about a broodmare? Massage can help them handle the pregnancy and make the delivery easier.
Here is another case study involving my own broodmares and foals. I massaged my mares at least once a month during the pregnancy and I believe it helped make the delivery process become more comfortable and they delivered with ease. The foals were provided with a massage treatment within 48 hours. They were receptive and seems to enjoy the touch. It also helped with the handling of these youngsters, as they are prone to quick growth spurts.
Why introduce your horse to a massage? I think the observations provided here speak volumes to it. Using a knowledgeable Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist (CESMT) will provide long-term, lasting benefits for your horse. Whether your horse is an athlete competing and racing, or just your best friend, enjoy their company while helping them improve their quality of life. See for yourself how a routine of therapeutic massage can maintain muscle and allow your horse to perform at an optimum level.