by Pat Ki
Horse Massage Programme
Each horse massage programme has to fit the age, workload and lifestyle of the animal. Racehorses have very different risks and requirements from those of trekking ponies. Yet these two share the need for calm, quality touch in their horse massage programme.
We massage therapists use hands not gadgets and can quickly detect areas of cold, heat and tension. We work the tense spots to encourage dispersal of waste products in muscles. Heat denotes over energy and cold the opposite so any horse massage programme must take account of these differences. When we feel a lump we investigate straight away: is it an insect bite, horse nip, kick wound, scratch, or a rash?
Before we massage a horse we watch it walk, trot and canter in straight lines and in circles; walking and trotting in hand, all three gaits ridden. We study the horse’s movements, the rider’s stance and the saddle fitting. (Many of us ride slightly to one side or with our head tilted back- all these traits affect the horse’s balance). Some owners buy made-to-measure saddles which fit the horse at that time but horses change shape with the seasons, with work regimes and with maturity. We need to take this into account. After this assessment of horse, saddle and rider we like our client to be brushed down and secured in a quiet place ready for the initial hands on.
In that first session we get to know and feel the horse so that we can plan its individual programme. If the horse has a specific problem e.g. tight on one rein, cold backed or reluctant in one gait we will aim to give more attention to the muscles involved. Some other 'clients' may just need warming up before strenuous exercise and then a relaxing treatment afterwards to prevent stiffness setting in. I have seen one pony lay down on its side and sleep following a post dressage massage, another literally drool with delight and relief.
Massage benefits all equines from the leisure pony through endurance mounts, native trekkers, draught horses, show jumpers, trotters, hunters, top eventers to the thoroughbred racer .Horses are basically social, plains animals evolved to roam up to 20 miles a day, grazing for 16 hours. Now they are tacked up, harnessed, ridden, driven or, worst of all, stabled for hours at a time. In consequence many of them suffer physically and/ or mentally. If we are to continue challenging them the least we can do is prepare their minds and muscles beforehand and ease away stresses and strains afterwards.
To sum up: the benefits of massage include increased circulation, lymph drainage and venous return, improved coat and joint mobility and enhanced muscle tone. The programmes can stimulate or relax the mind as required and, if performed by owner or regular carer create a bond between horse and human. (Horses receiving frequent massage will 'ask' for particular areas to be treated by presenting that part to their masseur). We only work with veterinary approval or through veterinary referral. If you are an owner yourself, why not enquire about our workshops?
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