Equine Massage Therapy For Your Horse

The benefits of massage therapy are often overlooked in the equestrian world. Massage can be used for a variety of physiological reasons including: improving circulation, increasing muscle tone and fitness and to release muscle spasm. Strengthening and fittening of the muscles can help improve difficult movements such as lateral work or jumping. Massage has also been proven to improve the nerve supply to muscles enabling increased performance. Stimulation of the nerve supply can help where there is reduced feeling in an area for example if the horse is reluctant to move forward off the leg.

Massage can also be beneficial in desensitizing areas which are hyper sensitive to the touch. Overall this will provide better communication between the horse and rider. Psychological benefits include: to ‘wake up’ a lazy horse, to calm a nervous horse or to improve the animal’s trust in people.
Regular massage therapy can help horses of any discipline and can be extremely beneficial whatever level the horse is working at. It also minimizes the risk of injury and helps to detect early signs of injury or problems. Massage therapy can be a great benefit as part of the preparation process for competitions, it is important to allow enough time before the event for the horse to recover if there is a lot to treat.

A massage therapist works on the soft tissues by applying various different techniques. The process helps to release lactic acid and toxins which have built up in the muscle fibres. It also helps to release muscle spasms which are common in the working horse and can be caused by a variety of things including: rugs, poorly fitting tack, conformational faults or previous injuries. Once a muscle is in spasm the fibres around it have to work harder and tire quickly which causes the spasm to grow; if left untreated this can lead to overuse of tendons or continual concussion to bones and joints causing injury.

You should always consult your Vet before equine massage treatment as under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, it is illegal for any person to treat an animal unless they are a Veterinary Surgeon or a paraprofessional working under veterinary supervision.

It is also important not to massage if the animal appears unwell in any way, if they are lame or have had a recent injury unless the vet has given permission having seen the injury. If the animal is unwell then the massage releasing toxins into the blood will make them feel worse and will slow their recovery.

When preparing your horse for a massage it is important to have a safe and quiet area in which they can be treated; the floor should have bedding or rubber matting to avoid any slipping. An aftercare advice plan will be given and you should try to keep the horse calm and quiet for a couple of days following treatment. It is essential to ensure they have free access to water during this time.