WHY CHOOSE MASSAGE?
(Taken from an article I wrote for The British Spotted Pony Society .Oct 2012)
Equine massage is a relatively new therapy treatment in the UK but is something that is becoming of increasing importance for not only the professionals but also to the everyday horse owner. As an Equine Sports Massage Therapist I treat horses of all ages, sizes and in all disciplines from the retired to the elite sports horses.
Competition horses benefit from regular massages to ensure they stay supple, free from muscle injury and to increase their range of movement so that they can perform to their maximum potential. For the older horse a massage can help with arthritis and other age related conditions by increasing blood and lymph circulation so that the horse has improved mobility and is able to move more comfortably. When muscles become tight or are in a contracted state blood circulation decreases resulting in restricted movement, nerve irritation and pain which will continue to worsen if left untreated.
The most common question I get asked is “So why would my horse need to have a massage?” To answer this I normally start with looking at when we as humans have massages. Most of us have had a massage at some point whether it was a relaxing spa one or a more intense deep muscle massage, the feeling when you come away is always that of relaxation, being pain free and generally just feeling good! Now think about your horse. We expect them to wear saddles, bridles and shoes and to carry us around on their backs, quite often having to help balance the rider on top of them. Even retired horses that have spent years pulling at a hay net in the stable can suffer from a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI) just as we would from working at a keyboard for years.
Horses suffer with muscles that are tense, have cramps and spasms just like ourselves but if we feel like this we may take the day off work, have a hot bath, book in for a massage or even take painkillers to ease the discomfort. Horses however have to tell us in the best way they can which can start as subtle hints of pulling a face when having the saddle put on, unwillingness to go forward or evading a contact but progress to more dangerous bucking, rearing and bolting. Obviously there are other factors to take into consideration including a badly fitting saddle, poorly maintained teeth and incorrect shoeing but in my experience even with these problems eliminated a horse will recover quicker both physically and mentally if they have had massage therapy treatment.
We all want our horses to perform to their best and be happy in their work but quite often when problems occur muscular issues can be overlooked. Thankfully more and more people are realising that massage therapy is not just a luxury treat for your horse but an essential part of their regular maintenance programme and can actually help prevent injuries as well as treating them. So the next time you find yourself sore and achy after a long hack or the day after a competition, just spare a thought for the tired muscles on the horse that carried you!
Tamar Smith ESMT IAAMT