Massage has been used for thousands of years to improve overall well being in humans. The same has been found to be true of horses, we would not expect our top athletes to compete without bodywork and as such, should not expect our equine athletes to do so either.
It is my belief that no horse is naturally nasty or bad tempered, most of these behaviours are horses trying to tell us they are in pain and struggling, when you stop and think about what we expect our equine friends to do, you start to realise that they could be sore. I’m sure you have experienced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a session at the gym and struggled to climb the stairs at work the next day, well imagine what mental and physical strain it takes to perform a dressage test, then add to that having to balance yourself the whole way home in a float, I think they can be forgiven for being a bit off the next few days. We have to remember horses were not designed to wear tack and be ridden and we as owners have to accept that in doing this we are going to cause their bodies to move in a way that they were not made to , thus creating a certain amount of muscle discomfort.
Benefits of massage
- Allows us to address a problem before it becomes an injury.
- increase the range of motion – by relaxing muscles, pressure and wear and tear is removed from the joints. The length of stride is improved giving greater ability to perform lateral movements with ease.
- Improve circulation, massage assists in the removal of waste products from the body via the blood and lymph. Giving a faster recovery and limiting muscle soreness post training.
- Increase stamina. The better you feel the better and longer you can perform.
- improve temperament. Fit horses are often known for being a bit touchy, it can often be due to muscle discomfort and underlying pain.
- Speeds up recovery from injury
- Enhances general well being